Sixty-seven-year-old Greenfield resident Terry Wilson and his lifelong friend Darrell Upp, 70, took their mutual enjoyment of kayaking to new heights in 2021 when they made a seven-day and six-night trip along the Muskingum River from Coshocton to Marietta.
Their 114-mile water journey took them all the way to the Ohio River.
Upp has been kayaking since his college days and introduced the pastime to Wilson in 2019. The duo began by spending a summer of Fridays paddling along sections of Paint Creek covering the Scioto River to just south of Chillicothe.
In 2020, they spent Fridays traveling sections of the Little Miami River from Yellow Springs to the Ohio River.
Wilson finally decided he wanted to do something more challenging than kayaking small sections at a time. “I don’t like just doing something because I like to have a goal,” said Wilson.
The Muskingum River is unique because its system of dams and locks are they only manually operated locks still in use in the United States. Each set of locks poses their own set of challenges for kayakers. “Some were permanently closed down and others were being repaired, but the majority were open and operational,” said Wilson, a former longtime karate instructor in Greenfield.
Wilson and Upp researched the trip online and visited the site before beginning the journey on a Sunday at 8 a.m. They camped along the river near “lock masters” houses that have been abandoned for years but are still standing. “We enjoyed the outdoors and watching the locals along the shoreline,” said Wilson. “Entire families were out fishing at all hours of the day and night.”
During their first night of camp on the trip along the Muskingum River they encountered a command center for a search and recovery effort in Dresden. A 12-year-old boy was recovered after he had drowned in the river. “He was visiting family, and they said he was playing in the river and went under and didn’t come back up,” said Wilson. “That was the only really hairy situation that kind of made you realize that the water was dangerous.”
The pair encountered some rough weather during the trip in Lowell. “We were fortunate enough to set up camp next to the lock under an overpass to keep us dry and out of the weather,” said Wilson. “We set up until the early morning hours watching Mother Nature put on a spectacular light show which included heavy rains, wind and, of course, lightning. The craziest part of it all was there were people still out fishing.”
They finished the trip in Williamstown, West Virginia on a Saturday at 2:10 p.m.
Wilson said safety is always a top priority when he is kayaking. “We never paddle alone, we always wear our personal flotation device, we know our limitations and skill level, and most importantly we have fun and enjoy the great outdoors,” he said.
Wilson said being outdoors is the most enjoyable part of kayaking. “We get to see eagles, the nests, and all kinds of wildlife,” he added.
For 2022, Wilson said he plans to travel along Brush Creek from north of the Serpent Mound in Peebles to the Ohio River. He is also researching the possibility of another long trip from Columbus to Portsmouth along the Scioto River.
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.