Since leaving St. Mary’s Tuesday night I’ve paddled long days with temperatures more appropriate for February than the end of March. Paddling though the West Virginia/Ohio border I’ve experienced cold, rain, sleet, and wind–all of which have quickly taught me about long distance paddling and how to handle the Out of Eden–it even paddles strong into 15 MPH headwinds. I’m not really excited to repeat that particular test of the boat. The heavy winds did bring in warmer weather–which is supposed to build into the 70’s by Monday afternoon.
Since leaving Wheeling much of the river flows through steep valleys with only the occasional small town, railway, or powerplant to break the wooded hillsides. Hills that each day show more glimpses of spring–red and green leaf buds, yellow forsythia and daffodils, and the green of the season’s first ramps (a type of wild garlic). The amount and diversity of birds keeps on increasing too–I saw another few of pairs of eagles, loons, and dozens of wood ducks.
Throughout the week I was treated with heavy doses of precipitation which caused lots of pipes to be running hard into the Ohio. One chemical plant in particular had at least three pipes pumping steamy water into the river. This plant is just downstream of one of the Upper Ohio’s largest islands and a state park–Blennerhassett Island. Coming by the island on Wednesday I saw my first other kayakers of the trip.
Further down I camped on a muddy little island across from an American Electric Power coal power plant. The plant churned nonstop and lite up the night sky. Just upstream from the plant is the site of the (former) town of Cheshire. Repeat air quality issues lead to an undramatic $20 million buyout of the town in 2002. Further down the river in Louisiana, as well as other states across the US, these types of buyouts are more common–though rarely are they as non contentious or economically fair as the one here in Cheshire.
Yesterday, the first warm day since leaving Pittsburgh, I paddled into Huntington against a strong headwind to meet one of my old friends from Nevada, clean up, and take a welcome day off.