In Portsmouth it poured. The wind blew. It grew darker. The wind was forecasted to continue directly in my face for the next two days–making progress downriver unlikely. Then–just before figuring out how to tie my boat onto a Saturn–two sheet metal workers stopped at the Portsmouth Brewing Company for dinner got word of my windy predicament and destination. They offered up their van and off we went through 30 miles of muddy farm fields and forest with the river running beside us–occasionally visible through the driving rain.
Later, around the worst of the wind, I set my tent up on the porch of a small house on Brush Creek–where about two weeks ago I would have been ten feet underwater with 60 pound catfish lurking nearby. It was also at about this time that I learned friends from Wolford‘s Landing in Sciotoville had found me a free hotel room in Portsmouth! Next time.
In the morning, while rain still fell outside, the house’s owner invited me in for coffee and the heat of a wood stove. He had gone down the river to the Mississippi in a house boat about 10 years before and had stories and advice to share. He and and his son also talked about the river’s annual clean up–The River Sweep–and how much trash makes its way into the Ohio.
On a rising river I paddled out of Brush Creek into the Ohio and the wind. Trees and trash followed me down river. Refrigerators, printers, bottles, paint cans, jacuzzis, mud, coal ash, and branches floated off the banks as runoff swelled the Ohio. Thankfully the increasing speed of the current offered some relief from the never ending headwind.
Pulling into Ripley, Ohio–a stop on the Underground Railroad that inspired Uncle Tom’s Cabin–that evening I set up camp down by the river and wandered into town for a warm welcome at the Snapper Saloon. I left full of food and river stories with an invite back for breakfast–bacon sandwiches and coffee.
Then more wind, birds, locks, a river continuing to rise, big coal, and small towns until taking out for the day just upstream from the Beckjord coal power plant. This old coal burning facility has an excessive number of coal ash ponds that the Environmental Protection Agency lists as significant hazards–prone to breaching and poisoning the drinking water of millions of people downstream.
Today I’m taking a day off with a friend from College of the Atlantic before pushing onto Cincinnatti.