Vermilion River
April 17, 18, 19, 2009




The trip leader for this outing was putting together her first trip as a member of OHCRA. Judy was nervous, as all of us first time organizers are, but she came through in waves of perfection. Camping along the Vermilion River is almost non-existent, but Judy sweet talked the Lorain County Metro Park System into letting us camp at "Bacon Woods" on North Ridge Road, south of the town of Vermilion. We had the area around shelter house #4 all to ourselves. But there were lots of people and dogs enjoying the park, especially since the weekend weather was perfect. I don't know what Judy had to do to order up such great weather for us.

Friday afternoon everyone started drifting in starting with Judy, then Tony, Donovan, Paul, Lance, Jock, Marty & Eddy, and Harold & Laurie. Tents were erected and everyone got busy relaxing. Part of the group went to the Matus Winery for dinner while the rest played cornhole and got the evening fire lit. Since we could not have a fire on the ground, Judy brought her big, metal, Coleman fire container. The park supplied all of our firewood, even kindling, for the whole weekend. We had to bring all the water we needed and no electricity was available. No problem for OHCRA. The evening turned very cool and those warm sleeping bags felt good when we all turned in.

Saturday morning some of us awoke to a turkey clucking as well as a multitude of other spring song birds. The air was cool but no frost to greet us like last month. While finishing breakfast and loading watercraft on the new canoe trailer, Rick a new member from the area arrived to join us on the days paddle. Dan and Carolyn met us at the launch site along with their son Josh. A prompt, 9:05am shuttle (per the trip leader) found us arriving at Schoepfle Garden in Birmingham to begin a portage, or a drag as some did, down a steep hill from the parking lot to the river. Carrying his canoe on his shoulders, Tony slipped on a wet spot and landed on his back adding a fine coating of mud to his shirt and pants. That was the beginning of a fun filled day.


Now the Vermilion is known as a great Steelhead Trout fishing river and it showed by the amount of fisherman along the shores and wading in the river. 100 yards after shoving off we had our first set of rapids complete with a fisherman. Josh was using an Old Town Pack solo canoe and he hadn't canoed in a couple years. Those first rapids retrained his skills, but not until baptizing him into the still cold waters. Not to be out done, his parents followed suit on the next set of rapids.

The water level was around 2.8 on the USGS stream gage which was almost perfect. Any lower and all those rocks would have made paddling more of a drag. Any higher and the Vermilion could be very dangerous. We all looked out for and helped each other to ensure a successful trip and everything went great for the 8.9 miles we paddled. That was until the last set of rapids before camp where Dan and Carolyn again tested their swimming ability by rolling into the water with the fish. If it would not have been a 70 degree day, the water temperature could have made for a serious on set of hyperthermia.

Ohcra Teeshirts

At camp everyone ate lunch and some talked about canoeing on into Vermilion, another 5 miles. A couple hours later, the canoer's were picked up at an ice cream stand that is next to all the marine in the area. After downing some frozen treats, it was back to camp for a change of clothes and relaxation before Ranger Bob came to give us a talk on the area. Very interesting park system Lorain County has and it's all paid for by the taxpayers. Harold gave a lesson on map reading to Judy but others quickly gathered around as Harold really knows his maps. Then it was on to the potluck. Larry and Sophia joined us as did Jamie, with her wonderful cheese cakes. The food was laid out and as always, there was enough to feed an Army, even patrolling rangers.

To our surprise, this car pulls in and out comes Wil and Gloria. They were in the area and just dropped by. It almost seemed like a rehab center with Wil walking on his new knee, Gloria with her two knees in mid recovery and Jock with his new hip. What a tuff bunch. After supper, Larry talked about the fall Adirondack trip and took a group picture for us. Then the walkers went for their evening walk. Wil and Gloria headed home as did Rick, Dan, Josh, Jamie, Larry and Sophia leaving the remainder of us to play games and enjoy another park supplied campfire.

Sunday had us up early as some were canoeing the stretch of river from Wakeman to Schoepfle Garden. Others were packing to end their weekend. After breakfast and goodbyes, Judy, Marty, Paul and Tony, drove upstream to Hostile Valley Park, a private, primitive campground just south of Wakeman. It wasn't opened for the season but we used their river access to put in for the 8.75 mile trip. Two friends of Marty were meeting us as they put on the water at the railroad bridge in Wakeman and paddled downstream to join us. Together the six of us had fun dodging rocks and playing in the eddies. This section of the Vermilion is curvy and rocky but with the water level at 2.7 it was FUN. We saw bald eagles on this section along with more steelhead trout and the ever present geese. At Schoepfle Garden we had to portage the boats up that steep hill and after getting the vehicles loaded, it started to sprinkle. What great timing for the rain to come. We said goodbyes and headed for home with the Vermilion River trip of 2009 now just a memory.

Group Picture

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