Not far from the flooded field I took off the river on May 5th I relaunched the Out of Eden into the blue waters of the Tennessee River. As I drifted away from Paducah the Ohio’s muddy waters slowly mixed with those of the Tennessee.
I made 15 miles that afternoon before settling into a sandy camp amongst river sculpted cottonwoods. Up the bank a dented channel marker hung 30 feet over the river. I slept long and hard that night—lulled to sleep by the drone of barge engines, power plant turbines, and yelping coyotes.
To beat the wind I shoved off early the next morning. Hoping to finish the Ohio before sunset. For several hours I paddled quickly through twenty wide, wild, and free flowing miles. Eagles and herons cruised overhead and huge carp leap over and into the side of the Out of Eden.
Too soon the winds returned—the Ohio’s last attempt to hold me back—I struggled for ten miles against whitecaps nearly 3 feet high. At just after 2 PM I climbed onto the shore of the Ohio for the last time and looked out onto a Mississippi River rolling under ever increasing winds. Sand blew across the tip of Fort Defiance—the rivers’ confluence. I sat there under the sun for a long time while one of my dad’s old time dulcimer tunes about the river drifted through my mind mixed with memories from my spring on the Ohio.
The wind start roaring harder. I took off my boots and pushed into the Ohio one last time. Paddling one more mile across the Mississippi to Wickliffe, KY where I’ve stayed for a day’s rest from the wind and good ‘ole Western Kentucky hospitality.