I had decided to go camping on the Kokosing this week to try out my new hammock sleeping system and just to enjoy some of the peace the river offers. The river was up just a little bit to make it easier to run a canoe loaded with a hundred and fifty pounds of gear down it without dragging to much. It was going to be a two day adventure, stopping near Howard and then after Factory Rapids someplace. My main intention was to search gravel bars for some interesting rocks and crystals. It is amazing what you can find if you take your time.
The heat was oppressive, and I wanted to stop for a short nap, so I found a island just past Rt229 after Big Run, it was about 10 miles into my trip. It was all gravel with many trees to hang my hammock from. I thought I might do some fishing also since I had brought some worms and my pole. After tieing off my boat good, just incase the water may rise for some reason, I hung my hammock and got to some good napping. This was all new to me, I had never slept like this before.
After a good 2 hour nap (guess this thing worked.) I set up my chair, got my worms out and got to some fishing. Got a few bites and then decided it was time to get some bites myself. I had brought a couple MRE’s from the Army that my sons had brought home for me. They were three years old but in the Army I had eaten Viet Nam C-Rations, so I figured these could not be to bad. I was extremely surprised. First of all, there was a bag of Skittles, now they were a bit stuck together but they were still edible, as much as Skittles are, they were sweet and they hit the spot. Of course after two hours when I was done chewing them, I got to eating the rest of the MRE. It was chili and beans and even had cheese and Mexican corn mix. I sure wish I could have eaten like this when I was in the Army.
After some more fishing I decided to hit the hay. I heard a text message come in around 1130 pm. It was Father Gabriel. I had met him this Spring. He had a group of Summer Camp boys that he was taking down the Kokosing the next day and asked what I thought about novice’s taking canoes down the Kokosing at the level it was. It appeared to be ok to me and I told him I look forward to seeing him tomorrow, that I would meet him at his starting point at Millwood access point. I thought maybe I was dreaming but when I checked my phone in the morning, indeed I had talked to him the night before.
Morning on the Kokosing is special. It is quiet except for nature sounds. There was a mist coming off the water and it was a bit foggy. Fish were jumping after breakfast near the banks, birds were singing their morning songs. I made a quick cup of coffee and before the sun peaked over the horizon I was on the water. I love to paddle in the morning. It is so cool and quiet and I am still full of energy. It was a good sleep the night before on the hammock, think I am going to like it.
I found one strainer that had been there since the tornado went through in the middle of June but had moved around and gotten worse, so I reported it again to River Rangers. You are able to get over it but as the water goes down it was need to be portaged over. It is near the Eagles nest west of the Killduff Road bridge.
Making good time, I was closing in on Howard. There was the usual debris in the river, but I managed to get around it. There was on tree, hanging out into the river. It appeared I could go under it, but as I got closer I noticed, that I would have to be laying in the boat to go under but it was to late, I was already under. One side of the boat went down, the boat filled with water, and I was out of it and in the water. After getting out, it was easy to get under the tree. I chased my boat down and pulled it over to the side. I learned a few things from previous experiences. This time, everything was tied down. Everything was double waterproofed. Nothing was lost. After throwing everything over to the short, I drained the boat, loaded back up, and in 15 minutes was back on my way. The water was very refreshing.
I made my way to Millwood and waited for the group to come. They made it and 17 boys and a few parents, camp counselors and Father Gabriel and I prepared for the river. The boys were well prepared with briefings on what to expect. They were very excited and ready to go. They worked together very well to get all the boats and equipment to the river. They quieted down and listened to instructions. The older boys were doing a great job of mentoring the younger. This was a great group of young men, and I looked forward to paddling with them.
I led the way and we met a few obstacles along the way. The water was low so there were several dangerous areas before the rapids that a few boats went over. The boys were trained well, none panicked, they were handling themselves well. I went ahead to the rapids and went through, and then waited for them with a safety rope as they went through the rapids. We got through without loosing one boat, except for the occasional intentional over turn to enjoy the cool water.
Slowly we made it down the river, I had a chance to speak to a few of the boys about how to read a river to tell where the deep water was. A few times while discussing this, I would run onto gravel myself and get stuck. The system is not perfect I guess. We stopped at Zuck landing for lunch, and continued on to Riley Chapel Access to end the trip. After a very hot trip, these boys were full of energy, they pulled boats out of the water and brought them up to the trailer, there was no whining, no belly aching, no hesitation. Every thing got loaded for the trip home.
I hear many things about todays youth. How they lack this or that, how they do this or that that is not good, how they don’t know this or that. I can tell you, I am more than willing to trust my future to this group of young men. They were smart, they had common sense. They helped each other without question. There were some future leaders in that group and there were some great followers. There was most likely a doctor or two, a lawyer, a counselor, a priest or two. There was good fathers in the making, no doubt about that. Our future is in good hands my friends, I met it today.