Cincinnati. It ends as it began. Karen and I arrived last evening at the airport hotel in Cincinnati. We enjoyed hot showers (I took three in the last 12 hours!) to get the river mud out of our systems and off our toes. And we enjoyed, maybe, a quick cold dip in the outdoor pool. We spent some time looking over the river maps for next year. Having completed 147 miles this week, our plan is to complete all but about 8 miles of the Ohio River next spring. In looking at the maps, we see that the fleeting of barges appears to be getting more intense as we approach the Mississippi River. That makes sense. We ran into some of that reality on Friday. It makes for a less glamorous paddle but it is what it is.
We are confident that we can do at least 130 miles next spring. That will leave us a final 8 miles to do in the fall when we hope to return with some friends and family to celebrate our accomplishment, our friendship of 25 years, and the connection we have felt with all who have “Paddled with Us” these past years.
So, Karen has just pulled out of the hotel parking lot with Wonder on top of her car just as she approached the airport a week ago. That trusty canoe has traveled more miles on top of her car than on the water. “Wonder” doesn’t seem to complain about that but I believe that she is quite happy and content as her stern hits the waters of the Ohio, just as Karen and I are quite happy and content. Call it projection, if you want, but our canoe has taken on a life of her own.
It is bittersweet to think of finishing this trek of almost two decades next year. But we tempered those feelings this morning by waking to a discussion about which water adventure will continue to bring us together at least once a year. The answer for today, though it may change, is to set out eyes upon the headwaters of the Susquehanna River in Otsego Lake (aka Glimmerglass) in Cooperstown, NY, and see how far we could go there. It would be a different trip as the waters are wilder and we would have to portage some or all of the dams. We will see. But lest the Ohio get jealous that we are already turning our sights to other rivers, let Her know that we will never forget the beauty, the challenges, and mostly the wonderful people we have met along its 981 miles of muddy, twisting waters.