G. Sam Piatt
PDT Sports Contributor
THERE’S no better recreation than to become a vagabond. Just pull on your boots, grab a walking stick, and hit the trail.
Richard Hovey knew the joy of hiking when he penned the following lines in his poem, “The wanderer.”
“Whose farthest footstep never strayed
Beyond the village of his birth
Is but a lodger for the night
In this old wayside inn of earth.
Tomorrow he shall take his pack
And set out for the ways beyond;
On the old trail from star to star,
An alien and a vagabond.”
As the pesky insects of summer disappear and autumn leaves begin to fall, there’s no better outdoor recreation that to don a backpack and hit the trail as a vagabond.
Several state parks and state and national forests in this area offer miles of hiking trails, both for a day trip and an overnighter. The wilderness still beckons us, despite the inroads made by the advancing tides of urbanization.
You won’t be alone on a wilderness trail, or at least it will seem that you’re not. Just ahead, you can almost hear the pad of the moccasins of warriors who used these trails to get from village to village.
Even if you’re only out for a sort jaunt of a couple of miles or so, the sights, signs and smells of the forest can return you to the work-a-day-world with renewed vigor.
One short hike that’s enjoyable involves taking the paved road that climbs the steep Kentucky hill from U.S. 23 near Grant Bridge. You go over the hill and turn right at the first right to climb to the top of the hill where the radio towers are located. From there, you follow a trail that dips down and then back up to the great rock cliff overlooking the city of Portsmouth and the Scioto River Valley.
Shoes are the most important items on a backpacker’s list of equipment. You won’t get far with blisters and pinched toes, or aching arches. Choose a pair of hiking boots that are lightweight and sturdy, and wear them over wool socks.
The next most important item is the backpack or packsack. They should be made of nylon and shoulder straps padded with foam rubber or felt. A good quality one will have seven to 10 stitches per inch.
Public libraries hold hundreds of books detailing selection of the proper gear, as well as information on where to go.
THAT BLOOMIN’ ALGAE
As we slid the boat into the water at the Burke’s Point ramp above Wheelersburg, it looked like someone had spilled green paint into the river. It had accumulated against the upstream side of the concrete boarding dock jutting out into the river from the launch ramp. A dead fish, about a 2-pounder, floated in the greenish water, but I believe its death was incidental, not caused by the blue-green algae so prominent in the Ohio River during these late summer days.
In fact, the fish caught on this little fishing excursion this past Wednesday by me and Vinson Euton looked very healthy indeed.
The algae was present in the water throughout the tail waters of the Greenup Dam. It was in the water that came out of the lock in the trail left by a towboat that locked through downstream. I’ve had reports of the algae’s presence all the way down to the Shawnee Marina, seven miles below Portsmouth. The river is very low, almost as low as it gets, and the current is almost nonexistent.
Blue-green algae are microscopic organisms can reproduce very rapidly in undisturbed surface water that is warm and shallow. It can pose a health risk to people and animals if they’re exposed to it in large enough quantities.
It hasn’t been seen in the river in such high levels, but health officials warn against swimming or wading in waters where it’s present.
I had to wade in the green water at the dock at the end of the fishing trip in order to hook the boat to the tie cable and crank it up onto the trailer. On returning home, I sprayed my legs from the knees down and my feet and wading shoes with the garden hose and immediately climbed in the shower.
For the fishing part of the trip, John Vinson and I had two plans of attack: (A) To troll off the riprap on the Ohio side downstream from the fishing pier below the power plant and (B) fish live crawlers straight down from the boat around the bullnose, the end of the outside lock wall on the Kentucky side.
Plan A started out great. John Vinson quickly caught two healthy-looking hybrids, each just over a foot long. I tried a ThinFin Hot-N-Tot and a Rebel, but the fish turned their noses up at my offerings.
Then John Vinson snagged up on the bottom. Before I could reverse the engine, his line broke. We neither one had another lure to match the one he lost. Nothing else we tried worked.
Plan B produced not a strike in the 17-foot deep, 79.3-degree water. A towboat coming upstream to lock through chased us away sooner than we planned.
Kentucky fisheries personnel say toxins from algae can accumulate in the guts of fish and occasionally in the filets. How high of a concentration of toxins in fish depends on the severity of the algae accumulation in the area where the fish are caught.
They say fish that are caught in areas where major “blooms” occur may be safe to eat, as long as the entrails of the fish are discarded. However, there is some uncertainty about the levels of algal toxins that can accumulate in filets, so anglers may want to wait a week or two after algal blooms have diminished before eating fish from waters where a bloom is occurring.
Children may be more susceptible to the effects of algal toxins due to lower body weight. Children tend to have more sensitive skin than adults, so a skin rash or reaction is more likely.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (606) 932-3619 or [email protected] Visit his web site at www.gsampiattbooks.com.