Frozen Rivers

We are already into the second week of February.  Soon Karen and I will start calling each other and emailing our lists and ideas for our next journey on the Ohio.  But right now that seems a long way off.  I have remarked in the past at the many changes that have taken place in Karen’s and my life since we first set out in a canoe in 2001.  And the changes just keep on coming. 2014 was full of changes. Our daughter was married on September 27 in a beautiful outdoor wedding at their home in West Windsor, VT.  Karen and Mark were integral helpers in making that a special day.  It was great to have another excuse to see them in the same year. Though you will read in forthcoming posts that Karen and I did not make it to the Ohio River in 2014, you will learn that we still had some canoe adventures. The day after the wedding we got to enjoy a group paddle on the Connecticut River. Ten of us took a leisurely trip on the river for about three hours.

After over ten years of working for Habitat for Humanity in Santa Fe, NM, and then in North Central Massachusetts, I started a new job in Claremont, NH, last week working for an agency that helps build stronger families from before the children are born.  Claremont is very much like Jamestown, NY, where Karen lives and where I worked for 17 years.  I find it interesting how we come back to what is familiar. I have worked at the new job for only 7 days but I like it and think it is just right for me at this point in my life.  But I have to say that one of the most fun things about the new job is that I have to cross the Connecticut River at least twice a day to get to it.  And sometimes by covered bridge.  I never imagined ever having a job in a place that meant I would be crossing rivers via covered bridges.  Pretty darn cool, eh?

It has been a cold and snowy winter in New England. We have not had it as bad in Vermont as the folks in Boston but at our home in Lancaster, MA, 40 miles west of Boston, the piles of snow are immense. We move our household belongings into storage at the end of the month and I cannot even imagine how we will pack a U-Haul with all that snow in the driveway but I guess we will figure it out.

The Connecticut River near Windsor, VT.

The Connecticut River near Windsor, VT.

Meanwhile, I enjoy driving over the frozen Connecticut River and seeing the changes each day. Mostly it is frozen over completely but there are a few spots where the water is not frozen. Last Friday when it was minus 15 degrees when I drove to work, those spots where there was water created a fog machine of sorts. The evaporating water instantly turned into frozen mist as it rose from the river. It coated nearby trees with a bit of frost. It was beautiful.

So here’s what I don’t know. When will the ice break up? What kind of damage will it cause? I remember one stop on the Allegheny River years ago where the residents enjoyed showing us photos of the damage the ice did to docks and riversides the previous winter. There is lot of ice on the Connecticut. If it cuts loose all at once it will do some serious damage downstream. I hope it won’t and I also hope I get to see it literally breaking up and flowing away. That will be a first for me.

So I am grateful for the daily reminder of river life. In New England, river life is more about the bygone days of the industrial revolution. On the Ohio, it is about the transportation of goods and lots of coal. But there is still the air of the bygone days as we pass abandoned coal powered plants.

And finally, I am grateful for the promise that Karen and I will have many more hours of paddling and talking and catching up on all the changes that are taking place in our lives.

New gear

So, this year we are going out on the river in June. Instead of wetsuits and long underwear, a swim suit and bug repellent are on my list. I have made some new purchases as well. I have purchased a new sleeping pad which hopefully will be wide enough that I don’t feel I am rolling off everytime I turn over. I also splurged big time and decided this was the time to buy the new iPhone. So we will have the ability to track ourselves and even look ahead to see where we might camp each night relative to towns and cities. Since we will be on the river for five days, it seems this new feature could come in handy. There may even be a night we need a motel room!

I’m imaging that we will see many more recreational vehicles than we have in October or May, the months we have gone in the past. This could be both a plus and a minus. I’m hoping it means we meet some interesting people not just along the river but ON the river. I also imagine that the commercial traffic may be more dense than we are used to. So we may be dodging the barges and fishing boats!

We leave for Marietta, Ohio, a week from today and, all things going well, the good folks at Marietta Adventure Company will meet us Sunday morning as we get in the river, take Karen’s van, and then meet us five days down river on the following Friday. Putting in in Marietta, five hours drive from Jamestown, means that the travel arrangements have become more complicated. But it is still working. How far away do we have to get for it to be formidable? After this trip we will still have about 600 miles of the Ohio to paddle!

It’s not February anymore….

…and we are literally gearing up for the next 150 miles of our Ohio River journey in Wonder, our trusty red canoe.  Last time I wrote, I was concerned about the water levels.  It was a dry winter and we wondered if we would be paddling more and more if the river was flowing less and less.  Here’s our answer to the water level question:

http://waterdata.usgs.gov/oh/nwis/uv?site_no=03150700

Of course, I have no idea what the water levels actually mean!  Maybe we will learn about that this year.  Since it has been raining steadily for about a week here in Massachusetts and likely Ohio, too, we may be saved!  We like it to rain now not just for the water level but in hopes that it will get it out of its system.  The last two trips we took, last fall and last spring, we were soaked and cold most of the time.  Going in late June this year, we are hoping at least not to be cold.

Anticipating the next leg…

Preparing for a trip is almost as fun as going on the trip, and with this leg being the longest, farthest away, and on the biggest river yet, planning is essential.  From the day we finished the Allegheny River last May we began talking and planning for this next stage of our journey.

   Being map geeks we delight in poring over the US Army Corps of Engineers river navigation charts.  Along with our Quimby’s Cruising Guide and Google Maps, these charts help us anticipate how far we might go, where we’ll find boat ramps, camping spots and other services, and the all important info – on which side of the river is the next lock.  These books hold center stage on the Karen’s dining table, where Mark joins in the fun of research.

As launch h day approaches, we gather gear.  The tried and true tent airs out after a long winter dormancy, while the new pack stove, smaller sleeping bag and neoprene boots (all Christmas presents from Karen’s family) await their chance to prove themselves.  We’re trying to reduce the bulk of our gear, but navigation lights are a new addition, just in case we can’t find a campsite and have to stay on the river after dusk.

 My (Karen’s) biggest concern is whether my body is ready for this longer trip.  Though I’ve resumed walking and stretching this spring, my aches and pains are more numerous and frequent.  Will I be able to handle 8-10 hours in a canoe, followed by nights sleeping on the ground?  You can bet Ibuprofen is on the list for both of us to bring!   When we get on the water I have no doubt the thrill of adventure will make up for a little discomfort. 

Though the prep and planning have been fun, I’m eager to get on with the trip.  Six more days and we’ll be launching in Pittsburgh!