Rick's River Advenutre One Mans Solo Kayak Trip from Elmira to the Chesapeake Bay
Rick Edwards, 46, of Elmira is making a nearly 500-mile-long solo kayak trip from Elmira to the Chesapeake Bay. He left Elmira on Sunday, Jun. 28 and hopes to get to the bay and Washington, D.C. by July 12. Rick has a notebook computer and camera and intends to e-mail and phone in updates of his trip. He invites others to join him on the river along the way or you may contact him with questions, ideas and words of support. You can reach Rick by phone at (607) 207-8674 and e-mail: Ricardo.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Day 3, June 30-End of the Adventure
Days and nights of soaking rain, thunder and lightning, dangerous currents and a flooding river forced Rick to end his solo kayak paddle from Elmira to the Chesapeake Bay, three days into the trip.POST TRIP REFLECTIONS
Some may disagree, but I believe that it is better to have dared and quit, than never to have dared at all.
Neither rain nor thunderstorms deterred me from my attempt to kayak to our nation's capitol. However, I did not want subsequent articles about my adventure to appear in the obituary section!
The Chemung River was mild enough, but after several days of rain, the Susquehanna River became rather wild indeed (a good portion of New York State plus half of Pennsylvania drains into it). Not even dedicated bass anglers braved these waters. Ironically, thunder and lightning prompted a trio of large-mouthed bass to leap out from among the reeds near my kayak.
I paddled as far downstream as my strength would allow, while maintaining adequate control of my kayak and the supply kayak I towed behind. Then the Susquehanna River at Wyalusing rose about two feet overnight.
I didn’t overturn either boat on my short trip. But without a spray skirt (to cover the opening in my kayak), I did take on a couple inches of rainwater.
Later this season (or perhaps next year), I'll continue this adventure as weather permits.
During this trip, I got an up close and personal view of river life not seen by most people. For instance, a majestic blue heron graciously flew downstream several times to offer multiple photo opportunities. Iridescent dragonflies would hitch rides on the bow, allowing a thorough look at their intricate wings. At the water's edge, I saw a young deer drinking with only mild interest in my proximate passage by.
Dusk brought out even more animal life. Birds and bats would fly low and fast over the water, eating insects. Throughout my island camp, frogs croaked loudly. By nightfall, the once quiet river churned as a family of beavers swam, splashed and dove as far as I could see by the light of the half-moon. Rain pelted my camp chair canopy, while dollar-sized spiders shared my shelter from the dampness. During a pause in the rain, fireflies outlined the riverbanks. And at dawn, a layer of fog hid the river.
The quiet and lack of human contact allowed me an introspective opportunity like no other. It is good to know that I don't need anyone's help to cook up huevos rancheros and French toast. But I found it humbling just how long and difficult it is to clean up without modern conveniences (like paper towels). Because it took days to paddle from Elmira to Wyalusing, yet only an hour to drive back, I am most grateful for automotive technology. And I no longer take electricity and running water for granted. But most of all, I found I could focus on clarifying my life goals without an endless parade of distractions.
Even before I finished school, I have always loved teaching. So, it is to this most honorable (even if least paid) profession to which I must return. May it be that you too realize your innermost dreams.
Tough Decision to End the Trip
“I have to stop because the Susquehanna River is flooding and it’s too dangerous,” said a dejected Rick from his hotel room in Wyalusing, Tuesday evening.
Since he began his trip, Sunday, Rick has been soaked by repeated thunderstorms and endangered by rising river levels and swift currents. He is towing a second kayak loaded with supplies.
“It’s more physical work than I thought,” Rick said. “I thought it would be an easy trip down the river. Just point my kayak downstream and float. But that’s not the case. The rain made a lot of big rapids, and getting two boats through them safely is becoming more difficult.”
He saw lightening strike a tree on the steep riverbanks during his paddle Monday.
River Friends supports Rick in his “better safe than sorry” decision.
While it is a disappointment for Rick to give up his journey, it’s a prudent move.
Rick learned a lot about the river and himself during his brief trip.
He saw a different river at night, alive with beavers, bats and lightening bugs. He reveled in the spectacular views of the beautiful river vistas.
“I’m amazed at how much larger and livelier the Susquehanna River is compared with the Chemung,” Rick says.
Most of all, Rick discovered that the daily life amenities that we seldom think about, have a new significance when you go without them.
“I no longer take anything for granted, from cooking to housecleaning,” Rick explains. “When you’re soaking wet and your food is muddy, you kid of appreciate good housekeeping and dry food.”
Rick plans to try the trip again, maybe next year.
Mon., June 29, Day 2:
Rick spent Monday night on an island in the middle of the Susquehanna River in Towanda.
He made it across the New York and Pennsylvania border Saturday evening and stayed overnight on an island in Athens, Pa.
“I spent the night getting rained on.”
He spent most of his first day on the river being rained on.
The rain has been his biggest problem. But we have to remember that without rain we would not have rivers. Rain recharges our waterways.
But it is not fun to sleep in. Rick doesn’t have a tent. When it rains, he sleeps in a folding chair with a canopy over it. When it’s dry, he cozies up in a sleeping bag and sleeps on the ground.
Rick is spending about 12 hours a day on the river. He’s seen plenty of wildlife, from deer and beavers to cardinals and great blue herons.
“I’ve seen some spectacular beautiful river scenery,” Rick notes.
One thing he hasn’t seen is people.
“So far I’ve met only one person at a boat launch,” says Rick. “But I haven’t seen one other single person in a boat on the river.”
Rick was surprised to notice the difference in the water colors of the two rivers, where the Chemung River flows into the Susquehanna River at Tioga Point in Athens.
“The Susquehanna is a rust-color and the Chemung is very green,” he explains. “It was neat paddling along and I could tell this is Chemung River water here and this is Susquehanna River water here.”
On Monday night, Rick dined on a homemade Spanish egg dish he cooked up on his simple “pocket rocket” butane cooker.
“I wanted to be sure that I could cook, before I started catching fish and cooking them to eat,” says Rick.
He packed a limited supply of food. He plans to fish and seek the generosity of folks he meets along his trip for other meals.
He is carrying most of his supplies in a kayak he tows behind his kayak. But the supply kayak has a mind of its own.
“I try to keep it trailing in a nice straight line behind me, but it goes off to one side or another,” he explains.
He as the two kayaks tied together loosely in case in gets into trouble in the rapids, so the trailing kayak will pull free, float off on its own, and not tip over Rick’s kayak.
Sometimes, the supply kayak comes loose on its own and floats away.
“I don’t notice it until I look back and see that it’s gone,” explains Rick. “Or I see it float by me. Then I just paddled it and get it or wait for it to float downstream to me.”
Rick has made it safely through a few rapids.
Although the rain keeps him wet, he’s safe and enjoying the trip.
“I love it,” he says.