G. Sam Piatt
PDT Outdoors Columnist
The night song of bullfrogs, crickets, tree frogs, a hoot owl and the soft gurgle of water over riffles blended in harmony along the banks of Kinniconick Creek.
From a two-man Coleman tent pitched in a small clearing on the shore, the sound of campers snoring added to the concert.
Charlie Young, 60, and his daughter, Amanda, 24, had crawled into their sleeping bags dog tired after the first day of their four-day canoe trip down a
twisting, unforgiving section of the Lewis County stream.
“We were exhausted,” said Charlie. “We had to work our way over or under several blowdowns, and we hit one stretch of shallow riffles where we had to drag or carry our canoe and gear for a couple of hundred yards.”
The Youngs, of Flatwoods, made their pilgrimage down the clear, rock-bottom creek May 25-28, 2005 after reading about the stream in a column published here early that spring.
It’s worth the retelling because they are, as far as I can determine, the only people to ever paddle a canoe for almost the entire length of the KINNICONICK.
“We had the time, it was something we wanted to do together, so we said, ‘Why not?’ and set a date,” said Charlie Young, a retired U.S. Navy chief who once taught survival training to sailors who might be cast ashore. “It was an adventure, and I’m glad we got to share it.”
Judy Young dropped her husband and daughter off with their boat and provisions at the little community of Crum, located on Ky. 344 three or four miles upstream from the old Kinniconick Hotel. The hotel, home of Marjorie McEldowney and her late husband, Sam, stands 50 yards back from the stream near the juncture of 344 and Ky. 59 six miles south of Vanceburg. Mrs. Young picked them up three and one-half days later at the launch ramp at Garrison, near where the Kinniconick runs into the Ohio River.
After that first night camping, the two were up early, brewed a pot of coffee and ate some hot oatmeal, and were off again. The paddling got easier as the stream widened and the water over the riffles became deeper.
They enjoyed the anticipation of finding what lay around the next bend and the beauty of the wooded hills the creek winds through.
“On some sections, which bend away from roads and communities, it was like going back in time, back to the way things used to be,” Charlie said.
They carried some fishing gear and did some casting in the longer pools, but mostly their time was spent paddling and sightseeing.
“We caught a few very small smallmouth, which we released,” Charlie said. “We met two or three other boats, with fishermen trying their luck on the muskie. Everybody was friendly and helpful.”
They pulled in at Camp Dix, located a little over the halfway point of their journey, and visited a grocery store for some milk and to replenish the ice in their cooler.
“Our meals were mostly freeze-dried foods you can just mix with hot water,” he said.
Young, who retired from the military in 1984, returned home in October after 15 months of working in Iraq for a U.S. contractor.
“We were mostly building offices and quarters for the military,” he said. “I don’t get into the politics of the war, but I can tell you this: We have the best-trained, best-disciplined group of soldiers there I have ever met.”
After watching the Iraqi people in their struggle for Democracy, he said, it made the return to America and the Kinniconick journey all the more enjoyable.
Amanda Young said the memory of the three nights and nearly four days she spent on Kinni was something she’ll remember for a long time.
“It was great,” she said. “My first experience at something like that, but I hope it’s not the last. I’d like to go back and do it again.”
THE GOOD DAYS
Speaking of going back in time, back to the way things used to be, on Thursday of this past week I attended the 80th birthday party of a friend, Sydney Annelle McMullen (class of 1953, Dear Old South Portsmouth High), and some of us got to talking about how uncomplicated our lives were growing up in the 1940s and 1950s.
We kids, 11 or 12 years old, would play our games in the village streets until darkness fell and our mothers called us in. There was no television but we had our favorite radio programs we tried not to miss.
Habit-inducing drugs were non-existent. We didn’t even know what marijuana was.
Our day in the public schools began with a reading by the teacher of scripture from the Holy Bible and a recital by all of the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.
We came home from school to a clean warm home and the aroma of supper on the stove. Our mothers, using the paycheck our fathers brought home every two weeks, managed the affairs of the home. Hers was a difficult task, really, but we never realized it from the way she always seemed to have time to sit down and listen to our problems.
I’m sure there are some people who can find much fault, even ridicule, of the life we lived back then.
But in the midst or their complaining, they might want to pause and ask them selves this question:
Is life in America better now than it was then?
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (606) 932-3619 or [email protected] Visit his web page at gsampiattbooks.com.