End of day two

My apologies to those who may be trying to follow our journey on the blog. I have had some technical problems. But for now let me tell you we have had to splendid days on the Ohio River. Each daywe have peddled 25 miles so we have paddled a total of 50 miles. The river over all has been very good to us. The weather overall has been very good to us. We had a bit of a thunderstorm today but we were able to take cover for about 30 minutes and then get back out on the river. Late in the afternoon the wind kicked up so badly that we had to spend about 2 1/2 hours on a river café.  Somehow we managed! We have found great people along the river as usual. Last night we stayed in an RV resorts. Tonight we found a bit of dryland to camp along the river.  Perhaps our favorite quotes of the trip so far is the young man at the RV resort last night who when we referred to ourselves as old said “there’s not an ounce of old between the two of you!”  We took it as a great compliment. So I’m going to sign off now. It’s very hot and humid and we’re going to try to sleep a few hours before setting off very early tomorrow morning and what we hope will be calm waters.

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A Paddling Festival

logo-ohioriverwaySeldom in the years we have paddled have we run into other paddlers.  We have seen a few kayaks but that was way back on the Upper Allegheny.  A couple of years ago we came across some guys who paddled out onto the Ohio River with us for a little while.  They were just playing around and keeping us company for a bit.  It was fun.

Now, as we plan the 2015 adventure, we have learned the the city of Cincinnati has a paddling festival in the middle of June so we are hoping to join a whole bunch of other paddlers and maybe even join a race. Click here for information on the Ohio River Paddlefest.

It’s fun to think of doing something like that.  John and I lived in Bainbridge, NY, on the Susquehanna River for three years but I didn’t paddle then and seldom thought of the river.  Bainbridge was the end of the General Clinton Canoe Regatta held every May.  I can’t believe that I was not interested then.  Maybe someday Karen and I will do that canoe race which starts in Cooperstown, the headwaters of the Susquehanna.

I’m sure there are many canoe events that we have never heard of…but we have a commitment to get down the Ohio River so the other festivals may have to wait a few more years.

The Chadakoin River and the end of the adventure for 2014

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Paddling the gentle waters of the Chadakoin

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Paddling out from the Celeron, NY, boat lauch

In the end, we did get on the water. And we were still within the bounds of the Ohio River watershed but the trip became a metaphor for me and an important one. Jordan drove us from Kennedy down to Chautauqua Lake and helped us get the canoe in at the docks in Celeron, famous for being the birthplace of Lucille Ball. She would have been proud at our persistence and amused at the ill-fated, to date, nature of our experience! The lake was calm in that area and off we pushed from the dock. Jordan managed to get some photos of us on the lake and in action. Since we usually do not have an audience, these kinds of photos are few and far between. While the previous day we had shot down the swollen headwaters of the Allegheny going 2 miles in 18 minutes, today, we would do another 2 miles in a leisurely three hours. We paddled from the lake into the Chadakoin River where the lake flows out and down eventually into the Allegheny River. It was lovely. We watched for wildlife including herons and turtles, ducks and geese. We paddled up a tiny creek and when we could go no further we stopped and had our lunch in the canoe. Then I ventured out, prepared for the march in Karen’s rubber boots, and tried to see what lay beyond a small dam. I did not get far so we paddled back out to the river and down to the power plant in downtown Jamestown. I lived near Jamestown and worked in Jamestown for 17 years and never knew the beauty of the river that ran through it. Of course, much has been done in recent years to create a river walk and improve the whole area. My hats off to those who worked so hard and continue to work on that project. This slow paddle was just what my body and spirit needed even though I had thought that I wanted the excitement of either the big Ohio River or the rushing waters of the upper Allegheny. Sometimes, you just have to go with the flow, even when it is slower than you thought you wanted.  What will 2015 bring us?

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Some beautiful mystery flowers in marshy areas.

Next try

I’ve not yet aged to perfection.  I still have a little of that accomplishment/acquisition blood in me. Having had our exciting though short-lived trip down the upper Allegheny, I wanted to do something major even if just a little major. I wanted to go up to Kennedy to get on the Conewango Creek upstream from where we had joined it years ago. We had already decided that the Cassadaga Creek presented too many issues of getting in and out or finding our way through the marshy parts. The Conewango is larger. And on Saturday when Karen’s son Jordan (getting to be baptized into the tradition of transporting us to or from paddling as Kyle and Chelsea had in the past) drove us to Kennedy, we learned it was not only larger but also significantly overflowing its banks.
We found that the road to the public ramp was closed because of the flooding water and, in case we were considering something stupid, a state trooper showed up just then to tell us the whole area was under water and we might consider getting in at Frewsburg.  He must have known that we were all wondering what would happen if we drove around those barricades and found a way to get a canoe into the creek!
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Two things: We had already paddled the Frewsburg part of the creek and we took this as a closure to getting onto the water that day.  At least that is what we thought at the time.

Finally getting to see the headwaters

IMG_3252[1]I only remember seeing the headwaters of one river before last year.  It was the Arkansas River.  That’s when I learned that rivers seem to be named for where they end, not where they begin.  That’s an interesting notion to me!  Somehow I had always thought that the headwaters of a river would be grand and obvious.  The Arkansas starts in Colorado and the headwaters are a mere stream, of sorts, going through a meadow.  This proved to be the same with the Allegheny.

After completing our flume/luge-like experience, our friend John was kind enough to oblige my desire to see where the river really started.  I had googled it and found a sign indicating the headwaters.  I wanted to see that sign and so he guided us back up river about 30 minutes to the meadow where the waters trickle together to begin the stream that becomes a river with deep waters and deeper history.  The stream was tinier than Cassadaga Creek, that small waterway we had started on years earlier.

I still find it amazing that great things have such humble beginnings and I wonder if we will be able to someday say that we paddled to the other end of that river where it dumps its muddy waters into the Mighty Mississippi.IMG_3249[1]

Making the decision

Meteorologist Mark still reported that the rain would stop early or mid-day on Friday so we decided to plan to go to the headwaters of the Allegheny and put in at Coudersport, PA. We packed Thursday night, realizing that with the exception of the amount of food and water we usually take, packing for one overnight is as time-consuming as packing for a week. But we knew it was worth it. Friday morning, we headed out to the headwaters to meet John, a friend of Karen’s who would take her van and pick us up the next day. We passed over many creeks, some of which we had canoed years ago, and realized that the previous two days of rain had significantly added to the water level. Hum. When we picked up John he seemed impressed that we were going but not concerned. As we made our way up the road to Coudersport, John started noting the river’s level. About every five minutes he said: “Wow, the river IS high.” After about five of these comments, even I became concerned.

Arriving at the put in point, the river was, according to Karen, at least a foot higher than when she and Mark were there the previous Sunday. It was raging down the narrow channel which was only about 15 feet wide. Should we or shouldn’t we? The preparations til that point had involved a lot of consideration and many miles of driving. We recalled our discomfort some years ago when we put in in Pittsburgh when the river was near flood stage. We had a blast in the end…and did we ever put miles on our trip that year! This time was different; very narrow with tree branches overhanging the river and rocks and trees in the river.

To go or not to go? We went. Of course. It was very different from our experience on the Ohio in Pittsburgh. We shot down the river like a flume at Disney Land with Karen in the rear trying to steer and me following orders as best as I could.  It was both terrifying and exhilarating.  We had little time to think of how to handle the bends in the river and the overhanging trees.  A far cry from the paddling on the Ohio River in 2013 when, on our last day, we had to really push it to get one mile in one hour due to strong head winds.

John said he would try to get some photos of us passing under the covered bridge, a bit under two miles downstream. So, we pushed off and the water ripped us downstream faster than we had ever gone. We knew there would be none of the familiar quiet, contemplative conversation or opportunities to take photos. We were in for some of the most intense 18 minutes of our lives. As Karen said, we were out of our league. She in the stern was trying to steer us around obstructions and shout orders to me as to which side I should paddle. “Don’t paddle for speed,” she shouted, “just for control.” I laughed at one point when she politely asked: “Would you paddle hard on the left now?” I yelled back because it was hard to hear: “Forget the polite words. Just tell me: ‘Paddle hard on the right!'”

About 2/3 of the way to the bridge, Karen pronounced that we should not be doing this. I, perhaps surprisingly to her, acquiesced quickly. For one thing, I pictured at some point having to grab something with my recovering left arm and permanently damaging it. For another, I thought my daughter Chelsea might appreciate me living to September 27th when she and Brent would be married. While we had already made decisions to detour from our appointed paddle on the Ohio River, it was humbling to realize the need to do it again. But this was clearly not the time or place to be on this body of water. In retrospect, we might have been about to put in farther down river where it was wider. We still don’t know where we would have been able to camp because everything was so soggy along the river. For some reason, this leg was just not meant to be.

Fortunately, John was right there at the covered bridge waiting for us so after ducking under the bridge and bashing into it a bit, we were able to paddle hard and get aground again. It was exhilarating and fun, to say the least. However, if we wanted to shoot down waters like that, we should have been in a raft with helmets on!  Not in a canoe.

Remembering the Past

Our second day of adventure in 2014 took us back to where it all began in 2001.  It was a short drive to Red Bird Corners in Sinclairville, NY, and one of the public access areas to the Marden E. Cobb Waterway Trail. My family used to live 1.5 miles up hill from this crossroads. I remember thinking one day when I was driving home that one could put a canoe in the creek there and paddle for months and get to New Orleans. It took me some time to find out that Karen was up for that adventure though we knew right away that we could not go all at once. The trip would have to be many years long, a segment at a time.

When we walked to the creek’s edge, it was clear that a lot of rain had fallen. The creek was swollen and moving fast.

Old friends back at the edge of Cassadaga Creek where it all began.

Old friends back at the edge of Cassadaga Creek where it all began.

The swollen waters at Red Bird Corners

The swollen waters at Red Bird Corners

Karen studying the map for where to go next.  Upstream to Cassadaga?

Karen studying the map for where to go next. Upstream to Cassadaga?

We wondered if we could get in above that point, perhaps even at Cassadaga Lakes, so we went on a drive to various put-in areas and found the water everywhere was over the banks, making once dry land into marshy land. We could not see how we would get in or get out. Finally we ended up at the lakes behind a fire department building where there was a place we could put in but the journey ahead somewhat resembled the Okefenokee swamps. Karen wondered if we could even find the main channel. And the wind was blowing hard upstream, a scenario we all too well remembered from our last day on the Ohio River last June. It is really NOT fun to push against wind in a canoe.

Completing our reconnaisance, we drove to Allegheny Outfitters in Ashville, NY, and treated ourselves to some new neoprene gear. Karen purchased some pants and I purchased a shirt. It’s always fun to add a new item to our gear. I remember the first year we purchased something special for our trips. We bought paddling gloves. I felt so professional! Since then we have purchased or been given wet suits and booties, tiny cook stoves, new sleeping bags and, of course, the canoe and paddles. It dawns on us periodically that we are seasoned canoeists! There were yet challenges that would confront us the next day that reminded us to stay humble, gear or no gear, experienced or not. We went back to Karen’s that afternoon and prepared ourselves for a two day trip starting at the headwaters of the Allegheny.