Friday the 13th

My day started good. I had stayed in a hotel the night before. Showered, felt clean, clean laundry, and ready to go. Got a decent early start. The river was moving decent at 2.5 to 3 mph so a lot of times I could just float along. I planed on pulling over to the side to stealth camp someplace, and there were plenty of some places at about 20 miles, but I did not want to quit that early so I kept paddling.

Mile turned into mile and the banks kept getting steeper and muddier, or privately owned. No campgrounds were on Google Maps. On and on I paddled. Trying to find at least a boat ramp so I could get out and get some antiacids. I started my eating day out very wrong. A pound of Oreo cookies were consumed between 8am and noon. I had little water but I did have a quart bottle of Ice Tea and a gallon of Ice Tea for the day. I was going to make more filtered water along the way when the ice tea ran out. Mind you, the only thing I ate that day was a pound of Oreo Cookies and 4 bananas.

It was getting dak. I looked on Google Maps and there was a public river access in Huntington. Surely I would just go there, and catch some ZZZZ’s and take my chances with the police. I got there, looked it was a pile of gravel and a bunch of freshly excavated ground that was under construction for the new version of the river access. No place to land, no place to camp I decided then I would not trust Google maps again. So on and on I paddled. Finally about two miles down the river I spotted a high ledge, and what appeared to have been a homeless camp at one time. I decided to check it out.

I parked the boat, and started hauling bags up the hill, using my paddle as a support when I slipped and slid in the mud. I spread out my tarp and put up my tent, threw my sleeping bag inside and tried to sleep. I didn’t post anything that night on Facebook, was just to worn out. There was a storm coming and I as happy to be in my tent and dry. I had left my sleeping bad in the boat but was too tired to go get it, so on the soft mud I slept. There was a bump here and there but I got my body to twist and turn around them.

Saturday Morning the 14th 1am

The sickness started. Over the next four hours, everything I had eaten and drank the day before was laying on the ground in front of my tent. I was getting weaker and knew that I had to do something. I was going to call 911 and hope they could find me, but ruled that out. It would have been 12 hours till they could have found me in that jungle of 6 foot high Japanese Knot Week I as surrounded by. There was a fence up above me on the hill and I knew that would lead to some kind of civilization. I looked on Google maps and seen that there was a park that a ambulance could come to easy about 300 feet away from me.

Off I went into the night. I had my medications with me in a back pack and a pair of shoes I could put on when I got out of the mud. Moving the weeds out of the way I found the fence. Getting to a corner, instead of being the end of the fence, it went off toward the river. It ran through my mind that I was going to have to climb that fence to get to the park, but I did find the end of it, and went around and back up the hill to the park. I discovered in the jungle of weeds, I have a very strong will to live. It occurred to me that they might ask me at the hospital why would you think you are sick enough to be here when you can climb muddy hills and get through these weeds in the middle of the night.

The end of the jungle came and I was sitting on a picnic table trying to catch my breath. It was time to call 911. I noticed that I had lost one of my shoes, no hope of finding it, I just tossed the other one into the weeds. (Huntington I owe you picking up a bag of litter for that one, sorry.) I called and spoke to the 911 operator for about 15 minutes, the ambulance arrived. I was so dehydrated they could not get IV’s started. After 3 tries they just took me to the hospital, which was only 5 minutes away.

Saint Mary’s hospital in Huntington, WV is just a wonderful place to go as far as I am concerned. I got great care by a great health care team. It was shift change and my nurse was a kayaker. I passed out many of my pamphlets for Paddle for Heroes so they would know my story and understand why I was out there on the river side in their town. I apologized many times for smelling so bad. We spoke about kayaking many times. After a bag of IV fluid I felt much better. They brought me breakfast, which I could not eat, but did enjoy the coffee and a can of sprit they offered. They got my prescriptions ready, went and picked them up. And off I went in a cab back to the river to get my things and paddle to a park to be picked up.

I knew the trip was over when I could not eat that breakfast. I could not paddle if I could not consume food. So I decided then the trip was over. Irv Oslin was coming down the next day, he said he would come that day, so we made plans to meet in a park about two miles down river. All my stuff was still there, I packed and got my boat back into the water and floated to the park In a river of my own tears. Sad at not finishing my trip, but still proud of myself for as far as I came, but more overwhelmed by the love and support that was being shown to me in the posts of friends and supporters on Facebook. Each and every comment hit close in my heart. Each and every prayer was heard and felt by me to give me the strength to get to the park.

I am home now and already planning my next trip. June 18th I will be off to Marietta with the group. As for the money donated to Paddle for Heroes. I promise you that I will see that every dime is spent well to help others to get on the river, to experience the joy of nature, and the closeness of the group of Paddle For Heroes members and supporters. As for me, I am not done, I am only beginning. I have more to do. I have more rivers to paddle. I have so much goodwill to pay back for all that I received during this trip. This debt to my fellow man I accept gladly. Thank you again to each and every one of you, and many more not on social medial that have helped. Thank you again to family who have gone to extremes to support me. Thank you.

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