Pushing Back Out Onto the Ohio Next Month

I only subscribe to one magazine at this point in my life. It is Yankee: New England’s Magazine. It is so fun to read the stories of “my” people. On both sides of my family, we have branches of the tree that reach out to New England. When I read the articles it makes so much sense to me. I see patterns that were passed down through my family that clearly originated in the hearty people and landscapes of Vermont and Maine.

The latest issue of Yankee  arrived today and, as usual when reading magazines, I scanned from the back to the front. My eyes lit quickly upon the quote from Katherine Hepburn (a native of CT): “As one goes through life, one learns that if you don’t paddle your own canoe, you don’t move.” How perfect. Just today, Karen and Mark left our home after a wonderful weekend together in Vermont. Karen and I have been on this canoe trek since 2001, starting in Red Bird Corner, New York. In four weeks, we will be back on the Ohio River nearly 1000 miles from where we started. The longer we travel this crazy path, the more we learn about life, each other, ourselves, the water, landscape, the kindness of strangers…well, just about everything.

One thing we have learned is that even when you do paddle your own canoe and paddle hard, you might not move very much. The headwinds of the Ohio River can be impossible. There has really only been one day that was so bad that we had to stop altogether. We had paddled for an hour and had gone only one mile. This blog is full of many of the stories from our annual canoe trip with Wonder. It is full of lessons and the wonderful people we have met along the way.

After this past weekend together, we are both ready to meet again in a month and discover new territory, new friends, and new strength. And we pray that the wind will indeed be at our back every day so that we can make our way another 130 or so miles toward Cairo, Illinois. We look forward to our faithful followers coming along as well as we post to this blog as time and cell towers allow.

Thanks for being part of our journey!

Thank you!

The river is behind us now but we take forward with us the people who we met along the way.  On our first full day of paddling, Sunday, it was hot, very hot.  We found a boat club and paddled into its lagoon.  There was a man attending to his sail boat.  We know people do have sail boats on the Ohio but have never seen one on the waters.  We hailed him and asked if we could leave our canoe at the dock and where we might find some shade to rest and/or ice.  He didn’t think there was ice anywhere but directed us to a small patch of shade.  We rested there in the relative cool under the mulberry trees.  We even slept a little.  Then we decided to try to walk around the lagoon to the office to see if there was ice or cold drinks.  It was a bit of a walk and when we were nearly there, we found gates indicating that we were really not welcome.  So we turned back and decided to paddle on.

When we got to the canoe, a pontoon boat was arriving with a man, woman and their little dog.  The woman called out words of admiration for our courage and that started a conversation which led us to be invited into their nearby home on the river (which we had passed while paddling) complete with AC.  We were invited to use the bathrooms and enjoy a soda.  After some conversation and admiration of their beautiful home overlooking the river, we headed out but not before Sue gave us water, sodas and chocolate to take on our way.  Thank you, Susan Lancaster, husband Joe and son Tony for the hospitality and conversation.


Sue wouldn’t let us photograph her but she did take a photo of us on the colorful deck of their beautiful home.

Sue and Tony had suggested our next camping spot on 12 mile island so we headed there.  As we came closer to Louisville, the waters became more full of recreational vehicles for the Memorial Day weekend.  The wakes from the boats rocked us as we paddled toward the island.  When we arrived, there were many boats lashed together, as we learned friends do on the river to make one big party.  Not sure that we wanted to be in the midst of a weekend party, we moved forward anyway.  Pulling our canoe up on shore we noted a kayak was also there.  We walked up the steps to the park on this city owned island and found only one other tent.  After scoping out our own tent area, we met the tent’s owner, Mitch, and we became friends.


Mitch setting off early to meet us in Louisville.

As previous posts describe, Mitch took us under his wings the next day, made sure that we had showers at his boat club and then gave us the grand tour of Louisville.  It was a Memorial Day to remember.  Thanks, Mitch!


The days were getting hotter so we planned to awake earlier to get on the river in the cool of the morning.  That evening, we made it through the McAlpine lock and dam in Louisville and headed downstream.  We found a rock ledge to camp on that night.  Right on the river.  We enjoyed a fire on the rocks and when Maggie waved at a passinIMG_2538g barge at dusk, the barge honked back.  That was also a first.  We always wave at the tugs but we can never see if they are looking at us.  Apparently we hit that one just right!

The next morning, we started early again to gain as many miles as possible in the cool of the morning. We were up before sunrise and on the river paddling to Otter River State Park that is closed but we could get up the ramp and to a camping area


Leaving Otter River early before the sun rose.

overlooking the river and so we enjoyed it all ourselves….well, there were the trains as well.   Three came through on the track just a couple of hundred feet from our tent…one at 9 in the evening, one at 11ish at night and one at 4:45 am.  That one got us up and at it for another early paddle.  This was the first time we had ever started out before sunrise and it was beautiful.  Thank you, Mother Nature!

We took another long midday break and continued on our way.  At one point, a small fishing boat with one man approached us.  We don’t remember anyone else ever approaching us while we were out on the river.  He called out that he likes to find out where people are coming from and where they are going to!  We held on to his boat and chatted for a while and then he insisted on giving us water and some oatmeal cookies to take along with us.  We ate those cookies right up to the last day we were on the river.  Thanks, Jim, for the conversation and the treats!IMG_6208[1]

Later in the day, we took a lunch break and nap break in New Amsterdam, Indiana.  After napping  a bit in the pavilion, we were joined by Sarah and Zachary.  Sarah is a junior in high school and took the time to talk with us for quite a while about being a farm/country girl in that area.


Zachary and Sarah in New Amsterdam

She loves her family and her community and spoke so eloquently of her life and the river.  Thank you, Sarah, for sharing with us.  You are an encouragement to us and a reminder of the hope of the future in the faces of our young people.



Hot and fairly bothered, we landed in Leavenworth, Indiana, late in the afternoon.  We had hoped to camp at an RV park on the river but they do not allow tents, apparently by state law.  They had no showers or toilets.  We had our hearts set on dinner in a restaurant but they do not exist on the river in the area where we were this year.  The man at the RV park said there was a restaurant up the hill but it was quite a hike.  We thanked him after getting permission to leave our canoe at their ramp.  Then we sat down and assessed the situation.  We decided to go for the restaurant and hope to find a place to stay before dark downriver.  We headed out on foot and it turned out that the restaurant was about 300 feet above the river and about a two mile hike.  We were exhausted and very hot when we finally got to The Overlook Restaurant.  When the waitress learned we had walked from the river she was surprised.  Conversations started up with people on both sides of us.  Joe and Donna talked at length with us and he tried to find us a place to stay to no avail.  The waitress brought us over some tourist info and Maggie called the first cabins on the list and that is how we found Karen and Gary, owners of the Big Timber River Cabins.  Actually, there is only one cabin now but they are building more and we could not more highly recommend them for a tourist destination.  They made the cabin ready for us quickly, fetched us from the restaurant, drove us to pick up our canoe and gear in their truck, then took us to their beautiful cabin. Thank you, Karen and Gary, for your hospitality!


Karen and Gary transported us to and from the river for two days.beautiful handmade log cabin.  We ended up staying two nights and they shuttled us to and from our put in and take out points for two days.  An incredibly BIG thank you to Karen and Gary!  You perhaps saved our trip…and kept us dry during the storm that night.

And finally, the biggest thank you to our new friend Jeff Matthews who delivered us to Madison, Indiana, kept Karen’s car for the week and then drove over two hours to fetch us from Rome, Indiana.  He took us back to his home, we chatted for a bit with him and with Kathy.  IMG_6269[1]They presented us with two local bottles of wine and then we were on our way home.  We have always had the fortune of finding people to shuttle us at the beginning and end of our trips.  This is the farthest anyone has had to travel to do this for us.  It took five hours from Jeff’s day and yet he did it with enthusiasm, sharing his own stories of paddling kayaks and canoes all over the Midwest.  We hope to see him in New England sometime soon. Thanks, Jeff, for all you did at the beginning and at the end of the our trip to make it the success that it was!

We have learned over the years that there are always people who will help us along the way.  We have, more importantly, learned that we could not do these trips without those people.  Thank you to all of you, named and unnamed, who showed kindness to us.

18 miles farther down the river

image image image image image imageWell, perhaps we are getting soft or perhaps we are getting wise.  We have aged 15 years since we began this journey, and the last couple of days are a reminder that as times and ages change , perhaps our planning changes as well.  We stayed in this lovely cabin last night and this morning we decided to ask if we could stay a second night!  We realized how much we needed some down time this morning, and enjoyed the beauty of the river from hundreds of feet above until noon.  Then our hosts took us and our canoe (sans gear) back to where we had gotten out yesterday and we paddled a relatively stressless 18 miles to Magnet, Indiana.  The wind kicked up a couple of times but gently.  This is the first year we have not been hit with head winds on a regular basis!  We saw more barges and had to time river crossings more carefully than in the past as well.  It even sprinkled on us just a bit. We took one on shore break where Maggie left some foot prints along with those of what we think are a deer.

It was a lovely paddle made even more so by the fact that we knew we were going to be retrieved by hosts Gary and Karen and returned to this little cabin and its hot tub!

Karen and Gary took us up on our invite to join us for dinner and they suggested the little restaurant (see photo of dollar bills hanging over the bar) by the ramp where we enjoyed a local experience with corn meal dipped white fish, corn nuggets and  potato munchers!  An animated waitress and the folks coming in to play cards added to the experience.  And The Andy Griffith Show was playing in the background.

Hum, now we are wondering…could we have more arrangements like this for future travels??  Are our bodies needing some time to relax after a few days on the river.  Yesterday we were nearly done in but today we enjoyed the time back on the river.  Tomorrow Karen and Gary will return is and our gear to Magnet, and we will complete our 2016 stint in Rome, IN, about 280 from the Mississippi River and nearly 1000 miles from where we started at Red Bird Corners, NY.  Wow.


And the best campsite yet!

So we have always been lucky in finding decent to excellent campsites but we outdid ourselves tonight.  After a very long day including rising at 4:45 am to the train just feet from our tent, to paddling in the heat in spite of our early departure, to napping in a town park and chatting with one of the local teens, to trying to sail with my new sail for canoes, to a few drops of rain and a thunder clap or two,  we finally arrived at our destination of Leavenworth, Indiana.  25 miles today and we were turned downed at a local rv park. No tents allowed.  We asked about a restaurant.  Yes, there is one up the hill.  We were tired and cranky and took stock of the hour…5:30…and the options and decided to walk to the restaurant. UP to the restaurant about two miles up.  Did I already say up???  Hot and sweaty, we plugged on not knowing for sure where it was.  We were rewarded greatly for our efforts for not only did we find a great dinner at the Overlook but it was an incredible view of where we had been and where we were going on the river.  We enjoyed our waitress and two couples who chatted with us about our exploits.  We had passed an inn on the way UP the hill and inquired about it.  It was closed.  We now had it in our minds to have a shower and a decent place to sleep. So the waitress gave us some local info and we called a number for a cabin.  Not only did we get the cabin  but it is a gorgeous log cabin overlooking our beloved river.  And Karen and Gary, the cabin proprietors, came and fetched us at the restaurant, then fetched our canoe and belongings and brought us to this beautiful cabin!  After showering, we sat in the hot tub and marveled at what comes our way.  We were really close to overdone this afternoon and felt we needed a break.  We have it now and will enjoy a lazy morning before being returned to the river  to see how far we can get tomorrow.  We have already done more than 110 miles so we are happy to take it easy for the final two days of our journey.


Indeed we did find another great spot to camp. We are now the sole inhabitants of Otter Creek State Park in Kentucky. The park has been closed for some time but we could still access the boat ramp and we found ourselves a great spot and a creek to bathe in.  That’s a first for us.

We are proud to have paddled about 28 miles today for a total of 80 so far this week.  The waters have been calm all week. It was very hot but we took necessary breaks. We found a convenience store where we could get hot dogs and ice cream in West Point as well as our ice and provisions as previously mentioned.  We have not found the kind of river restaurants that we found last year so we’ve been mostly living off of crackers and cheese and sausage and the few freeze dried meals so hotdog and ice cream seemed very appealing.

After traveling many miles on a very industrial Ohio River we have come into an area between Kentucky and Indiana that is totally wilderness and beautiful. Quiet and serene, woodpecker pecking in the distance. And birds singing their evening songs.

It is interesting to travel this river with so much Civil War history. We ponder as we go down the river that freedom was on the north side of the river and slavery in the south. In so many parts of the world this is so true: just a river or a wall separate people from freedom.



I never tire of the site of a barge in the river. We stopped for lunch and a nap here in West Point, KY, once the site of Fort Knox. The barge is making its way, just as we do down the river. We napped and charged our phones in the town gazebo and will now stock up on ice and some other provisions and head out for another couple of hours, hoping to find another great site to spend the night.  The steamboat looking building is a casino in Kentucky.

End of day three

We had an incredibly full and rewarding day. Last night we camped on 12 mile Island outside Louisville and we met a great man Mitch. We enjoyed a fire with him before retiring to our tent. Sleeping much better than we did the night before we awoke and were on the river by 630.  Strangely, last night we experienced something we had also experienced the previous night. We heard a wild animal of some sort killing another animal. Scarier the night before but still a little alarming.  We met Mitch in the morning and he agreed to meet us in Louisville at the community boat club. He was there when we arrived. He treated us to showers at the boat club. And then showed us the city.   Little did we expect when we woke up this morning that today would be the day we saw our first horse race at Churchill Downs. And little did Maggie know that it would be the first time she got a senior discount anywhere. There’s something to be said for turning 60. Though it was a compliment that the woman at the ticket booth didn’t believe any of us were 60.Mitch treated us to a late breakfast followed by a tour of the city including many sites but the highlights were the Louisville slugger Museum and factory and Churchill Downs the home of the Kentucky derby. More later but for now we are settled in on a rock outcropping into the river having passed through the only lock we will go through this time. We have a fire going and will soon be in our tent to escape the mosquitoes.  Sorry if my grammar and punctuation looks weird but I’m reading this into my phone.