My Ohio River Journey

Sometime in November of 2022, I started my blog, so as I remember that was when I was planning my original trip from my house in Mount Vernon, to Paddlefest in Cincinnati, taking in some of the Ohio River. I talked it over with Joey Butts and he thought it would be a good idea to paddle the Little Miami River to Paddlefest instead. I was going to do the the trip to Paddlefest as a lead up to possible doing the Ohio River in 2023 and then the Mississippi River in 2024. I was free the entire month of May and part of June, so I decided to shoot for the moon and just do the Ohio River in May of 2022.

I was going to make the trip a fund raiser for Paddle for Heroes. On January 9, 2022 I made the big announcement.

January 10, 2022: I can see from the maps and the float plan that I am making for my Ohio River trip, that I am going to need to do some scouting from land,, especially of possible places to camp. Who’s up for some road trips?

My First Donation. January 10, 2022: $25 raised for Paddle For Heroes 1 person donated.

January 11, 2022: Here is a new piece of very valuable gear that I will need on my Ohio River trip and I got it today.

January 16, 2022: I am thinking, that to do laundry on the Ohio River, I can take my dirty clothes, hang them over the side of the boat in a laundry bag, pull them out in a couple hours, hang dry and have nice fresh clean clothes! What do you think?

January 16, 2022:

I came up with a new concoction today:

Ohio River Fat Bombs

1 Cup Peanut Butter (only peanut and salt)

1 Cup Bacon Grease

½ Cup Olive Oil

1 Cup Almond Flour

½ Cup Cinnamon

½ Cup Ginger

¼ Cup Nutmeg

1 T Ground Clove

½ Cup Cocoa

1 T Licorice Powder

15 Stevia Packets

Whip it up, bake for 30 min at 350 and cut into bars.

Preparations January 19, 2022

Working on my packing list, and ordering the items that I need. I got 4 new dry bags from Walmart. They are the best for the price that I have seen. I’ve seen others use them and they seem to be high quality.

Also got some new paddling gloves from Amazon. I probably don’t need them because I have very nice and soft paddle grips on my paddle but I got them anyway just in case.

Ordered a spare paddle like the one I use on this boat, a 250cm Ascend Tournament. , It has very large blades and is heavy but moves my big heavy boat down the river very nicely.

Also ordered a new PFD, probably will make this one my primary one and use the older one I have as a back up.

More Preparations January 19, 2022

I got a new tent and have used it once. It is not perfect but will work on this trip.

Also got a new cooking set used it on my last campout and was very pleased with it. Easy to use and easy to clean.

Here is the solar charger that I purchased to keep my electronics charged up on the trip.

A absolutely needed item is a headlamp, also used it on my last camping trip and it worked well and is very bright. It used 18650 rechargeable batteries which I have switched to for most of my equipment.

A essential safety item in my boat will be this throw bag. I have practiced for years how to throw one, and do pretty good at throwing it. I like this one because the rope is very strong. Strong enough to even tow a larger boat.

There was a great sale on these base layer compression pants so I got 4 more pair. They protect my legs from sunburn and keep me warm on cool mornings.

I have purchased several items for this trip but all are necessary for a successful voyage. 105 days to go till launch date.

DRIVER NEEDED! January 19, 2022

I am looking for a driver to pick me up in Wickliff, Kentucky on or about June 8th or 9th. I will pay you to come pick me up in my vehicle. It is about a 7 hour trip and if you want to come the day before I can get you a hotel room for the night. This will be the finish of my Ohio River journey. ( I had a response within 24 hours of a volunteer to help, Jason Bland jumped right in there to help!)

Why? January 20, 2022

People ask me, why paddle the Ohio River? Why go so far? Hell, I even ask myself that sometimes. As a child I can remember seeing a river and wondering “where does that water go?” I was fascinated thinking that I could put a boat on that water and end up in the ocean somewhere. Hearing the stories of our ancestors putting their crops on flat boats and taking them down the river to market and walking back to their homes was so intriguing. The adventure of it all!

How did these people do it? They were sure a hardy bunch. I am sure it was not all work for them, they had to have enjoyed the solitude, and the experience of being with nature. They had to have known fear and shear terror at times when nature was at its most intense. The feeling after those moments were over of accomplishment at remaining steadfast and brave through it all and surviving another day must have been so satisfying.

I experienced a few of those feelings on my Muskingum River trip last year. No matter how much I had planned, I still encountered the unexpected, and saw it through. This experience is somewhat addicting. I am not a extreme thrill seeker, you will not see me dropping off bridges on a rubber band rope or jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. Swirling caldrons of water and rocks do not thrill me or even interest me. For me it is the slow steady pace or one stroke after another, one town after another, one eagle nest after another, one river lock after another. Each a challenge, each adding to my story of life.

I don’t want to be cliché but I must. Why do it? Because it is there!

January 20, 2022: This is my boat.

I have been asked what kind of boat I have, here are some pictures. It is a Ascend H-12

Pills and Paddles January 21, 2022

I got some new bottles (smaller) to put my medications in to take on my trip. For a 36 day trip you can’t just pack up everything in a weekly pill reminder and toss it in a zip lock bag and head down the river. Transporting that many medications without the original prescriptions on the bottles invites law enforcement to take long looks at what you are doing. So I am transferring them to smaller bottles and also transferring the labels. The reason I need to do this is because they put the dang things in such big bottles when they ship them. I mean 30 pills in a 6 oz bottle is a little much. So another thing to do to prepare.

I also got some nice comfortable paddle grips for my new paddle. They are the same ones I was using on my other paddle. They work great and I can paddle without gloves with them and not get blisters. I highly recommend them. Putting them on the paddle is another story. Especially in this cold weather, but with some pulling and heating with hot water and some good ole spit, on they went.

I also made myself, out of a peanut butter jar and a flashlight and some pvc pipe my required “white light, visible 360 degrees” to put on the boat should it get dark on me on the river. It will not be a permanent fixture on the boat but will be available if needed.

Cabin Fever January 22, 2022

I don’t know about you, but I am just going nuts being cooped up in the house and not being able to be out on the river in my yak. This is the time that I really need to plan and plan, and plan some more for this Ohio River trip. Going over maps and looking again. Finding spots to get food, water, use the restroom. On that note, I imagine because I will look like one, I will probably be treated like a homeless person and not welcome to just use the restroom at any 7-11 store on the way. I suppose I will have to shave once in awhile, lol.

My biggest concern is the locks, they are massive and intimidating. From the air, they look as though you could just pull your boat out, and portage maybe a quarter a mile and put back in easy peasy. Not the case. There are none that can be portaged, you must go through every single one. Those nice grassy areas are surrounded by high fences, and barbed wire. 9/11 just messed everything up. So through them I will go. Armed with my marine radio, my whistle, my loud horn, and the push button on the end of the lock that notifies the lock master, through the enormous doors I will go, little ole me consuming all that energy, time and water to just move a quarter mile.

Another concern is that the banks of the river can be cliffs not banks. Spots to land have to be chosen very carefully. This also means that if you go over, there is no swimming to shore, pulling the boat out, pouring the boat out and getting back in and going on. I will have to practice over at Ariel-Foundation Park, flipping my fully loaded boat, bailing it out enough to refloat it, and getting back in it and finishing the bailing, all while in deep water. This should be interesting. It will sure be a lesson on making sure that everything is strapped down tight.

If it isn’t broke, don’t try to fix it! January 24, 2022

I thought I should make this site look different for some reason, so this morning I go playing with settings and menus and themes, and thought I totally lost everything. It wasn’t broken, there was nothing wrong with the way it was, so why mess with it. Well I am constantly trying to tweek everything. Just part of my personality. I think I got it back to something like it was so now is time to leave it alone. lol

I got my new PFD in the mail Saturday and I am impressed. It is very light, fits perfect and will make a great paddling vest. My old one, I will wrap up and save for my back up. I will be taking back up PFD, paddle, phone, gloves, and glasses. I think that is probably pretty important.

Another cold and windy day. I did start last night making some brackets to mount a console between my legs in the boat. I have used it before but only strapped it in, I am going to mount it to the mounting rack on the boat for a more secure job.

If you are wondering what goes in this crate, essentials like TP, E tool, water, things you need quick.

On The River Again January 25, 2022

Since I am headed to the doctor this morning to get his opinion of my upcoming trip down the Ohio, I thought I would sing him this song while I was there. At least the nurse might like it and get a chuckle. I adapted the lyrics to “On The Road Again” by Willie Nelson.

Here is the song, with me singing it. If you would like to sing along, here are the lyrics. Now this will be a requirement on all paddles that I make from now on, so Irv, and Ervin and especially Jeff get your voices warmed up. Click the link to hear the song.

On the River again
Just can’t wait to get on the River again
The life I love is Paddling with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the River again
On the River again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seen’ things that I may never see again
And I can’t wait to get on the River again
On the River again
With a trailer full of boats we go down the highway
We’re the best of friends
Insisting that the world keep turning our way
And our way
On the River again
I just can’t wait to get on the River again
The life I love is paddling with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the River again
On the River again
With a trailer full of boats we go down the highway
We’re the best of friends
Insisting that the world keep turning our way
And our way
On the River again
Just can’t wait to get on the River again
The life I love is Paddling with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the River again
And I can’t wait to get on the River again

Planning and Planning and Planning January 26, 2022

When I got this idea to go down the Ohio River I knew it was going to take some planning, but this much? Oh my goodness. Then I add to it the task of being a fund raiser for Paddle for Heroes, and that even makes it more planning. Today I am finding all the AMVETS and American Legion Posts along my route so I can send them a email letting them know I will be coming through. I am also compiling a list of all the law enforcement, ems and fire departments along the route to send them my pamphlet and let them know when I am coming through. So when they get the 911 call, they can say, “oh yea, that is that old fart that is trying to paddle the entire Ohio River,” and then come save me!

Worked on all my flags for my boat last night. I will not have all of them on the boat at the same time, all of the time. Most of the time, I think “Old Glory” will be enough. There will be times when I will put them all on (American, Ohio, MIA/POW, Army, Marine, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Paddle for Heroes, Live A Great Story)

I ordered some stickers to put on the boat from AMVETS and American Legion and DAV which I am a member of. I will also need to get some stickers from Joey for Paddle for Heroes.

He is giving me this flag to fly proudly on my boat and I sure will be. This group has helped me so much over the past two years. They have given me purpose and helped me change my lifestyle for the better. I went to my doctor yesterday and all my lab work came back perfect, I am totally healthy and in good shape. He supports and approves me doing all my adventures this year and he and his nurses will be keeping track of me while I am on the river. It is nice now that If I need to see my doctor all I have to do is pick up my phone and have a video conference. The joys of modern life!

Bungee…Ooops, I mean Cam Straps! January 27, 2022

I learned a few months ago from the old sage, Irv Oslin that you should tie all your things in the boat with cam straps. Not bungee cords, not rope, and oh my goodness never ratchet straps. The idea being that if your boat goes over, everything stays tight in the boat and your dry clothes that you desperately need, are not floating down the river in that dry bag that you forgot to tie down. I can see that now, me chasing a dry bag down the river and through Factory Rapids in my long johns, ice building up on my beard as I slowly turn into a statue. Wake up!

So anyway, last night, at about 1am, I went through all my camp straps, some I needed to change the buckles on, and some just needed the ends cut off and melted so they didn’t fray. This morning I get my sewing machine out, with the look on my wife’s face of “here we go again” and before my morning coffee was even poured I am sewing away. I finally did get to the coffee and it was even still warm. As you all know I do like to make stuff myself rather than buy it off the shelf, and every once in awhile I come up with something that works.

For you die hard bungee cord people, I have some extras I can give you, they just sit in a bag now.

A friend sent me this!

Cozy warm, and going NUTS! January 28, 2022

As one of my fellow paddlers tests out his -50 degrees artic circle sleeping bag and tent, I sit here in my nice warm house, looking at the snow and the birds at the bird feeder, dreaming of water flowing under my boat on my way to wherever. I am not big on walking for the fun of it, and usually only walk when I need to get someplace and that is the way to go. Bicycles are out for me, especially this time of year, I can’t stay on em’ when the sun shines and the roads are dry. It would be hilarious to watch me try to get out of my driveway on one in this weather. So I sit in the house and plan and plan and plan some more for my long trips this summer.

As one of my fellow paddlers tests out his -50 degrees artic circle sleeping bag and tent, I sit here in my nice warm house, looking at the snow and the birds at the bird feeder, dreaming of water flowing under my boat on my way to wherever. I am not big on walking for the fun of it, and usually only walk when I need to get someplace and that is the way to go. Bicycles are out for me, especially this time of year, I can’t stay on em’ when the sun shines and the roads are dry. It would be hilarious to watch me try to get out of my driveway on one in this weather. So I sit in the house and plan and plan and plan some more for my long trips this summer.

Soon I hope to start picking up litter. Now this is one thing that I do walk for and will go some pretty difficult places to get a stray can or bottle. I am hoping to pick up at least 100 bags of litter this Spring for the Knox County Litter Prevention Spring Clean up. If you would like to help me, jump right in there, I will going out most days in March and April, and when I go down the river during those months I will be picking up litter. No tires at this time, but this fall will be a big tire pick up on the Mohican in places that Paddle for Heroes has not been able to get thus far. The litter office will provide a stipend for each bag of littler picked up this Spring and all this money will go to Paddle for Heroes.

I have to get the materials to build 5 or 6 new onion bag boxes to place on the Walhonding River access points; Confluence, Mohawk Dam Boat Ramp, Warsaw Access, Access point upstream from old 6 mile dam, and Kilbuck Access. and any other that anyone can think of. We put at least 300 onion bags on the river last year, this year will probably be 1000 or more. Hopefully that will help with the litter problem and give us nice clean rivers to paddle on.

Frigid Fingers! January 29, 2022

After going up to GR Smith to get the bolts I needed, I started to put my new fasteners on the back of my boat but I only got three on. It was just way to cold, especially since I had to do it bare handed to hold the little nuts and washers. I need a nice warm garage to do all this in, but if I had one, I would probably do to many expensive modifications to it and that would just run up my cards to the limit, so better to have to do things in the cold.

Was considering going on a kayak camp early next week, the weather will actually be not to bad but, the rivers are full of ice and I don’t have a ice breaker so that leaves that out. I think I will go for a road trip and scout out some of the parts of my Ohio River trip just to see what it all looks like. With the steep banks along the river, what looks like a good camping area on Google Maps, might end up being a 50 foot sheer wall of shale. A good recon of the area will help I am sure.

Last night and this morning I worked more on my email list to send out information about my trip. I got about half the American Legion posts along the river on there now. After finishing that list then I need to get all the AMVETS posts and VFW posts. It just occurs to me, that the VSO’s from each county in Ohio along the river will be another good resource, I will need to find them too and get them on my list. I am really trying to get the word out to help with raising money for Paddle for Heroes. All this money will allow us to provide more services to Veteran’s and First Responders and also help with our other projects like the Onion Bag project. Having more boxes this year, we will need many more bags, and I sure hope they are used.

I am enjoying all the river ice pictures that I am seeing on Face Book. Makes the rivers look lovely. The eagles sure seem to be active this time of year also, making more eagles.

Frigid Fingers update January 29, 2022

After my nap, and a text from Irv telling me the rivers are frozen over, I decided to go out and finish my strap holders on my kayak. It is all done now (except for the strap I sewed on upside down.) Now as my load expands, the net expands to tie down the load. I can put an entire refrigerator and gas grill back there now and not have to worry about them falling out.

Good News! January 20, 2022

I received word from the Lawrence Creek Campground that I will be spending the night with them on May 15th. I sent them a email just yesterday and John Abbott got back with me and offered me a tent site for the night. I look forward to this stop. From the photos on their web site and looking at it from Google Maps, it sure looks like a wonderful place. There number is 606-584-7805.

Last night I started cleaning out clutter on my Face Book account. It is amazing how in 15 years you can accumulate so much garbage. It is not wonder they know everything about us, in my case, I gave it all to them. I am going to be more selective on what I share on social media. If you don’t already know my opinion on something, I am sure that you don’t care what my opinion is on something, especially politics. It is amazing how tedious it is to go back and delete all these posts, but off into the cyber trash bin they will go.

This morning was a great time to do some computer clean up also. I moved things around and dusted. As you can see I have lots of places for dust to collect. I use these computers to control my recording studio.

In my spare time last night, I took some flashing and made a wind screen for my stove. Simple and won’t last forever but cheap!

Hibernation January 31, 2022

I am not a bear, at least I have not been called one in a long while, but it sure seems like this time of year I want ty hibernate. Having built up my fat reserves over the recent holidays, I am ready for a long Winter’s nap. At least one a day for a few weeks anyway.

The process of acquiring permission to camp at the sites along the way is tedious, but rewarding getting to know many new people. Most have been very nice people so far. I look forward to meeting them all in person. It will nice to have a hot shower and a campfire every once in awhile during the trip.

I found a better tool box to put my grub box in that fits well into the dry bag I got for it. It will be much easier to access everything that I need when I am out camping now.

January 31, 2022

Here is where I am staying the 12th Night. Holiday Point Marina

The little man on my shoulder! February 1, 2022

I so much wanted to go down the river today, it being the warmest day of the month so far, and a big storm coming tomorrow. The river has to be clear of ice since that big warm up yesterday, for sure. All night long, this nagging voice kept singing me this song “Ice, Ice, Baby!” By the time I woke up, I was convinced, that it would not be a safe proposition to put a boat in the water today. I can thank my little man that sits on my shoulder, when it comes to paddling, Little Irv Oslin. I bet you guys did not know he knew how to sing did you. You should experience it, one time, and probably ONLY one time.

Over the last year, Irv and I have become great paddling buddies going down several rivers together and spending nights around a campfire talking about life. I have come to trust his judgement most of the time and if I do not, then the little guy comes out on my shoulder and reminds me. I guess I could get a fly swatter and knock him off but probably am better off to listen and head his wisdom.

Since I could not paddle the river today, I went down and took a few pictures, and guess what? Clear sailing, lol. But who knows what is further down the river and what trees have fallen in. This cold weather paddling is something to take very seriously. If you fall in it can be your life, in a matter of seconds. After my experience last Memorial Day weekend almost drowning and getting hypothermia, I do take this very serious, but I have not come to the point of putting on a ice covered wet suit in the morning. I will leave that for Irv to do, a warm cozy blanket and pillow will have to suffice for a few more weeks.

Speaking about a few more weeks, 89 days and I will be on the river in Pittsburg, headed South West. Planning is still going well. I have most of the campsites secured. I have most of my equipment purchased and packed away. I could pack my boat tomorrow and leave, but I think I will wait 89 more days. In the mean time, I do want to organize a Kokosing River over night with a stay on the island I was on near Howard and pull out at Zuck Road or Riley Chapel. I think about March 1 or there abouts would be good. I think I will be spending a lot of time on the Kokosing training this Spring, and my usual Ariel Foundation Park lake. Might as well train on a lake to get used to having NO current helping me down the river.

Kokosing River

Ready for Mucking! February 2, 2022

I found a great deal on these boots to replace the cheap ones I had. These are a size larger so I have room for a couple pare of wool socks. They are also made out of rubber instead of the PVC that I had before. When I got off the river last time there was lots of mud and after sitting a couple days with the mud on them and freezing, I decided I could just beat them together and the mud would fall off. That happened but I also beat a rip into the side of one of the boots. The freezing water would not have been good on my already cold feet. My new boots are rated to keep my feet warm in colder temps. I think they might get a work out tonight and tomorrow while I am out scraping off ice from everything.

Worked on my daily plans again last night. If the trip only works as well as the plans, it should be a breeze. Of course, the plans don’t take into account rain 50% of the days, or a freak snow storm. The plan for flood water is easy, GET OUT, and go home.

It is on days like the next two that I am glad I at least have a gas stove to heat my house when the electric goes out. I have lots of battery power for flashlights. My well is artesian so I will have water even if the pump doesn’t work. It will mean carrying buckets of water but, I can even still flush the toilets. A country boy can survive has always been my motto. I hope everyone stays safe and is ok through this storm. Freezing rain always concerns me. The groundhog did not see his shadow here today so I hope that means we can get on the rivers in a couple weeks and have great times!

On the river again! February 2, 2022

Rather than shovel snow ALL day I decided for a bit of nostalgia over the last year!

Old Glory! February 7, 2022

Can’t imagine going on a long trip without displaying Old Glory on my boat. I made the mounts very secure with steel bars under the plastic so they won’t break off. They are removable and hold in with a cotter type pin. The back pole will have several more flags on it by the time I make the trip. After taking this picture and looking at the background I notice the ramp. Three years ago I was using that ramp with my rolling walker that I needed just to walk to the back alley. Now I can pick up my boat and carry it from the house to the back alley, and have regularly pulled it on wheels over half mile, and even over Mohawk Dam. It is amazing what getting active did for me. It is the one thing I can thank COVID for, that it got me off my ass and started to take life seriously.

I made couple more stickers for the back of my kayakmobile.

“What’s all that plumbing on your boat?” February 8, 2022

I had someone ask me that one time and I explained that it was to hold my cameras and flashlight. Making things with PVC pipe is a passion of mine. It is adult Tinker Toys for me. This is my latest creation.

February 9, 2022

Easy Loading February 9, 2022

After watching a few you tube videos I decided to try making a easier way of loading my boat on my van. A little glue and some pipe and joints here is what I have. After the snow melts I will try it out.

Think I am going to make the side poles a little shorter.

On another note I finally got my wet suit. Now I am ready to go swimming! Not really but hopefully buy me enough time to get dry and warm if I go in. I am NOT posting a picture of me in it.

Easy Peasy! (follow-up on yesterday) February 10, 2022

And, no this is not about how easy the wet suit went on!

I put together the loader for the van today after a couple modifications and loaded my small boat. It went on like greased lightning! Think this is going to be a good system, it breaks down and fits right in the back of the van not taking up much room at all. Only thing I think I will do is put a little WD-40 on the threads where the pipes screw together and make it easier to get them apart.

Will model the wet suit another time!

A Nutritious Breakfast Feb 11, 2022

I decided to make a new fat bomb this morning. I call it Kokosing River Mud

Doesn’t it look Yummy! Here is the recipe.

Kokosing River Mud

IngredientAmountCaloriesFat GCarb GPro G
Peanut Butter1/2 Jar13301124956
Coconut Oil1 Cup194521600
Butter  1 Stick8109200
Almond Flower2 Cup12961124848
Cocoa Powder¼ Cup11821010
Cinnamon¼ Cup711201
Ginger¼ Cup841142
Nutmeg¼ Cup14412120
Coconut Flour2 Cup480127224
Stevia30 packets0000
Mix everything and Refrigerate     
Makes 10 servings 682562214

February 11, 2022

I found the answer, fill this up with river water and wash my clothes. I can hang a line from a couple poles on the bow and stern. It will look like hillbilly heaven going down the river. (BTW no offence to Hillbillys, I is one. )

More Flags Feb 11, 2022

I made a rough Paddle for Heroes flag, in the process I have determined how to make a good one. Will be proud to fly it during all my trips. I will be making several if you are interested. White is the only color I can make.

The old days, lol! Feb 12, 2022

It is hard for me to believe how much my life has changed in the past two years since I started kayaking. I wanted a exercise that didn’t hurt. Walking hurt so bad. If I went over a hundred feet, I was ready for a nap. Paddling and dieting working with many professionals and I am in much better shape. My doctors are amazed when they see me and read the lab work. Life is so good now, I just stay so busy, planning kayak trips, making things for my boat, doing alterations that I think will make it work better. The winter time has been easer this year because Irv Oslin has taken me out a couple times for camp outs and river trips, but it is not enough, I want more more more! The weather is turning good. Many trips are in my future, I hope you are there with me.

A great day on the river! Feb 16, 2022

Is there a such thing as a bad day on the river? Today qualify as one of those great days. It was not to cold, the water was not too high or swift. There was lots and lots of wildlife to see. A racoon almost jumped out of a hollow log at me but decided to just snarl at me as I went past.

I started the day at 730 pulling my kayak from my home to the viaduct in Mount Vernon and put in there. I paddled to 5.6 miles to Gambier and met my paddle buddies for the day, Rose and Ashlee. After coming close to breaking a hip or two navigating the steep ice covered hill to the river we got set up and took off. We paddled 13.2 miles to Millwood and got out and were met by my wonderful son Charlie who shuttled us and gear back to Gambier and me to home.

On the trip I introduced my paddle buddies to my favorite kayak food. Kokosing River Mud. For some reason they said it looked like dog sh…t . I wonder why. At least it didn’t taste like it.

Overall it was a great day and I can’t wait to do it again. Hopefully there will be a good day next week to get out.

Drown but not defeated! Feb 17, 2022

This story starts on Memorial Day weekend 2021. The temperature outside is 53, the water is low in the Kokosing but with the rain that is falling we keep hoping for more water in the river. My boat is packed, I did my best, all my stuff with is Army packs that my sons had given me, most of it in water proof bags, some even vacuum sealed. Each pack is wrapped inside a extra large garbage bag and sealed ( I think.) Plenty of water on board, about three days worth. Everything weighed and calculated not to o over the boats weight capacity.

Ready to go, we started down the Kokosing from Memorial Park in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Headed for Marietta. Six days and 160 miles ahead of us. I had been down this river 5 times this Spring, I was a expert I told myself. I found out different. 4 miles in I went around a log as I always did, but this time I got caught by the log, pulled under, and was going down quickly. Four other guys stopped, got me out of that predicament, got my boat pumped out and on I went. The problem was, I probably had 50 pounds of water left in my boat that was in between all my little water proof bags and water bottles, and everything else that was floating around in the boat. On top of that, the river was low and I was dragging on every rock in the river, getting in and out of the boat over and over, getting wetter and wetter.

I made it to Howard / Pipesville Road access, about 16 miles and I had enough. My boat kept filling up with water, I kept getting colder, and the day was just falling apart. I pulled out at Howard, and went home. After a visit to the ER later that evening, for the hypothermia and shock that I was in, I survived. Very disappointed and disheartened.

In a couple of days, I got in the car with a friend and we caught up with the group and I took a case of beer to the guys who had saved me that day. They were paddling on, and I was not. After getting home I told myself, I am going to do this trip even if I have to do it myself. So I did major alterations on my boat so that it would not fill with water so easy. I bought dry bags for my equipment. This is the single most important thing that I did. On long trips you MUST have your things in dry bags. Just remember that even if something is so called water proof. Once little nooks and carneys get filled with water, that all has weight. And trust me, it does weigh you down. I planned my trip, mile by mile. Using the charts that Joey Butts had made up for the Paddle for Heroes trip on Memorial Day weekend. I contacted the owners of the campgrounds PFH had used and asked if I could stay at their facilities. I contacted a couple friends along the river to stay at their place. I used every resource I could to make this trip happen, all in secret because I thought people might try to talk me out of it because I was doing it myself.

A Beautiful Morning For A Trip! Feb 18, 2022

After timing everything just right to make each lock on the Muskingum River when they were open, I set off from Coshocton Ohio, all packed in dry bags, only carrying what I really needed and nothing extra. Only 2 gallons of water and very little food. (You can see my weird eating habits on other posts on this blog.) I had a new paddle, a redesigned boat, warmer weather, what could go wrong? Off I went. I notified my friends on Facebook as to what I was doing. Lots of well wishes followed.

Smooth sailing to Dresden, and a pleasant lunch on the banks of the river. More smooth sailing to Ellis lock where I camped for the night. I got there a little early, so there was a bit of boredom because there is not much to do at Ellis lock but watch the cat fishermen and listen to the roar of the water over the dam. After going to bed way to early, and waking up way to early, I made coffee, that’s another story. And was off to paddle to Zanesville. It was 330 in the morning! There was a moon out and the river was wide and smooth so I paddled on. Back to the coffee. I decided that since I had not purchased a small stove yet and did not want to take the time to build a campfire, I just mixed up some instant coffee in cold water and add some sweetener and I had coffee. It actually wasn’t to bad and gave me that needed caffeine rush.

I reached Zanesville very early and the lock was not open yet, but I knew that was going to be the case even in my planning. It is a easy portage there and actually faster to just go over the bank and slide back into the water. You could almost get in your boat at the top of the hill and sled ride down to the water but I didn’t want to try. The trip was going great, smooth sailing, what could go wrong.

Well a lot could go wrong, let me tell you. There was a monster lurking and it was coming into site soon. My experience with this monster was by watching this You Tube video, over and over and over. Knowing there was No portage, No going over the dam, you had to go through it. Philo lock. I still have bad dreams about it.

It was not like this when I got there. The river was clean, and I sat at the door of the lock for about 20 minutes blowing my whistle to get the lock master’s attention. No response. I called the lock on my phone, no answer. I called the state park, no answer. It was a Friday, they should be open. There was no way to just stop there, I had to do something. I could not climb that monster wall, so I paddled back along the shore. Found a spot I could get out, drug my boat up onto the shore, about a 4 foot mud bank, and grabbed my gear and proceeded through the woods to the road that runs by the river and down the road I went to start my portage around Philo Lock. It was a half mile to he other side of the bridge and dam, and very steep hills with jagged boulders, but I took my time, got down close to the river, found a place to stow my gear to go back and get my boat. I was determined to do this trip.

On my way back, I walked by the lock masters shack and she was in there. I asked her was she open and she said, yes, and that she did not hear me whistling. She said she would let me through. I walked back got back in the water with my boat and went through the lock. I noticed later that I had left my PFD with my gear. I am so glad she let me through without one. On the other side was a different story. A huge whirlpool with crazy currents awaited me. I got the boat to shore, tied it up, and went to get my gear. As I am coming back down the hill with my gear I see my boat floating away. I ran down those jagged boulders and dove into the water after my boat, got it and swam back to shore with it. I tied it up VERY tight this time, got my gear and loaded back up and got on my way.

Glorious Thunder! Feb 19, 2022

After leaving Philo, then the storms started. I heard several very loud claps of thunder but seen no lightning so I kept going. Sticking close to shore it was hard to miss several cat fish lines that were set to pull out those Muskingum River whoppers! One time I was paddling hard and not going anywhere and behind me I heard a man saying, STOP STOP! you have my line. My flag had caught his line and I was hooked. More rain fell, sometimes it seemed like it was coming in buckets but I kept paddling. I had a friend that lived along the river and I had to get through one more lock to get to his house. I paddled hard! Running out of water, I dipped my cup into the river and got my life straw out for a taste of good ol Muskie! It was yuck but got me through.

There was a life saver along the way in the form of a wonderful grocery, gas station, restaurant, campgrounds and they even have warm showers. I made it to their ramp and instead thought I could get out on the dock and leave my boat in the water. Well that was almost a mistake because climbing the ramp from the dock to the shore was very steep and very slippery but I managed it and off to Green Acres Grocery I went for some HOT pizza and some chocolate cream pie. I am surprised they let me in the place, everywhere I went, I left a trail of wet foot prints, and my sandals made that squishy sound that is so annoying when you walk on tile floors with wet shoes. I sat on the bar stool and dripped a puddle on the floor that no one seemed to notice or care.

Refreshed I was back on the river. Paddling hard again headed for Rokaby Lock. The door was open to the lock, they were waiting on me. I got through fast and on my way to my friends house for some much needed rest. Seeing a man waving across the river paddled there and it was him. It was time for a campfire, some warm clothes, a hot shower, some great bar b que and wonderful conversation until long after dark. What great hosts he and his wife were. That night I got to sleep in a wonderful soft bed in a air conditioned room. It was so great and refreshing.

Waking up early, I looked at the weather radar map and all I seen was red. A huge storm was coming my way. I hated to skip the planned breakfast and hot coffee, but I had to hit the river and try to miss this storm. I rushed to pack, loaded the boat and was on the river soon after sun rise. My hosts were still asleep so I texted them to let them know what I did and why and paddle I did. Seeing a gas station in McConnellsville I tied my boat up and got that hot coffee so much needed, docked my boat at the locks and waited for the Lock Master to arrive.

My trip was going very well now and it only got better, before it got much worse, or let’s say challenging.

Calm after the storm Feb 21, 2022

After talking with a fisherman for several hours the Lock Master showed up at McConnelsville Lock. I could have waited several more hours. The park around the lock is so pleasant and clean. There were restrooms to use. I finished my very large coffee that I got at the Shell station earlier, and through the lock I went.

I only had a short trip to my next stop, Riversedge Campground and Marina in Malta. Kelli was there to meet me at the shore, taking movies as I landed. What a great host she and her husband Eric turned out to be. She put me up in one of her rental campers for the night. Nice and warm with a bed to sleep in. Eric even cooked me a fantastic supper. After a hot shower and a wonderful night sleep, and the mandatory hot fresh cinnamon buns that Kelli specializes in, I was on my way again.

First through Stockport Lock which went smooth. This is a very beautiful area on the river. I recommend it to anyone that likes to paddle.

Smooth paddling to the next lock, Luke Cute. I got out for a rest and talk to the Lock Master for a half hour or so. He warned me about the lock being under construction in Beverly. He had no recommendations on how to portage it. After the beauty of Luke Chute lock and the park there, arriving in Beverly was a rude awakening. Now I have nothing against the town, just the situation that I ran into in the lock canal.

Ahead of me was a dam. It was made of very sharp rocks. I figured pull the boat out go to the left through town and put back in on the other side of the lock. I pulled up to the dam, and tried to get out, and sunk to my knee in the most foul smelling muck that you could imagine. I saved my shoe and got out on the dam and tried to pull my boat out which was no easy task. A quick scout of the left portage through town showed me nothing but asphalt and concrete all the way to the other side of the lock. I had not brought my portage wheels (big mistake) so that was out of the question. I texted Joey Butts, and asked him, which way did they go two weeks ago when they went through. I called my friend Jon Ko in California and asked his advice which was to ask Joey. Joey asked me if I had maps, I screamed to myself, I had half dozen maps, none of them was going to get this boat around the lock. I decided to portage the boat over the island, about 200 yards through thick woods. I was surprised that the boat slid over the high weeds very easily. I got to the other side, loaded the boat back up, and slid it into the water. The bank was steep but had no choice, it was getting late and I had 10 more miles to paddle. I sunk in the mud, got in the boat, hung my feet over the sides and tried to wash off the smelly muck.

Finally I got back on my way, you could smell me a mile away.

Rain, Rain, Don’t Go Away March 7, 2022

Spring,or as some would say, “False Spring,” is here. The brisk March winds that I flew kites on as a youth came in with a roar yesterday. Now the nourishing rains are falling. Of course I would rather be out on the river, floating along enjoying the wildlife and dreading the muddy pull out at the end.

Today will have to be a day of planning, clean up and packing for the next trip. I don’t know about you, but I am always doing something involving my next trip. I always unpack everything because the next float will be totally different and have unique needs. It may even have a different purpose such as being a time for a short litter pick up trip, or a strainer scouting trip. My friend Irv Oslin calls that “Bushwhacking.” I still have not found that waterproof chain saw to take with me, and I find those trips are more “boat dragging!”.

Most people do not have the time available that I do to invest in this persuit. I am very fortunate in this, and I try to use my time to help those who don’t have it by doing the detail work and planning. All Winter I sat around going over maps and planning trips. I still want to checkout how that guy paddled across the Country! What a adventure!

I am almost always ready for a good paddling. Only takes me an hour and I will be packed and loaded an on the road to wherever the adventure is. Text me, call me, email me or send me a post in this group and we can head down the river or explore some lovely lake.

Spring,or as some would say, “False Spring,” is here. The brisk March winds that I flew kites on as a youth came in with a roar yesterday. Now the nourishing rains are falling. Of course I would rather be out on the river, floating along enjoying the wildlife and dreading the muddy pull out at the end.

Today will have to be a day of planning, clean up and packing for the next trip. I don’t know about you, but I am always doing something involving my next trip. I always unpack everything because the next float will be totally different and have unique needs. It may even have a different purpose such as being a time for a short litter pick up trip, or a strainer scouting trip. My friend Irv Oslin calls that “Bushwhacking.” I still have not found that waterproof chain saw to take with me, and I find those trips are more “boat dragging!”.

Most people do not have the time available that I do to invest in this persuit. I am very fortunate in this, and I try to use my time to help those who don’t have it by doing the detail work and planning. All Winter I sat around going over maps and planning trips. I still want to checkout how that guy paddled across the Country! What a adventure!

I am almost always ready for a good paddling. Only takes me an hour and I will be packed and loaded an on the road to wherever the adventure is. Text me, call me, email me or send me a post in this group and we can head down the river or explore some lovely lake.

To qualify that, I am not a white water person they have their boats packed on their back and are ready to be on the water in twenty minutes even when the water is two hours away!

The Water Jug March 7, 2022

I don’t know about you but I have spent some money in the past on water jugs for my boat. No more! I have found that these flat juice jugs are the best. They are flat so they don’t roll around in the boat. They are cheap because they are free. Before you toss them in the recycle bin use them a couple times for water.

First I rinse them out, then put a couple tablespoons full of bleach in it with water and soak it overnight. (I use sanitizing or unscented or the water to tastes like it came from the washing machine!) I pour that out and rinse with hot water several times. If there is a lingering odor I then put a couple tablespoons full of baking soda in with water and let it soak.

Now a note about the plastic. I would imagine that the juice that sat in that jug for three years probably soaked up most of the bad stuff. If not my recommendation is. Clean the jug good. Don’t store water for extended periods, this is not for your survival water that will sit in your closet for ten years. These are not made for hot drinks, make you coffee with the water but don’t pour it back into the jug to drink it. (In a pinch I’ve done that and no toes fell off and I can still remember my name.)

March 8, 2022

No paddling today!

A Trip To Mohawk Lake March 9, 2022

Decided to go down today and see what the lake looked like behind Mohawk Dam. It looked like it was about 40 feet deep, with a another huge pile of tree branches and garbage against the dam. I was trying to find the Onion Bag box from Riley Chapel. I think it is somewhere down there in the pile.

A vicarious adventure: Looking forward to a 980-mile paddle from the comfort of home

Irv Oslin

Special to Ashland Times-Gazette March 16, 2022

From the Bridge of Dreams to dreaming big. Curtis Casto paddles on the Mohican River near the iconic Bridge of Dreams. He's on the brink of realizing a bigger dream — a 980-mile kayak trip covering the entire Ohio River.

Readers frequently tell me they live vicariously through accounts of my river adventures.

I’m about to do some vicarious living of my own when my friend Curtis Casto sets off May 1 on a 980-mile paddling trip covering the entire Ohio River. He estimates the trip will take about 35 days.

I’ll enjoy following his journey online from the comfort of home. From time to time, I might even venture out to cheer him on (or heckle him). If he’s lucky, I’ll bring him a cup of gas station coffee.

Curtis Casto paddles on:Long kayaking trips require 10% perspiration and 90% inspiration

I admire Curtis’ ambition. And his dedication. Not just for undertaking such a demanding journey, but because he’s doing it for a cause — to raise money for Paddle for Heroes.

Paddle for Heroes fundraiser inspires kayak trip on Ohio River

Paddle for Heroes is a Mount Vernon-based group that involves veterans, first responders, and others with river cleanups, community projects, disaster relief, and healing through paddling.

Irv Oslin

Curtis’ Ohio River trip was inspired by Paddle for Heroes’ annual fundraising kayak trip from Mount Vernon to Marietta via the Kokosing, Walhonding, and Muskingum rivers. In previous columns I’ve given accounts of how Curtis’ love of kayaking changed his life — and nearly caused him to lose it.

A few years ago, Curtis, who is now 65, took up kayaking. Through paddling and diet changes, he lost more than 100 pounds and overcame a litany of health problems. He attempted to join Paddle for Heroes on one of the 160-mile Mount Vernon to Marietta paddling trips.

On the first day, he nearly drowned and had to throw in the towel. Determined to persevere, he later made the trip on his own.

And still he persists.

The Ohio River trip will be a test of Curtis’ stamina, paddling skills, and — quite frankly — his threshold for boredom.

Which is why you won’t find me doing long trips on big rivers. Been there, done that. I prefer smaller, more intimate streams.

There’s another reason I won’t be joining Curtis or Paddle for Heroes on their marathon trips. Both require paddlers to put in a lot of miles in a short time. I admire that but it’s not my style. When it comes to paddling, I’m in it for the scenery. It’s about the smiles, not the miles.

Curtis Casto preps for long Ohio River trip

I’m already vicariously enjoying Curtis’ Ohio River trip. He’s been sharing the excitement of preparing for it. In many ways, preparation can be as daunting as the trip itself.

He started the process in January. Or, if you include the dreaming phase of planning, last summer. Preparation includes determining distances, learning how to navigate through 19 or 20 locks, finding campsites, establishing contacts along the river, and maintaining a supply of food and drinking water.

“I will eat in some restaurants along the way,” he said. “I have a special mix of nutritional food that I can eat every day if I need to. I have several people who have offered to feed me along the way.”

He sent faxes to about 300 law enforcement agencies along the river to let them know approximately when he’ll be passing through. Curtis, a U.S. Army veteran, also contacted all the VFW, American Legion, and AMVETS posts.

He’ll have to learn to paddle a different kind of river. The Ohio is not the Kokosing or Mohican or even the Muskingum for that matter. Currents on the Ohio can be squirrelly, thanks in part to barge traffic. I know that from experience.

Wild camping rules are also different. On streams inside Ohio, the land along the banks, the islands, and the streambeds belong to the landowners. Camping there without permission is technically illegal. On the Ohio, you can camp above the high-water mark or on islands.

Curtis plans to camp on some of the islands courtesy of the Ohio River National Wildlife Refuge Kayak Challenge. Apparently, he’ll be a pioneer in that program. After filing for an island camping permit, he heard back from Michael Schramm, visitor services manager with the Ohio River Islands NWR:

“Congratulations! You are the first person to actually request this permit from us! Because this is a new permit, we are still hammering out the details. It will probably be a couple weeks before I can actually issue you the permit, but that having been said, rest assured the permit is designed for exactly your type of journey and I anticipate no issues. I’m excited about your trip!”

You aren’t the only one, Michael.

March 19, 2022

Irv’s article made the national news on Yahoo News!

March 26, 2022

For You! March 29, 2022

I have decided to dedicate my trip down the Ohio River to Viet Nam Veterans. It looks like this is a pretty good day to announce this because it is Viet Nam Veterans Day.

The men and woman that served in that war came home with many scars, and some still have not healed. Paddle for Heroes is about helping to heal those scars. In the 60’s and 70’s we didn’t even know what PTSD was. We had no idea how to treat Traumatic Brain Injury. Fortunately we have progressed some since that time.

We at Paddle for Heroes know that there has always been one treatment for the scars of war and that is nature. With a canoe or kayak under you and a paddle in your hands, with eagles in your eyes, you can feel natures healing run through your body. Fast water or slow, lake or stream, it is amazing how the earth can help you to heal. Paddle for Heroes also offers the the loyalty of a family of close brothers and sisters that are there to help you. Spend one night around a campfire with us in the wilds of the Au Sable River in Michigan and you will feel it.

I know that Viet Nam vets are getting up there in age, they have to be at least older than me, because I just missed it I was too young to go. Paddle for Heroes is available to you also. We will help you get out on the water and into nature. I was 63 years old when I started paddling. I was using a walker to get around more than around the house anyway. I started paddling, lost 110 pounds, and got in much better shape. Now I can carry my boat and walk half a mile. If you can’t afford a boat, let us know we have extras.

In light of my dedication of this trip to Viet Nam Veterans, I am also naming my boat the Sgt. Barry Smith. This man contacted me to offer me a place to stay on my trip. I come to find out he is the son of my high school principal. He was in Viet Nam when I was in the 8th Grade. This man was awarded the Silver Star and was recently inducted into the Ohio Military Hall Of Fame For Valor. Here is a article about him and his bravery. I look forward to spending time with Barry and his family. This world does not need a hero, there are millions of them out there quietly living their lives.

Follow this link to read about Barry Smith

Flashbacks to Rainbow Bend March 31, 2022

As I did my workout today at Ariel-Foundation Park, I started having flashbacks to my trip last June down the Muskingum River. The wind was howling at a good 15 mph, the chop was at times a good 12 inches. As I turned into the wind I kept hearing in my mind the intermittent haunting low moan of the horn at Globe Metallurgical. The wind picked up and visions of Rainbow Bend kept going through my mind. Paddling hard and seeming to move backward through the 2 foot chop. Oh those were the days. Paddle on I told myself, the end is near, and it was. Today, the end of my 3 mile workout, and before, the sweet vision of the old iron bridge at Marietta.

I was asked yesterday by a reporter, how do I maintain my focus while paddling long distances. Sometimes I count my strokes, reminding myself to stroke properly instead of pulling. Sometimes I sing to myself, or if in the wilderness, out loud, and loud. When I work out I listen to slow blues music, it is the perfect beat to paddle to in my kayak. I remind myself, that at the end of the paddle is a hot meal, and a warm sleeping bag.

After paddling with this kayak for 6 months now, I discovered something new. The more level I keep the boat, the easier it is to paddle and maintain speed. It was weird that it seemed easier to paddle when I was loaded down with a hundred pounds of camping gear than it was to paddle it empty. Well today, I put my seat all the way forward, leveled the boat out and it worked. I was able to maintain my speed and paddle a quarter a mile an hour faster. That will matter when I am going 980 miles.

I have tried to find a recording of that horn at Globe Metallurgical, I couldn’t find one. It is so haunting, so hard to explain. I was glad to get away from it, I don’t know how anyone can work around that all day.

Army veteran paddling down Ohio River to raise money for local charity March 23, 2022

We made the Mount Vernon News!

By Submission

Mar 23, 2022

MOUNT VERNON – U.S. Army Veteran Curtis L. Casto is headed for a 981-mile journey down the Ohio River to raise funds for Paddle for Heroes. Casto, 65, will start his trip May 1 at downtown Pittsburg and finish approximately 35 days later in Wickliffe, Kentucky.

Paddle for Heroes is a Mount Vernon, Ohio based, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that assists veterans and first responders who have endured traumatic experiences, helping them to recover by spending time in nature paddling kayaks and canoes, according to a press release.

Each year Paddle for Heroes organizes a six-day paddle from Mount Vernon to Marietta on the Kokosing, Walhonding and Muskingum rivers in Ohio. Participants paddle 25-30 miles a day and camp along the river at host campgrounds. The organization also participates in trips to Michigan and Cincinnati for paddling adventures. In September each year Paddle for Heroes participates in clean-up programs on the Kokosing and Mohican rivers. Paddle for Heroes, other organizations and individual volunteers have removed hundreds of tires and thousands of pounds of garbage from the rivers.

Paddle for Heroes also places onion bag boxes at river access points so paddlers can take reusable litter bags with them for their trash and to pick up litter as they go. Paddle for Heroes also raised money for and installed an ADA-compliant kayak launch at Ariel-Foundation Park in Mount Vernon. This allows persons in wheelchairs and those with balance and strength issues to access the water for paddling.

Casto is taking pledges for this trip. Please donate by going to or search on Facebook for Paddle for Heroes. Let Curtis know you support him by joining his group on Facebook: A Good Paddling At 65! or his blog

All donations go to Paddle for Heroes. Casto is covering his own expenses for the trip.

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