Aug 24

I ended my kayak trip ten days ago, but I still don’t feel like I can explain it. I’ve been asked many times why I did it - I don’t have an answer. It just seemed like something I thought I would like to do. When I got close to departing for the start, I was advised to “have fun”. Was it fun? No. It was hard work, on a daily schedule, and long hours. I thought I was ready for that, but I wasn’t. It had its enjoyable moments, but most of the difficulties were constant, daily, discouraging. The physical strain, the uncertainty of where I would sleep, where and when I would have a good meal, being constantly wet, not being able to clean up every evening, getting into a damp sleeping bag, getting rained on. These difficulties did not detract from the enjoyable moments, but they were always there.

So I don’t want to give you the idea that I hated it because I didn’t hate it at all. As I faced the daily challenges, I knew that I could walk away from it at any time, and I think that kept me going. Does that make any sense? So I look back on it as an experience. Would I trade it for anything? No. Would I do it again? Probably not.

The initial thought I have about the trip, in general, concerns a major disappointment: my failure to meet my goals with respect to miles covered and time spent on the river. I traveled about four hundred forty miles. Now that may seem like a big accomplishment, but my goal was to cover a thousand. I was only out for thirty nine days, if you don’t count the last day in Greenup, Kentucky, when I met my son, Fletcher. So let’s say forty. I took five rest days, and that’s about right since I had planned on a rest day once a week. I slept out, camped out, for all but five nights, which were spent in a couple hotels and a B&B.

My plan was to paddle for seven weeks, more or less, at twenty-five miles per day; that’s a thousand miles, factoring in the rest days. For a number of reasons, I failed to meet anywhere near that expectation, usually averaging about twelve or thirteen miles. My boat was heavily loaded, my fitness is not at the level that can sustain eight or nine hours of daily paddling, and the headwinds were brutal. I can’t, however, feel like four hundred plus miles was a total failure; that’s a long way, and the experiences made up for a lot.

The trip began with my focus on paddling, camping, cooking and eating, all the technical aspects of a kayak trip. After a few days on the Monongahela River, my focus became centered on the personal experiences I was having with the people I encountered along the way. I can not say enough about the hospitality of the folks I met(read my Acknowledgments), and I don’t think the sort of kindness I experienced is limited to river people. There are nice people in the world, people who act without thought of payback, just wanting to do something for someone that they see has a need that they can fulfill. I met a bunch of them.

I’ll miss the river, I already do. I won’t miss it enough though to make me go back and complete the five hundred sixty miles that I left unpaddled. As I said, it was hard work, and not fun, but there are things that I feel that I can not put into words, things that make me look back with good thoughts about the forty days on the river.