We gather for our annual tradition of our attempt of removing this last Summer’s human activity on our beautiful Kokosing River. Everyone is excited to be here, all in their best old beat up clothes, old tennis shoes, floppy hats and clean body’s see. Everyone is energetic and excited as they pull their heavy canoes down to the river. It is a practiced well oiled machine. One by one boats are staged, wavers signed, t shirts passed out, gloves and garbage bags loaded and of course the ever fun to use grabber.
Vehicles were staged at the end point, the ominous dumpster there for all of us to see our goal. Fill that sucker! We have a short trip back to the start and off we go. People possessed! No can, bottle, plastic bag was going to go un-picked. Some would get out of their boat in knee deep mud to pick up a candy bar wrapper ten feet up the bank. A person is driven when they will risk injury to clean up some thoughtless person’s disgusting litter. (I think I may have misplaced the word disgusting.)
Eagles and herons kept an eye on us as we meandered down the stream. Our tire king just kept finding them buried in the mud and silt. With singleminded drive he would free them rinse the smelly mud off and add them to the growing pile in his canoe. The race was on to replace the king, but to no avail, he could not be held back. I asked myself, what drives us to do this? Why on earth would we take our free time, and do something that will sap us of all our energy, and make us smell like dump workers.
It is our river! We love her! We want her to flow free and clean like she has for thousands of years. She gives us so much pleasure in our lives, how can we let her be a trash dump? We Kokosing River Rats can not. At the end of the day, the smell and mud wash off. The fatigue is slept away, and a new day starts bright and clean. We know we did our best and we are proud to be friends of our river.
This week started with of course Labor Day Weekend being rained out for the most part. I had a few chores with onion bag boxes to accomplish. My friend and adopted daughter Rose joined me as we put a new box in at the ODNR park and launch at Brinkhaven, and another one at Greer and Bridge of Dreams.
When we arrived at Bridge o Dreams there were several fire fighting vehicles, empty boat trailers and various other emergency vehicles, but no people. I just assumed they were doing some training and when on my way putting in the new super sized onion bag box. A truck pulled up and men got out ,got in a few of the fire vehicles and they drove off. I asked one if they were training and he said no it was real there was a person drown in the river.
There was nothing in the news. I asked a Face book friend is she knew what was going on and she forwarded a post that said they were looking for her uncle in the river and they were meeting at Bridge of Dreams on Wednesday morning for a search down the river.
Rose and I packed up and as there ready to go in the river, but none else showed up. Due to lack of information we decided to go home, after a visit to the Amish bakery outside of Danville. After getting home I get word that no one is searching for this man. The fire department had said their area was searched and that the next jurisdiction down the river would have to take over. I decided right there that someone was going to search, me. I loaded up to be able to stay on the river at least three days and headed to Brinkhaven.
Another friend along the river allowed me to camp a night at her property, it was close so that helped. I searched a mile of river and set up camp to get a early start. Rose wanted to join me so I paddled back upstream to get her at Bridge of Dreams. We loaded up and off we went.
We did about as well as we could only being able to closely search one side. After floating about 12 miles we got out loaded up and went home for some rest. The next day doing it all over.
No one has located this man yet. We are hoping that he has not gone very far down the river. Fire and Rescue will be out again today. I hope they find him. If not tomorrow I am going to head to Coshocton on the river.
You might ask yourself, why does he do this? I think the answer would be, because I can. I have a boat, I have time, I have some skill in that boat. I am retired, why not? I don’t want to be in this family’s circumstance. I hope there are people out there who would search for me. I am reminded of the beauty of the river every day, but also reminded of it’s power.
I am pretty sure that this is what heaven looks like! That reminds me of that son “If Heaven Ain’t A Lot Like Dixie!” I sure hope that if I make it there that it looks like the plumbing aisle at Lowe’s. If I go the the other way, well let’s just say PVC smells really bad when it gets hot.
I recall a few weeks ago a friend saying he was disappointed that the rack on top of my van was wood and not PVC. I immediately started planning in my mind the replacement for the wood. Here is what came to mind.
Did I mention that I like to carry things to extremes?
Some other projects I have created.
Had a guy ask me “what’s that plumbing on your boat for?”
I hate this time of year in a lot of ways. I can feel impending cold winds and solid precipitation in the air. (Notice I avoided that four letter word!) I’ve completed all my scheduled long distance paddling for the year, but I sit here with my maps and books planning more.
The Ohio River is still there, and still a goal of mine. There seems to be to many flood waters in the area to even attempt it. Best to put that one off till next year. The creeks and rivers around here are low so not much fun to attempt. I guess it is lake time!
I have been spending time with Marsha, my wife on the water. She is new but seems to have more natural ability than she gives herself credit for. Yesterday she went over backwards when she sat in her boat. She was telling for help! I said stand up to the water is only knee deep. It comes down to trust. You have to learn to trust yourself and your equipment. The only way to do that is to test it. Swim with your vest. Turn your boat over. Learn how to drain your boat. The old timers tell me we are only between swims when we are in the boat.
Overall she is doing great and is going to have a lot of fun as we explore the rivers and streams of Ohio and other places.
I go out to my garage and you would think it was a onion bag box factory. It is down to assembly line effeciency now. I can build one in a half hour. I have even made double size ones for places that we use a lot of bags so that the box only needs filled once a month. We still have our fundraiser going to fund this project that is turning into a massive undertaking. We are shooting for having a box at every public boat launch and canoe/kayak access in the Muskingum Watershed. Working, on obtaining the permissions and funds for all that.
Now on to the wonderful part of this time of year. The bugs go away! The camping is beautiful, and waking up on col crisp mornings to a hot cup of coffee and the smell of bacon and eggs is better than s…., Well maybe not but close! Look forward to many more miles on the river.
It seems no matter where I am paddling, at the time, it is the best te I have ever had! Have you ever noticed that about yourself? This week on the Little Miami has been great. Who could not enjoy a few days with good friends and my best friend nature?
Started the week at the Narrows Park put in. Beautiful park. It did not take me long to sense something different about this river. It had good flow, was not too wide and plenty of curves, riffles and small rapids to keep me occupied. What I did not see or hear were Canadian Geese! It was three days before I even saw one and still have not heard one. Whatever they are doing over here we need to try at home
The second daywad the most challenging day on any river I have had. There were areas that were plugged with stainers almost totally. We worked as a team and Joeys leadership and knowledge got us through! We e lifted boats over logs, roped them under logs and over a dam (empty of course.) It was impressive how we all worked together to get through.
Heat of course has been a issue. We have out hats and sunscreen and cooling towels. Sn occasional swim helps. Paddling in the shade as much as possible helps also. It has been wonderful sleeping weather.i have slept better on this trip than ever on a camping trip.
That brings us to today. When the sun gives us a peep of light, we are off. We should have four hours of dry weather. We have 15 miles to go. I am sure as the water that keeps flowing down that this team will make it and be right on time!
Well I am here sitting at The Narrows landing on the Little Miami River. Of course I am 3 hours early as usual, my usual before the float insomnia. I woke up at 2:00 in the morning and was raring to go so I got in the van and left.
My trip here was on eventful except I did stop at gas station and they did not have coffee. I could not believe it! A 24-hour gas station without coffee amazing! I went to another and got a couple donuts and a cup of coffee and I was set for my trip.
It has been a while since I drove in the dark so that was something that I had to get used to again. Luckily there were no deer to deal with tonight.
I am all packed and ready to go! In fact I am probably packed enough for the next three trips. I hope we don’t have to do very much portaging, but I know we do have to do one dam. I have wanted to do this River for a long time. Ever since I heard Joey Butts’s Father talking about it at PaddleFest last year.
So here’s my chance. We are only going 9 miles the first day thank goodness since I will probably want to take an afternoon nap. I will keep in touch during this trip. I did bring Spalding with me he’s already to go but I think he’s still asleep in the backseat.
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.
What does a person do when they would love to be out on the water for a long kayak trip and they are in between trips? This is what I have been doing.
Planning a long trip, of course. I think that I may have come up with a good one for next weekend. 125 miles to Marietta again, this time starting at Mohawk Dam. I will be camping at the locks and some stealth camping on islands to change things up. This time I will also be using a canoe instead of a kayak. I still paddle it like a kayak but I have started to enjoy this beast. It is much lighter than my big kayak that I took on the Ohio River and is a bit faster, and can carry about 100 pounds more gear.
I have also picked up a bit of litter, at Riverside Park in Mount Vernon and in the Kokosing from Riverside Park to Memorial Park. I have a really difficult time walking past litter. If I see it, I must pick it up. I think it is part of my mental illness, but if it does good, then it is a good thing.
Good news, I got a hammock, and next I am going to try to learn to sleep in it. It is much lighter than a tent, we will see how it goes. I will take it over to Ariel-Foundation Park and try it out between a couple trees for a afternoon nap sometime.
I have been doing frequent sunset paddles at Ariel-Foundation Park lately. I like to go over after supper and get 3-5 miles of paddling in. It is calm and peaceful and helps me keep in shape for my long voyages.
Last Saturday we went to the Muskingum River Advocacy Council Boat Festival at the Zanesville Boat Club. Joey and his family and Sonya, Rose and I paddled from Riverside park in Zanesville, through the locks and to the Boat Club. Was a nice paddle and going through the locks is always fun. We took a side trip up Moxahala Creek for about a mile and found some beautiful rock formations and a ledge that formed a small water fall about a foot high. Any time we take Rose someplace she always starts picking up litter.
I have not totally ruled out attempting to finish my Ohio River trip this year. I have a trip down the Little Miami to do the first week in August. We will be paddling to the Ohio River Paddlefest in Cincinnati. After that the next weekend we are on the Au Sable in Michigan for a weekend trip. After that I am free and clear to possibly finish that trip.
A project that I have decided to take on is to improve the river access points in Knox County. To make them more accommodating to everyone, not just people who can throw a 100 pound boat over their shoulder and carry it half a mile. I think there needs to be some kind of stairs or ramps to the river from most of them. We also need to have more secure garbage containers like the one in Greer to keep the animals out of the cans. I also am designing a onion bag box that can be made out of metal, something we could have the Career Center welding students put together for us at a reasonable price and put them on metal poles so that they are flood resistant. This project will take some labor and some money. Grants will be applied for to fun some of it. We are not sure exactly what we need right now so not sure what the cost is going to be. If you have any suggestions please IM me or email me with them.
I was told this week, “you love the Kokosing River!” I agree. I do. I love everything about it. The twists, the turns, the riffles, the rapids, the trees , the birds, the deer, the goats (yes I have seen a herd of goats.) I love it all. I love to see it clean and as nature meant it to be. I don’t like to see it polluted and littered. I love that a kid, or a big kid sometimes, can swim in it and not come down with some deadly illness. I love that there a huge fish and small fish, and big turtles and small turtles. Some fish become a Eagle’s dinner, and some swim free for some angler to try his skill on. I like it that you can eat a fish out of this river and not be a pound heavier from the lead and mercury that might be in them. I love it that you can paddle down this river and not be pushing cans and bottles out of the way to get through the water. I love it that once in awhile a tree falls across the river and you have negotiate that obstacle and test your skills. I love the sandstone cliffs with water dripping into the river. I love the river best when there is frost on the dead grass and leaves on the bank and a mist drifting off the cold clear water. I love to sleep next to a riffle and hear the water each time I wake at night, reminding me I am still alive and next to one of the most beautiful waters in the world.
There was no hurry to wake up. I didn’t even want to wake up. Not because of being tired, but because I knew soon the trip would be over. There was a certain unease in the camp. I think the feeling was mutual with several other paddlers. This wonderful trek down a beautiful river would soon be history. We would be back to our daily routines and the group would be forever in our memories. Until then, we had 16 miles and two locks to negotiate.
It was amazing how fast this paddling went. Even though my body did not want to paddle. My arms did not want to pull and push. My legs did not want to push. My muscles were sore, the ones I had not noticed yesterday or before. My mind was not into it. It was, thank goodness, a short trip that day. The sun beat down melting through layers of sunscreen. Water was consumed by the bottle full, empties littering the bottom of my boat, rolling from side to side as my boat swayed.
The notorious Rainbow bend, came and went with a whimper. Memories of last year when the waves were two feet high white caps and I could not tell if I was making any forward progress went through my mind. Today was much different. The water was like glass, and the heat oppressive. City park passed, and we grouped up for a loose diamond formation for the final push to the Ohio River and up river to the landing.
Soon we were pulling boats up the incline and grouping up for photos and media attention. Me all I could do was be sad, it was all over. Yes I had finished. and yes I was happy that others had finished. We accomplished something few do, but my solemnity was overcoming me. I could have kept on, miles, more miles. I wanted this group to paddle more and more. Day after day of the closeness we had. Purpose, it meant something! This group of women and men meant something, do ourselves and to many others.
Some of us loaded up and took off for other adventures. Some hung around the Lafayette Hotel for a day, having dinner and breakfast and then returning home. Everyone took home precious memories.
Each person added their magic to this trip. Each took from it more than they ever expected. The magic land of the river flowed through us now. For a moment it washed us clean of the world around us and it’s troubles. It is always there. It beacons us, come to me and I will fill you. And we will all return.
I could go on and on about how slow and boring the progress was. How there was little to see but tree after tree. How the sun beat down upon us relentlessly. How the heat caused sweat to pour out of us almost as much as the water and electrolytes we poured into us. But let’s get to a little magic.
We got to beautiful Stockport lock early and waited in the shade enjoying the view of the old mill and hearing the rush of the water over the dam. Soon we were through and on the other side awaited very turbulent water that most enjoyed, pushing them along at super speeds. Then more mile after mile to Luke Chute where we enjoyed lunch as a log was cleared from the lock to let us pass. I think maybe the river knew this was a much needed break from paddling and maybe put that log there. If you have not been to Luke Chute, go. It has lovely grounds, lots of camp sites. not much traffic and is way off the beaten path.
Next came a big challenge. Since the lock is not operational at Beverly, we chose to go to the other side of the river and portage out boats around the damn. A trusty knight of the magic people, Mike, was there again to help is with is truck and trailer, hauling boats and gear down roads that were almost impossible to walk. His services were so valuable to this trip. I can’t thank him enough. Boats in the water, eddies to manage, we rushed to the other shore. Dangerous storms were on the radar and we needed shelter.
It is hard to explain how muddy Beverly lock boat ramp was. There was a wooden ramp that sufficed for many to get their boat out without sliding their way through 6 inches of pure slick goo. Mixed in was a blown up dead racoon that added to the ambience. Lightning was in the air, so we pulled out quick and found shelter. Some of us better than others. I chose to stand outside in the rain letting it fill me with refreshing energy. The lightning and thunder had gone so it was nothing more than a good strong shower and I felt clean through and through.
Skies clearing, we were on our way. Some chose to porpoise their boats on the wooden ramp, and some went into the drink! But it was all in fun. The group was refreshed by the storm also, and paddle on we did. Until the crack of thunder broke the silence, so under the trees we hid. More rain and more thunder and lightning came and went and we ducked under the trees a few times, but eventually we made it to the campgrounds for the night.
There was hot lasagna and salad, cold water and beer, and a warm welcome from the hosts at Stonehouse Campground. It had become so routine, pull in, unload the boats, set up your tent, eat, make a campfire, etc, etc. After 5 days, we all just took it in stride. We settled around a warm campfire as the sun set and talked about the trip, and how we could improve it. There were many grateful hearts around that fire, much love was shared and we went to bed that night, knowing, we had one more day together, one more day till the end.