The weekend of the Deer Creek trip was a fantastic summer weekend in Ohio. It was sunny and warm each day, but not overwhelmingly hot or humid. The evenings were clear and cooled off a bit for nice sleeping. Tony was the first person to arrive at the group 1 camping area on friday, followed by Lance, Rhonda, Ruth, Wil, Andy, AJ, Chuck, Eric, Mary and Kerri arriving Saturday morning. The campers checked out the amenities of the campground, going hiking, golfing, the disc course, etc. Eric and Mary were staying in the main part of the campground and said the main campground was full.
We gathered around a small fire as it got dark and discussed plans for the rest of the weekend. Lance shared with the group that the water level downstream of the dam was too low for an enjoyable group trip, being a few inches lower than when Lance and Wil scouted it a couple of weeks earlier. Instead we would paddle the approximately 6 mile section leading into the lake and Sunday would be a similar distance on the Big Darby.
We set the shuttle time at 10:00 saturday morning since it was a short trip and the shuttle was straightforward. Boats and gear were loaded onto Lance and Wil's trailers. Ruth volunteered to take her car to the takeout and drive us back upstream. Since Eric and Mary's boats were on their truck they decided just to take it to the put in too. Ruth's car was dropped off and all made it to the large parking lot just outside of Mount Sterling on St Rt 56. Boats and gear were unloaded and we walked a grassy trail down to the river. At the put in a large tree had drifted down and settled right where we needed to put the boats so we got in one boat at a time working between the branches.
It was a beautiful day and the water looked nice. As we got going, we ran into low water just about 100 yards from the put in. I believe we got through with some scraping, but it was a taste of what we would find the rest of the trip. The river was the typical chute and pool pattern as we had suspected, but many of the chutes were low water. We had to get out several times and had to do "the OHCRA scootch" many more times. It was interesting because one boat could be scraping rocks and someone else would come floating on by only inches away, barely above the rocks, no problem at all. The rocks were generally small and flat and easy to walk, but we got a work out getting up and down and scootching. We all agreed that the river was beautiful and it was worth the trip. The water was low but we got to practice our river reading and maneuvering skills. We only ran into 1 tree that was all the way across the creek and it was about 3 feet in diameter, but by chance we met some local guys that were wading and walking and swimming their way up stream so they volunteered to help us pull the boats over the log. A few people decided to get out and go around the log while others decided on the "all water" route over the log.
We also noticed many mussel shells in the water, an indicator of good water health. Lance found a RevereWare pot on the shore that he is cleaning up and making a permanent part of his camp kitchen. A little further down river, the creek came very close to the back of the state park's shooting range. There were several people shooting that day, so we were all appreciative of the high banks in that area. As we were working our way past the last shallow spot, a couple of kayakers coming up from the lake told us it was smooth sailing from there, no more shallow water. We did run into a great blue heron that was very accustomed to people and did not go flying off right away, it would only go a short way in front of us and land again. Kerri was impressed. At the take out, we got the boats pulled up and the shuttle was run. Back to camp to eat and relax.
Dinner was excellent! Tropical attire was worn, beads were thrown, liquor was consumed, torches were lit. It definitely could have been New Orleans! Gumbo, rice, cheesy grits, slaw, shrimp, cheese ball and crackers, lamb tomahawks, hot sauce, spices, peach pie (which the raccoons also enjoyed, licking up every crumb off the plate overnight). Sorry if I forgot to mention anything, but there was a lot and it was all so good. Kudos to whoever thought to bring the tablecloths. After dinner we sat around the fire and solved the problems of the world, if only they would listen. Lots of stars out saturday night.
Sunday morning was sunny. People took their time breaking camp. Chuck and Kerri went for a bike ride. Lance, Wil, Andy, and AJ decided to canoe on the Big Darby. Lances car was dropped off at the public access across from Trapper Johns canoe livery in Darbydale. It looked like the livery was putting a group on the river about every 15 minutes and sending them downstream. So of course we decided we should put in somewhere upstream. A nice southern gentleman just getting off the river with a giant aluminum canoe said if we went up stream we would be walking probably 1/2 the way back. We thanked him for the advice and decided that was preferable to all the livery canoes and figured his big canoe might have weighed him down some.
The trip was around 6 miles and that entire distance is surrounded by Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. We found the upstream access with lots of parking and got on the water. The creek was low but oddly it was very wide and did not seem to be channelized much at all. A wide creek 6 inches to 1 foot deep in many places is what we experienced for much of the trip. We saw a total of 5 people consisting of 2 fisherman and a young family of 3 wading in the water. We scooched a few times but mostly enjoyed nice paddling, although it was getting hot. The last mile of the trip, however, did require some walking. Fist to head sized rocks were poking up everywhere. Lance had a lot of difficulty walking thru these shallows. We finally arrived at the take out, loaded the boats, and headed back upstream to get Wil's truck. Another section of river successfully completed.