It was just a few weeks ago, early April, when the frozen surface of the Connecticut River finally broke up and floated away. One day it was frozen and the next day it was a sea of ice floes. Then it returned to just a river, flowing towards the ocean. Finally this long winter is giving way to spring. It is taking its merry time but it is happening. The grass is all of the sudden turning green again and the first daffodils are showing their bright faces in Vermont.
Perhaps it is all this change that finally pushed me to making my plane reservations to fly to Ohio in June where I will be met by Karen in her van with our red canoe, Wonder, atop it. We will drive together to the spot in the Ohio River where we stopped paddling two years ago. Seems like forever since that day that we managed one mile an hour against strong headwinds just about 50 miles shy of Cinncinati. Maybe it was fortuitous that we didn’t get as far as we had hoped. This year, because we are still near the city, we are going to partake of a communal paddling event, The Great Ohio River Paddlefest, with a few hundred other kayak and canoe enthusiasts. That takes place on June 19th, the end of our week on the river.
So, I have made the plane reservations. Now I have to sort through the boxes in our new home to find the camping and canoeing gear. I know that I packed it somewhat sensibly but I didn’t think to keep it separate from other boxes as I thought we would have actually moved into the house by June. We are remodelling an old farm house and, of course, it all takes longer than anticipated. So the boxes are still in the garage. I should start looking this weekend!
It is time to start looking at maps and plotting our course. Who will we meet this year? We don’t know the specifics but we do know that they will be the generous and hospitable people for whom the Ohio River is their front yard.
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!
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.
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.
We returned to Pittsburgh last night for a comfortable stay in a motel by the airport before Maggie flies out today and Karen returns home with Wonder strapped to the top of her car. We have many people to thank for their support along the way and we will spend time in the next weeks writing about that so please stay tuned even though we are off the river.
Most especially, we want to thank our families for supporting this wild journey of ours. Our husbands have supported this journey for ten years usually thinking we are brave and sometimes crazy. Our children, we think, always think we are crazy. Karen’s husband Mark has served as our meteorologist and reconnaissance man using Google Earth to seek out places to camp ahead of us. Maggie’s husband, John, is our anchor at home, sending encouragement and prayers our way. Chelsea, our IT person, keeps up the blog as we travel and Kyle got up at 5:15 am to transport us to the river, then spent 5 hours to come pick us up. Kira and Jordan (as well as Chelsea and Kyle) just roll their eyes as they hear our stories and tell their friends about our trips…and we laugh at that and find support as well.
We think of all who have tuned into our blog and who have prayed for us and hurrayed for. We thank you for that encouragement and support. Today we will begin to think of how and when we can get into the Ohio River in Powhatan, Ohio, and continue this journey which has become a metaphor for our lives in so many ways.
After eight years of renting canoes, we bought one this year. Next week we will put her in under the 6th St bridge in Pittsburgh and take her at least 100 miles down the Ohio River! Til then, Karen tries it out on dry land!