Thursday, May 7, 2015

Weather conditions:
High – 85
Low – 64

This morning our alarm sounded at 4:30. I usually say, “I only want to see 4:30 once a day, and that is in the afternoon.” This trip is an exception – I’d rather be in the sun at 4:30 once a day, and that is in the morning.

We decided to eat breakfast and lunch in the normal order, so we had hash brown,egg, and sausage casserole. The early alarm enabled us to be on the river by 7:45 – a record! What started as our last full day on The Wabash turned out to be a monumental day!

Our paddle started out fairly normal with three eagle sitings, a bus on stilts, a house about ready to fall into the river because of erosion, and a snack on the beach (OK – the bus and house aren’t fairly normal.)

After our snack, we came to a split in the river. To the right, with less water, was the original river. To the right, with more water, was a river reroute. After flooding in 2008 and 2009 the river re-routed itself, creating two approximately 7 mile shortcuts to the Ohio River. So which way would you go? Less water – longer (actually appeared to be closing down and becoming marshy), More water – shorter. Of course, we took the route with more water. We didn’t want to take any chance that we would have to pull the boats.

We took the short cut and within a mile we left the Wabash and entered the Ohio River. Words can’t begin to express how it felt to leave the Wabash, our friend and home for the last five and a half weeks. Where we saw views that are only visible from the water. Where we met so many new friends. Where miracles happened. Coming to the end of the Wabash reminded of a quote from “Alice in Wonderland”. “Start at the beginning then go to the end and then stop.” We started at the beginning of the Wabash River and went to the end, but we did not stop – we entered the Ohio River.

Entering the Ohio River brought about another set of emotions. The Ohio was our first main milestone. We were there! Several years ago we went to James Bay via the Moose River. As we began to enter the mouth of the bay, John continued to taste the water for saltiness in order to determine when it became brackish – where the fresh water of the Moose and the salt water of James Bay meld. It was an emotional moment – longtime goal reached. To finally reach our first goal after a year of planning brought tears to my eyes.

Where the two rivers meet, three states share the river – Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois. Suddenly, the river was much larger and choppier as we headed into the wind. Much like the waters we paddled last September in Lake Huron, off of Drummond Island. That experience made the transition less intimidating.

As soon as we turned onto the Ohio, we encountered our first yacht, the Panacea. John called for a radio check and they responded with affirmation. We then pulled off on a beach to change charts and decide if we wanted to camp there or go another eight miles to Old Shawneetown, llinois. We decided to proceed.

As we proceeded, we left Indiana – another milestone. We are leaving the familiar and venturing to the unknown. I’m sure when we leave the Ohio in a couple of weeks and enter the Mississippi, we will feel the same way. I’m glad we started out small – really small – and have gotten larger and added new “dangers” a little at a time.

We were almost to Old Shawneetown when we encountered our first barge. John radioed the tug Caleb Dean to be polite and confirm our approach. It was going fairly slow so it didn’t create too much of a wake (adding new “dangers” a little at a time). I would lie if I didn’t say I am a little nervous about tomorrow’s paddle. The unknown creates fear. I’m sure tomorrow night I will say it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

We arrived at Old Shawneetown around 2:30 and I started stowing some gear while John went for a walker investigate our options. He asked a woman who was working in her yard if there may be a place to fill our water containers. She pointed up the street to what appeared to be the only business and said that the bar would have some when they opened. No sooner had John thanked her and started to to walk back to where I was waiting, when a car pulled up to the front of the bar and a woman hopped out. “Are you here to open the bar”, John inquired? “Consider it open”, she replied. John introduced himself and she told him her name was Monica and that we were more than welcome to fill with water from their outdoor pump handle. John mentioned (didn’t ask) that we may pitch a tent on top of the hill for the night and then headed back down to the boats.

We were ready to start up the hill when the woman with whom John had originally inquired about water pulled up next to us. Her name was Laura and she had her friend Bentley with her. They were simply circling back to make sure we had found access to water. What nice people.

We started our long and hot climb as we pulled the boats up a very steep hill towards a small gazebo at the top (It’s always uphill from the river.) There is Old Shawneetown and Shawneetown (called New Town by the locals). Shawnee town used to be by the river and flooded frequently, until the flood of 1937, when it flooded so badly, the bank did business from a second story window. (instead of drive-through, float-through) The government moved the town three miles up the road. The bank is still standing as a historical landmark, in addition to a few houses and a bar (Nate’s Bar and Grill) in what is now known as Old Shawneetown.

We set up our tent next to the gazebo on the hill just above Nate’s, then visited Nate’s to use their WiFi and charge our electronics. We met a gentleman who built a catamaran and intends to sail around the world. I thought we were adventurous!

After a refreshment and charging devices, we returned to the tent and fixed ourselves a dinner of Southwest lasagna and chili (one serving of each), with chocolate pudding for dessert, then we closed everything up and went to bed.

What a monumental day….. Left the Wabash, entered the Ohio, left Indiana, entered Kentucky.

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