Thursday 9-16 was the "Day from Hell." I was supposed to leave for Raccoon Creek at 11:30 am but due to problems I didn't get on the road until 5:00 pm. Heavy traffic in Columbus and St Rt 23 between Circleville and Chillicothe being closed didn't help. Southbound lanes completely closed. I detoured with semis on back roads with one trying to turn on a small county road and getting stuck in the ditch. That backed stuff up even more. I got to Rio Grande and the Raccoon Creek Paddle and Oar Canoe Livery (Formerly Bob Evans Campground) at 8:35 pm. I set my camp up in the dark then got to sit down and relax. Harold was there with newest member Bill Johnson. It was very foggy and damp in the valley. The campground does not have water, electric nor toilet facilities. It was very primitive, just the way I like it. There is an old barn/shed that has an open shelter on one end and that became our common area for the weekend. Bill was really roughing it as he slept under the stars, dew, and all. After a couple drinks and small chat, it was off to bed.
Friday morning, we were up by 7:00 am and that's sleeping in for me. Member Wil was joining us for the weekend but not until 10:30, so the 3 of us decided to scout the downstream section. 5 miles down from camp is the falls at an old grist mill. We thought it could be runnable, but no parking was available. St Rt 141 there was parking, but the shoreline was very steep. Just before the Raccoon Creek County Park, which is a very nice park, there is a nice parking spot at a trailhead with a picnic table that is right along the creek. It's 8.5 river miles from camp and was prefect for a trip so we left my vehicle and canoe trailer there. We drove back to camp just as Wil was pulling in. We had a quick lunch and put on the creek at noon. The water was very nice with the USGS stream gage reading 2.74 feet. The almost fall weather was prefect at 85 degrees and there were enough sticks and branches in the water to test the maneuverability skills of the group. The falls at the long-gone grist mill was a rock shelf with a chute that was too steep for us to run, and the rocks were very slippery. Harold and I lined our canoes over the shelf while Wil and Bill portaged on the left bank. Bill slipped in some mud and landed flat on his back. It looked painful but he got up and finished portaging saying the ground was very soft.
We didn't see much wildlife, just a few birds flittering ahead of us. There was sign of beavers but the only mammals we saw in the water were cows. There is lots of grazing shoreline and the cow's just wonder down for a drink and look at us. Some didn't like us and just left. There is very little development along the shoreline so it's very peaceful and quiet and the stress of life just melts away. It was 5 miles to the mill then another 3.5 to the takeout which only took us 3 hours and 15 minutes total. For the first time paddling with us, Bill did wonderful keeping up with us. We usually average 2.5 miles per hour and Bill was right there. After loading the boats, it was off to the Merry Family Winery and Craft Mill Brewery. We had a couple beverages and used their facilities then headed back to our non-facility camp. Bill had to leave so we said our goodbyes and started a campfire. We cooked some brats over the fire and talked until Wil went to bed at the ungodly hour of 9:00 pm. Harold and I played one game of cribbage and were in our tents by 10:00 pm. Getting old isn't for sissies.
Saturday morning saw us again up at 7:00 to a beautiful, fogless, clear sky and 67 degrees. We had hot drinks and breakfast and discussed the day's trip. We were going upstream to the village of Vinton for a 10.5-mile trip back to camp if there were not too many log jams. Rumor had it that the log jams are why the canoe livery wasn't open. We threw in the option of a 6-mile trip if the stream was too littered with logs so we all loaded in our cars and started north. At the 2.5-mile bridge it looked ok for paddling. At the 6-mile bridge we parked all 3 vehicles on the bridge to look at the water and that's when it hit me. If we have all 3 vehicles with us, how will we get back upstream to retrieve our vehicles? Harold and Wil drove back to camp and left Wil's car there while I drove on up to the Vinton village park and started unloading gear. What I saw of the river had one logjam that may be a problem and the creek did narrow much more.
As I was unloading in drives a fire truck, then an ambulance, then another fire truck and a bunch of people arrived. The fire department was having a class on parking fire vehicles. They had me move my rig off to the side then when the other two guys got back, we were on the water at 10:00 am sharp. The USGS stream gage now read 2.59 feet which still was pretty good, water level wise. We paddled around 1.5 miles and saw our first logjam. Wil was ahead and reached it first and found a man and woman in kkkayaks cutting their way through. Wil got out and helped the young man make a path through, and then we were off again. The couple was picking paw paws and had 2.5 miles further to paddle than us. This section of river had more wildlife including paint turtles, a snapping turtle, herons, squirrels, lots of ducks and more cows in the creek. Black Angus. We again got to test our maneuverability skills in and around numerous branches and logs. We completed the 10.5 miles in 5 hours, including a lunch stop. Got back to camp at 3:00 pm and Wil went to get his keys for the shuttle to vehicle. NO KEYS! He left them in Harold's car at the put in. Now What? Wil walked over to talk to some of the Bob Evans farm hands, but they were busy. While he was gone, I saw a couple parking a truck as if staging it for a canoe trip. I waved my arms and ran to them and told them what happened. They cleaned the back seat of their truck so all 3 of us could fit and drove us back to our cars. They wouldn't even take the $20.00 Wil offered to him. Very, nice, helpful folks. We decided to go back to the Merry Family Winery for adult beverages, the facilities and a pizza snack.
We went back to camp for supper and another great campfire with a wonderful sunset. There was one cloud in the sky that kept changing its' shape but stayed in that one spot until dark. Pretty strange. In the night the cows across the road kept up a pretty, steady, chorus of mooing. Who needs roosters when you can have mooing cows? We were up early and packed for the road heading out around 9:00 am.
Raccoon Creek is very pretty, quiet and a challenge to paddle. Someday I would like to take it another 30 miles or so to the Ohio River but until then, keep the open side up!