Tony picked up Steve en route to the Great Maumee River in Defiance. The northwestern Ohio River starts in Fort Wayne, Indiana and flows into Ohio through Antwerp, Defiance, Napoleon and Toledo before dumping into Lake Erie. Member Tom, who cannot paddle due to back surgery, lives in that part of the state and was shuttle man for the other two. Tony noticed a grinding noise coming from his right front brakes and it was confirmed that the brake pads were bad. Parts were bought but had to wait until later to be assembled. After leaving Tom's vehicle at the state park the three headed west to a village park in Antwerp. Steve and Tony were paddling 2 days, from Antwerp to Independence State Park just east of Defiance. While unloading gear and packing canoes for a night on the river, Steve pulled a muscle in his calf. He could hardly walk as the pain coursed through his leg. After getting as comfortable as possible in the canoe and off the leg, he and Tony started their journey at 11:45a.m.
The river was 30 to 50 yards wide at this point in its journey to the lake but there was still a decent current. The duo averaged 3.2 MPH for the day including a lunch stop. In their 22.5 mile sun filled trip there were lots of wildlife sightings. An eagle flew upstream right at them and landed in a tree to watch them float by. There were also squirrels by the dozen, hawks, deer, geese, ducks, etc, etc. The 84 degree, sunny, spring day, took their light fair skin and turned it red. The start of summer sunburns! Member Wil called and said he would join the two at the 22.5 mile mark close to the crossroads village of "The Bends." All three arrived between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. After Wil secured permission to park his vehicle in a farmer's field, they sat up camp on a sandy little island just downstream of The Bend Road Bridge. Sandy little islands leave sand EVERYWHERE. It's in the tents, in the shoes, in the food, in the boats, but not in their spirits. After supper, happy hour and dancing with the mosquitoes, it was time to hide from the little bitters behind screen windows. Bedtime was an early 10:00p.m.
Steve was using, for the first time, an old homemade cedar strip and fiberglass canoe that he got from Jock. He was paddling it with a kayak paddle which was working really well for him. Wil had his little kayak and Tony was in his traditional solo canoe with a canoe paddle. The water in the Maumee was muddy colored but there wasn't much pollution to be found. They wondered if flooding washed all the junk into Lake Erie 80 some miles downstream. There were rocks just under the surface of the river that reached out to touch the craft, halting the boats suddenly. In late summer, paddling that stretch of the river may be tricky if not paddleable at all.
Friday morning was on the cool side at 53 degrees. Steve's leg was feeling better but not quite healed. He could put some weight on it which was promising. Tony tried fishing from camp but the second cast snagged. After breakfast, camp was packed into the floating devices and the trio started towards Independence State Park. They were on the water at the unheard of time of 7:30a.m. Tony retrieved his snagged lure and tried more fishing as he drifted. After the "lure eating river" got full and the reel got fouled, the fishing pole was stored for the rest of the trip. Fishing from a canoe is not for the weak of patient type people. The sun rose higher and the temperatures soared as the day progressed. The usual animals were seen plus the side scenery of trees, rocks and strange pieces of treasures along the river. Tony was having a hard way to go with his 8 year old Fuji camera. The damn thing would work one minute and quit the next. After lots of cussing it was packed away same as the fishing pole. Besides, Wil is a better photographer.
On the western out skirts of Defiance, the Tiffin River merges with the Maumee which widened the shore line a bit. In downtown Defiance the Auglaize River entered and the river banks spread even further. And to add insult to injury, the wind or headwind as it was became a strong 12 to 15 MPH. Only 3.5 miles remained in the 15.25 mile trip and muscles were starting to wear down. Between the sun, wind, wide open river and the mileage, the only hope was seeing Tom on the river bank. That meant they made it to camp and Tom had a cold beer waiting for all. The take out was very rough with all the gear and boats being drug through sticks, trees and tall grass. Camp was erected in an area the park maintenance man recommended to them. It was in the maintenance area where other park visitors were restricted, which gave the club a very secluded campsite. The only drawback was the restroom was quite a walk.
Taking Tom's car they went to get Wil's truck then headed to a Frickers for lunch. It's the same type of place like a Buffalo Wings. Back at camp they just relaxed and enjoyed the peaceful afternoon. Later Liz and friend Colleen arrived and joined the campers. Everyone laughed and told stories until late into the evening while enjoying a comfortable campfire. Tom brought a small chainsaw that really helped clean up the area from numerous old downed trees and limbs and provided firewood.
Saturday morning the rekindled campfire felt good in the cool morning air. Talk of paddling from camp down to Girty's Island was had. Steve said he had enough with the wind yesterday while Tom still cannot paddle with his back. Tony still has problems with his frozen shoulder but doing the recommended "hammer" stretches keeps him loose. Liz was also performing therapy exercises as one photo can attest to. The four paddlers saddled up and drove roughly .5 mile to below Independence Dam to a canoe access point. There was a Triathlon being held at the park that morning and over 300 people were participating. They had to bicycle 36 miles, canoe almost 6 miles and hike 8 miles carrying 20% of their body weight. What some people do for fun!!
After maneuvering around and through all the cyclers it was launch time. Colleen, Liz, Tony and Wil started paddling the Maumee with canoers from the triathlon. It felt good to be a part of it for almost 30 seconds, in their minds, and then they settled into a relaxed routine. At one spot they saw where part of the former Miami and Erie Canal flowed back into the river. The old lock was damned up and a nice water fall flowed creating some strong current. There were fish trying to jump up the rapids only to be denied by the rushing water. The total trip was only 8.9 miles as Tony and Wil were worn out still from the day before. They rounded Girty's Island, a good size piece of land and found a spot where Steve could pick them up. Steve and Tom occupied their time by changing the brake pads and rotor on Tony's car. They did a great job and Steve had a ride home. At the canoe take out, Tony and Wil paddled through a huge culvert and drug their boats up to the road. Colleen and Liz found an old access road which was a longer carry but not near as much work as the guys did. Piling into the shuttle vehicle, it was back to camp. Changing shoes and clothes some went to town for lunch while others stayed in camp. The beautiful sunny day was perfect for enjoying lawn chairs.
Bugs were out as Tony found a tick on his ear and another on his tent. A tick magnet he is. The mosquitoes were not as bad as earlier in the trip but bug spray did help. As everyone was sitting around relaxing a vehicle was pulling in. What to our wondering eyes did appear, but Lance, with lots of cheer? After catching up on his latest info, the monthly potluck was held with food galore. After gorging themselves another campfire drew the members close to where talk soon turned to meeting famous people. From Presidents to movie stars to rock musicians everyone had a story except Colleen. Lance pointed out the fact that she has indeed met greatness and she was camping with him that weekend.
Sunday started as a lazy day. No canoeing was planned so Steve volunteered to make breakfast of pancakes and sausage. Soon Liz was helping and the two of them turned out some mighty tasty breakfast fare for the club. After that feast Steve and Tony headed home for other commitments. The other folks headed to the Seven Eagles Culture Center close to Grand Rapids. The center is an outdoor living history site with 40 acres of Black Swamp woods, two-acre pond and open meadows. They saw a blacksmith operation, trading post, log cabin, teepee, trapper's cabin, trilliums and ice cream. Beautiful weather, great company and of course paddling makes for a wonderful weekend. Come join us and see what ya all are missing!!!
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