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 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.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 passing 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 areaoverlooking 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!
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.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!
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. 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.