September 21


I don't know if it's the area or the time of year, but the fog has been thick the past 2 days. I waited till about 9:30 to get on the water when the fog started to clear up. I don't know how thick it had been since I was in my hammock till 9. I was afraid to move in fear that my hammock would tear in half. It has a rip in the bottom that doubled from 3 to 6 inches over night. I realized that it is almost 12 years old and has had over 300 nights of use. They just dont make them like they used to. It was foggy most of the morning. Once the fog cleared the water was perfectly clear. Everything reflected off the water. It was like paddling on a mirror. I was moving at an alright speed but I definitely wasn't making up the miles I needed to get back on pace. I just did the best I could. I was worried about my hammock. The last thing I want to do is fall out of the bottom while I'm sleeping. After being woken up last night by a critter playing with my dry bag directly under me, I will prefer to hang out above. I saw there was a Walmart basicly right on the river just past the 30 mile mark for the day. It is right after a lock. When I was getting close to the lock. I noticed barges waiting a few miles out. I paddled past them to the small boat side at the lock. I called the number and they said they could get me through. The sun had just tucked behind the mountains so I still had a while before it was completely dark. I saw a guy come down and stop in the gate house so I knew it wouldn't be long. Then I waited, and waited. I paddled around in circles. After an hour and 20 I was giving them 10 more minutes then calling back. By this point it was dark. The lights from the lock lit under the sky but I knew it was going to be dark if I ever get through. Right before my nasty follow up call the lock worker came over to the railing and yelled down. He said that I must have missed the pull cord or something. I informed him that I had called and talked to someone. He said they must have gotten busy. I let it slide. He told me that the incoming barge had radioed and asked if they were going to let me through. I asked which barge. The one that was waiting or the one in the tank. He said he thought the one waiting. I thought it was the same barge company I had stayed on near the end of the Ohio. If it was I was going to send a message thanking them. I yelled over to one of the guys on the boat and asked what company they were. When he told me it was I got excited. I asked his name. When he said it and I said its Andy.  That's when he yelled out "The River Weasel!!!"  He said he had been wondering if they would ever see me again.  I told him I was in a different boat that’s why he probably didn’t recognize me.  He said he didn’t see my homemade flag pole.  We caught up for a while then they got the go ahead to enter and I wasn’t far behind.  I told him to thank the captain again for me.  I got in the chamber and the worker said no one had talked to me on the phone.  I jumped to the conclusion that they were lying.  I didn’t say it but was definitely thinking it.  He asked what number I called and I told him just to prove the point.  He informed me that was the number for the next lock downriver.  I felt like an idiot but if I hadn’t have called the wrong number and got stuck waiting I wouldn’t have run into my old barge friends so it happened for a reason.  I paddled out of the lock and made a quick cut across the river to the WV side of the bank to head to Walmart.  I parked the boat and climbed the hill, through the park, across the railroad tracks into the parking lot.  I knew I needed some tape to fix my hammock.  I decided to get some extra lights to continue paddling at night to make up the lost mileage from today.  I started filling the cart with lights.  Two big spot lights, and several glow sticks.  I grabbed some additional food so that I wouldn’t have to stop later on down river.  When I got to the check out I realized I had left my wallet in the boat.  Not much I could do but leave my cart and go get it.  I headed back out and sure as my luck would have it a train was crossing the tracks between me and the river.  The train decided to stop and there was no way around it.  I tried walking down the tracks to see if I could find the start of it but no luck.  It finally started moving again after about 10 minutes.  I hiked back to the boat, grabbed the wallet and back to check out.  By this point I was fired up.  I grabbed a Red Bull and decided to put in some work.  I strapped a spot light in the front and back of the boat.  I then added glow sticks all over.  When I finally pushed off shore in the dark of the night I looked like a UFO.  It was a pretty cool feeling glowing down the river.  I cranked up my speaker and was in my own world.  Since I couldn’t see any land marks it was just pure paddling.  Around midnight I wanted to call someone to tell them how cool it is paddling at night, luckly the friend I first thought of lives in California so it worked out well.  He didn’t answer so I decided to call several other west coast friends.  No luck there either.  Around 2:30 AM I decided that I should probably stop and set up camp.  I chose a bank and started looking for a camp site.  As I was scanning the shore for trees, I saw a large shape.  I thought it was a raccoon but it was a little larger.  Plus I didn’t see any eyes reflecting off my head lamp so I chalked it up to a stump.  I quickly changed my mind when that “stump” left the shore and started running towards the water.  It didn’t go into the water but instead was moving so fast that I was running on top.  It headed towards the front of my boat and sunk about 10 ft from me and disappeared.  And I can guarantee that any cat in a 50 mile radius heard my shriek.  My guess is it was a beaver but my eyes were shut so tight that I didn’t get a good look at it.  That kept me paddling for another 30 minutes on pure adrenaline and fear.  The banks were steep and I couldn’t find a spot that had two trees I could hammock between.  I finally decided that I would have to climb the bank to find a spot.  When I pulled over I was on the cusp of someone’s property.  Instead of trying to repair my boat in their yard at 3 in the morning and risk waking there dog and being greeted by a shotgun I decided to just sleep on the shore.  I then got the idea to sleep in my boat.  I got into my sleeping bag and slid down in the boat.  It was surprisingly very comfortable.  It was like a cocoon.  But after the long day that I had I would have probably slept in the water.