I have wanted to paddle from Columbus to the Ohio River since meeting the Ohio Historical Canoe Route Association, back in 2003. They were canoeing across Ohio from Lake Erie to the Ohio River when I found them at Green Camp, on the upper Scioto. I have paddled the upper section but wanted to full fill my goal of getting to the "end of the river."
I tried to do this trip in April 2018 but Mother Nature didn't cooperate. There was close to historic flooding days before the trip so I had to cancel. This year I was trying the same set up as last year with just a couple small changes. Fast forward to June 2019 and everything was set. The canoe club members were not interested in a week long trip except for Harold. Jonathan joined us for the weekend with Ted and Connie doing shuttle for the whole week. At 9:20 am on 6-7-2019, I clocked out of work and headed south to the Scioto Canoe Livery at 675 West London - Groveport Road in Lockbourne, Ohio.
John Akers, the owner, gave me the run of his campground. It was a grassy field along the river with 7 picnic tables, an old fire pit and no port-a-pot. The free price was right so it worked out great. I brought my male Yorkie Benny with me for the scheduled 8 day, 130 mile trip to Portsmouth, Ohio. He didn't know it at that moment but, he was going to have a wonderful time. I got my tent sat up and waited for Harold to arrive, then Ted & Connie and their full size camper van/shuttle vehicle. The Scioto Downs Raceino was only 2 miles away and I wanted to wager on the Belmont Stakes horse race and pull some slot machines, so off we went to the casino. Later we went to Wal-mart then ate at E & R Grille in Shadeville which was between the campground and the casino. Back at camp we had a nice campfire for everyone except Benny. He hates fire of any kind and won't even get close without being scared to death. Something must have happened as a pup that scarred him for life.
Day 1 - Saturday morning didn't start very well as Benny had me up at 5 and we couldn't get back to sleep. I was using an alcohol stove to supplement my white gas stove. The wire pot stand I made got hot and 2 of the 3 legs melted into Ted & Connie's plastic table. Not to be out done, Harold came over, filled up his alcohol stove spilling some fuel on the nylon cozy he was using as a base and it caught fire. He got it swept off the table but not before leaving some red color attached to the table. It's good to get the minor problems out of the way early on trips. At 9:00 am Ted & Connie shuttled us up to the put in. The Greenlawn Dam next to Columbus Fire Station Number 3 was the starting point. Jonathan met us and together the 3 of us were on the river at 9:52 am. We averaged just under 5 mph and completed the 14.5 miles in 4 hours, including a lunch stop at camp. It was 10.5 miles to camp so we went an extra 4 miles downstream to the MacKey-Ford Wildlife area to save mileage on the next day. We saw a heron rookery, a beaver, deer, squirrels, ducks, swallows and geese. I made a statement about not wanting to find dead bodies floating in the water and we didn't find any. The water was muddy and slightly high but moving fast. It was a fun trip and Benny did great. After a shuttle back to camp, Jonathan went to dinner with his parents while the rest of us went back to the casino to bet on horses and have dinner with Laurie who joined us for the night. Ted was a winner betting on the long shot Sir Winston. Back at camp, Chuck and Kerri joined us for the evening campfire since Kerri only lives 5.6 miles from the livery. They couldn't spend the night but we sure had fun while everyone was there.
Day 2 - Sunday around 5:00 am Benny and I woke each other up to pee. We returned to the tent as sprinkles pitter patted on the nylon fabric luring us both back to sleep. At 7:15 it was still sprinkling but soon ended as everyone got around breaking camp. We were headed downstream to continue our adventure. Harold didn't want to shuttle all his stuff down to where we finished the day before so...we paddled the same 4 miles past the wildlife area for a second time. The destination for the day was a Pickaway County Park named Canal Park at 23352 Canal Rd., Circleville, Ohio. The park has a shelter house and a port-a-pot. On the 21 miles we saw a pair of bald eagles, deer, squirrels the usual water birds and another heron rookery. There was someone shooting guns over our left shoulder and a couple shots hit the woods or skipped off the water around us. We hollered and blew our whistles so they would know we were there. It was kind of scary. The wind was blowing in our face most of the day and poor Jonathan was fighting his empty canoe to keep it straight, which he did beautifully. Harold and I were loaded with gear which helped our canoes track better but the wind did slow us some. The water level had dropped almost 2 feet since we started. We saw 22 ducklings with one mother. Did she raise them all or take over for a deceased mother? The Scioto is a wider river than we normally paddle but the flow was great and the 21 miles was completed in 5.5 hours.
Tom Davis the park director and his wife met us as we paddled in around 4:00 pm. They had already met Ted & Connie, our support team. There is a house next to the park that has been converted into the maintenance office for the county parks. Tom gave us access to the house for running water and flush toilets. That was the most unexpected and trusting gesture and we really appreciated it. Jonathan had to head for home as that damn thing called work had to be attended to, leaving Harold, Benny and I as the lone boaters. Since Monday was a 27 mile hustle, we needed protein to get us there. Fresh steaks cooked with baked potatoes and asparagus fit the bill. After dinner we played the dice game farkle until bedtime.
Day 3 - Monday at 5:15 am I took Benny out, or maybe he took me out. 4:30 - 5 is our normal time to get up for work and my body is conditioned for those times. We got back in the tent and as I laid there I thought I should just get up and pack before rain came. As I started to move, it started sprinkling so I grabbed everything and drug it into the shelter house to stay dry while packing. I woke up Harold and after our separate breakfasts, (all food is our own responsibility) we got on the river at 7:30 am. It was a nice cool, quite morning and the sprinkles had ended. We got some miles behind us while seeing deer, another eagle, kingfishers and all the other creatures. The wind started to blow, again into our face. Since we were paddling south and the wind usually comes from the south, it was in our face all week. The rain soon joined our paddle with us and poor Benny was getting wet. I need to find him a small doggie raincoat. Our muscles were soon aching as the 27 wet, windy miles pasted by. We made it in 6.5 hours to the Chillicothe City Park, our last campsite in a designated area. The wind was now blowing so hard that we had trouble setting up our tents. I received a text message from both Chuck and Jonathan. It was not pretty. Apparently, after we left the Scioto Canoe Livery on Sunday, someone found a badly decomposed body, right where we were camping. I sure am glad I didn't find it. Ted & Connie came by and we decided to ride to the local Rooster's Restaurant for food and beer. We are roughing it easy. Back to the park we went with Ted & Connie going home and leaving us until Thursday. We will be on our own camping on sandbars until reaching the big river. There are lots of ball diamonds in the city park with port-a-pots which we used. The main bathrooms closed so early and water was difficult to find, but we faired well.
Day 4 - Tuesday morning was very cool. The wind had stopped over night but left mid 40° temperatures in its place. Benny got chilled and ended up in my sleeping bag with me. My Coleman gas stove sometimes doesn't close completely if left under pressure, so the evening before I opened the tank, relieved the pressure and put it back in my food bucket. I forgot to close the valve tightly and gas fumes leaked into the sealed bucket making some of my food taste like gasoline. Damn I'm dumb sometimes. We got on the water at 7:58 am with bright sunshine blinding us as the air warmed very quickly. We were shedding shirts to stay comfortable and Benny loved sun bathing. I thought he was getting too hot with his panting, so I dipped him in the water. That was a mistake as he went nuts dog paddling to get back in the canoe. We saw 4 bald eagles today but not once on the trip did we see any nests. Swallows love to make their nests under highway bridges and we saw lots of them diving for bugs as we passed under the bridges. The river was flowing nicely again and without that head wind we made 10 miles in 2.5 hours. We felt so good we kept going and going doing 28 miles for the day. At our lunch stop, Benny got bored and jumped in the canoe telling me it was time to keep moving. He loves the canoe ride or maybe he just wants to get home. There were lots of straight stretches and some long oxbow curves and some spots the water was swirling so hard the canoes wanted to spin in circles. I got lots of sun on my legs today and now I'm a little medium rare. At 2:43 we found a nice little sandbar 3 miles north of Waverly and called it home for the night setting up tents in the shade. It was a relaxing evening eating and playing cribbage until bedtime. While playing games two beavers got out on the opposite shore and didn't care that we were watching them and making noise. We got our river names assigned and Benny is "Benny the Boat Buddy", Harold is "Bucket Man" sang to the Elton John song Rocket Man and I'm "No Beer Man", sang to the Beatles Nowhere Man tune. Harold has 4 buckets with gamma seal lids plus 2 other dry bags to carry all his stuff. I kept making fun of him having "too much shit" and boy was he getting mad at me. Moving the buckets around in the canoe did help keep it trimmed correctly.
Day 5 - Wednesday morning we were not in any hurry. I had 2 cups of hot tea and just relaxed enjoying the quiet and watching the water flow by. Benny was going from tree to tree smelling for squirrels and looking up trying to find them. He is a good squirrel dog. We finally decided to paddle at 9:30 am to cloudy skies and no wind. We were making good time to Waverly. The map shows a big island right next to Pee Pee Creek where the creek comes out of White Lake. The island is completely gone (old maps) so we paddled up Pee Pee Creek with a paddle to where St Rt 23 crosses. Not Shit Creek, but Pee Pee Creek with a paddle. Speaking of that, as we were paddling past Piketon, we saw a port-a-pot up the hill in the little village park. It was a wonderful pit stop and we didn't even have to dig a hole. As the day wore on, the wind started to blow and pick up speed. Soon we were paddling in 12- 15 mph winds and cussing. It was getting difficult but Harold and I are beasts. We did 23 miles stopping on another great sandbar 4 miles upstream of Lucasville. We saw another 4 bald eagles, 1 pair and 2 individuals, 2 deer, squirrels, ducks, geese and 2 Baltimore Orioles. Except for the wind it was a beautiful day. Benny is doing great and even sleeping a lot in the canoe now. We are only 19 miles from Portsmouth at this last campsite. We talked about having cocktails before setting up camp but...the weather changed our minds for us. Rain clouds were moving in fast so tents went up, just in time. As we put the finishing touches and secured everything it started raining. And it rained and rained, all evening. In fact, Harold didn't get out of his tent for the next 12 hours. I had powdered Gatorade and tequila while sitting in my underwear cooling off in the warm, humid tent and writing this log. As darkness settled in I went to sleep listening to the rain falling on the tent as I lay warm and dry.
Day 6 - Thursday the rain did stop but the clouds looked real bad still. We got on the water at 7:30 am for the 19 mile trip to the mighty Ohio River. The first 90 minutes was good paddling, then that damn wind started, in our faces, again. On the way we saw 4 more eagles, 2 deer and a snapping turtle that looked like she could be laying eggs on the bank. 4 miles from the Ohio the winds were so bad it almost blew us upstream. I tried to stay close to shore so the tree line would break the wind. It didn't always help. We finally reached the Ohio and turned upstream for a mile paddle to the Riverfront Campground. The wind coming up the Ohio River actually did blow us upstream. At about 25mph it was so strong that it was all we could do to just keep the canoes from turning sideways and capsizing. We could not stay in the middle of the river as the wind was blowing us into the left shore line. The first marina called the Anchor Pad was only a quarter mile from the Scioto and we had no choice but to stop there as the wind blew us into their docks. Exhausted we tied our canoes to the docks just to rest and keep them from overturning. I threw Benny up on the dock and slowly lifted my heavy gear onto the docks and walked it up the ramp to a little shelter. Harold unloaded and we soon had gear, boats and bodies on solid ground. A phone call to Ted & Connie had them soon opening their van doors and throwing stuff inside. We drove up to the campground we had permission to camp at for free but changed our minds. The Shawnee State Park was only 13 miles away and they had showers. After lunch of real, not dehydrate food, at the Patties and Pints Restaurant, we went to the state park. After setting up tents and having showers there was a putt putt golf game before heading back to Portsmouth for dinner. Of course I had to talk everyone into going to the new brewery in town, the 7 Pour O Brewery. After a round of drinks there, it was off to the Portsmouth Brewing Company for pizza. I was craving pizza for some reason. Back at camp we enjoyed a small campfire with the wood Harold hauled for 4 days in his canoe but hey, it provided ballast, right Harold?
In the morning Ted & Connie drove us back to the Scioto Canoe Livery where we had left our vehicles. Our trip was over, finished 2 days early, paddled 135 miles and Benny, Harold and I survived because we are beasts of burden. I can not thank Ted & Connie enough for all their help in shuttling and being there for us. Another river on my bucket list has been defeated. Now on to the next adventure...