MILLWOOD, W.Va. — Ian Davis has seen plenty of West Virginia on his thousand-mile journey from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Ill., canoeing the length of the Ohio River. During an evening stopover in the tiny community of Millwood in Jackson County, Davis discussed the journey so far.
“The biggest challenge has probably been fatigue,” he said. “I knew I was in okay shape and I knew the first week would be pretty tough. But I’m finding myself getting pretty worn out by two o’clock in the afternoon after four to six hours of paddling.”
Another obstacle for Davis has been the weather. A video on his Facebook page “The Point to Cairo” where he is chronicling the adventure, shows the massive storm that caused flooding in Roane County, W.Va., last week. Although the storms can make for scary conditions, they also help make better time.
“What counts to me is where the wind is going—paddling into a headwind is tough,” he said. “The other thing I was surprised about was the current isn’t helping me as much as I thought it would. Flooding rains are my friend, but only then does it get up to where I thought it would be.”
When he started the journey, Davis told MetroNews he expected to do a lot of “stealth” camping along the river. He has done very little of it as his story and following continued to grow.
“It’s amazing, people have been so gracious,” he said.
“Here tonight, I’m in Millwood, W.Va., and I pull my canoe up to a pretty remote RV camp. I get out and introduce myself to the guy on the dock and ask, ‘Is there a place where a guy and his puppy could pitch a tent?’ And he said sure, there on his lawn. Then 10 minutes later he comes back and said, ‘He would you like to stay in my camper? I can turn the A/C on for you.’ This goes on all the time. The hospitality is amazing.”
Another river resident on the Ohio side, who flagged down Davis as he paddled the back channel of Buffington Island, offered a flat, grassy patch of land for a campsite. The man learned about Davis through WVMetronews.com and had followed the journey on Facebook.
“It’s restored my faith in rural humanity,” Davis said.
Davis’ journey is about one-fourth finished. Although he estimated he’s about 10 days behind schedule, Davis said the itenerary was a relative concept.
“Who knows how the heck long it’s going to take,” he said. “I do need to get back for obligations at home. But do I have to be finished at a certain time? No, not really.”
Davis knows there are challenging days ahead. Point Pleasant will offer a new obstacle as the waters of the Kanawha River dump into the Ohio and the river widens. The flow of the river will also slow down and commercial traffic will pick up. Davis is undeterred.
“God has given me so many things to see on this journey that I never would have gotten to see,” he said. “I’ve also gotten to meet so many new and wonderful people it’s been amazing so far.”