Day 7

The sounds of birds woke me up around 6am. The only noise I heard before that was the sound of deer blowing last night. It's an unusual sound but, it never startled me. Deer forcibly push air through their nostrils like a greatly magnified sneeze. They do this when they feel in danger, which just means not many people camp there. I only know this because, my bother Jon, encouraged me to try bow hunting several years. I'm a lover of the wild so I was hesitant at first, but I've learned more about nature by observing it from a deer stand than anything else. As I was packing up camp and over looking a fog covered field, I flashed back to a memory of my brother, Dad and I dragging a deer out of the woods a couple years ago. Jon shot a large buck and called us to come help. It was a great memory of two sons and their father. As I was getting ready to push off the bank, Tom pulled up in his truck. I thanked him again and told him I would be back soon. 

I don't think I've gone one day without seeing or hearing a train. 

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At mile marker 204, I made it to Belleville Lock and Dam. They still make me nervous  even though I have the process down. I call the Lock Master when I'm within a 1,000 feet of the first wall. The problem this time was that I didn't have any cell phone service. I pulled the chain on the side of the Lock wall to notify Lock Master of a small watercraft waiting to lock through. It didn't work. I waited for over an hour. Finally the Lock Master came out and opened the first gate. His name was Carl and he was very kind. Carl asked me where I was going, and I told him "Cincinnati bound". I then told him why and he told me that he lost both his parents to cancer.  Even though I was 40 feet below him, I can see the pain on his face as he revealed the heaviness that connected us. 

My Dad was the master of being sincerely interested in others by asking good questions. I asked Carl what he enjoyed doing in his off time as the massive gate shut behind me.  He told me all about his fishing kayak and that he always wanted to kayak from Marietta, where he lives, down to the Lock. I encouraged him to go for it. As the Lock dropped 22 feet, and the gate opened in front of me, I paddled away. Just as I left the Lock, Carl and I yelled our goodbyes. I promised Carl I would come up to Marietta and go fishing with him. 

 

My plan was to camp on Brunot Island about 30 miles down river. I was exhausted as I approached the island. I decided to go on the West Virginia side to find a spot. Brunot is a wildlife refuge so I spotted signs along the bank. I had a feeling they said no camping so I blamed my eyes for not trying to read the fine print. My conviction caught up to me and I decided to keep paddling. I was now over 30 miles for the day and was running out of energy and water. 

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I developed a terrible chafing rash under my right arm half way through the day. It was so bad that I had to pull over. I made a small fire to dry out my rash and to eat a quick dinner. I was exhausted so I contemplated staying in that spot for the night. I was surrounded by poison ivy and didn't have accessable higher ground. I sent a pic of my camp spot to my brother Jon and he encouraged me to move in case the water level went any higher. 

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I paddled away and started getting a little nervous because I was close to being out of water and my phone battery was almost dead. It was starting to get dark just as I found a good camp spot. It was an old fishing camp. I got out of my kayak and investigated my home for the night. I first wanted to make sure I wasn't on private property or at least close to a house. I walked up to the top of the bank and noticed a house. It wasn't in very good shape and had a couple broken down trucks in the backyard. I didn't like what I saw but didn't have a choice to keep paddling. I made a promise not to paddle at night so I setup a light camp with no fire. 

 

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My plan was to be quiet and get out of there at first light. I had an eerie feeling so I had my kayak packed and ready to go. As the sun went down, I felt a sense of security. I thought if the owner of that old house was going to come down here, he would have by now. Just as I was starting to doze off, I heard at least two large dogs barking. I went from peaceful to panic. The sound of the dogs got louder and more intense. They were getting closer to my location. 

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My heart was beating through my chest. My Dad taught me how to pray. He taught me by doing it all the time. He could always sense when I was afraid or nervous. If I had a big presentation, he would pray with me. When I was diagnosed with cancer, he would pray with me. Most of the time, my pride would get in the way and I would try to avoid him praying over me but I secretly loved when he did. I always felt a sense of peace. 

I thought the dogs wanted to alert the owner or the owner wanted to alert me. My mind swirled with scenarios.  At the peak of my anxiety, the sound of the dogs stopped! I fell in and out of sleep that night. Dawn couldn't come quick enough!