Linton man travels length of Wabash

Friday, August 11, 2017
Brad Feaster paddles his way down the Wabash River near Terre Haute as part of his 385 mile trek down the river.
Photo courtesy of Brendan Kearns

A Linton man paddled the length of the Wabash River in nine days on a sneakboat.

Brad Feaster headed out on his Stealth 2000 -- which he described as a kayak/canoe hybrid -- on July 28 to complete the 385-mile trip he had always dreamed of. He started at the access point in Huntington at the Historic Forks of the Wabash and made his way down the river to New Harmony at the confluence of the Wabash and Ohio Rivers.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do is take a long trip down the Wabash,” Feaster said. “I was dead set on making it to the end. I could have turned it into a more leisurely float, but I went with the purpose of making it to the end and I was determined.”

The last day of Feaster’s trip ended with pouring rain, but he was excited to complete the trip at the confluence of the Ohio River.
Courtesy photo

Feaster describes himself as a lover of the outdoors, which is what inspired him to pursue the trip. He said this was a dream he’d had since childhood and at this time of year, it worked out for him to give it a try. Feaster credited his wife, Brooke, for making it possible for him to take the trip he’d always dreamed of and taking on all the extra duties at the home front while he was gone.

“School was about to start, we’ve got three kids at home and Brooke was about to start a new job. It was a bit of a burden on her, but she was supportive the whole time,” Feaster said.

Feaster said he did not do as much as he should have to prepare for the trip physically, and learned in the first few days the task was going to be much more difficult than he anticipated.

With a goal of completing the trip in nine days and 385 miles to complete, Feaster said he knew he would have to travel more than 40 miles a day. But, as he tried to get a feel for the river the first day, he missed his mark.

“The first day I only traveled about 35 miles because I didn’t have a feel for it,” Feaster said.

The second day, he said he was determined to make up for the lost miles and paddled 55 miles. He said it was after this point he realized he had made a mistake, but with the help of a little jabbing from a friend he kept on going.

“The third day, I was so incredibly sore. It was awful. I couldn’t hardly get out of the tent. My energy was low,” Feaster said. “For a couple of days it was really rough. The boat I used isn’t as sleek in the water and not as efficient. It was a lot of paddling.”

On average, Feaster said he was paddling about 1,584 strokes per hour.

Greg Swanson called on the second day as Feaster said he was feeling quite overwhelmed with the fact he still had quite a way to go and he was struggling with his energy level. Swanson gave him a hard time, jokingly hinting that maybe he had taken on too big of a task. That was when Feaster said he made the decision he would not give up.

“That motivated me the rest of the time,” Feaster said with a laugh.

For the rest of the trip, Feaster was able to keep up with his needed travel speed and finished the trip Sunday, July 6.

Even with some of the obstacles Feaster faced along the way, he said he was mesmerized by the scenery he was able to see -- most of which cannot be appreciated in the same way on dry land.

“The upper Wabash is a lot shallower. It is a lot different river than what you’d expect. I’m originally from southwest Indiana where the Wabash is quite a bit deeper. So, being up there on that part of the Wabash -- which I’d never been on -- that was really neat,” Feaster said.

Feaster said being on the river also gave him an awesome view of the Hanging Rock near Lagro, Ind.

“My very first day on the water, there were River Defenders having a clean up day on the Wabash River. I probably saw 30-40 people with canoes, boats and kayaks. They were all wading the river picking up trash. It was cool talking with them,” Feaster said. “That’s the other cool thing. Up there, the river itself didn’t have much trash on it.”

His trip through Logansport allowed him to experience yet another dimension of the same river, complete with rock shallows and rapids. This part of the trip also gave him a unique view of the bridges he traveled under, some of which were the old swinging bridges.

“It was nothing like what you’d see on the Wabash here,” Feaster explained.

“One night I spent the night at the confluence of the Tippecanoe River and the Wabash River. I’ve always been a bit of a history buff anyone, so being on the Tippy near the battleground and Prophetstown -- there was a lot of historical significance. I liked that.”

Just above Mt. Carmel, Feaster recalled a section of the river where the rock wall stood more than 30 feet high.

“I didn’t get a single picture of any of that because as I was paddling by, I was just looking at it. It looked like something out of ‘The Last of the Mohicans.’ It was really nice. After I got by, I realized I didn’t take any pictures. I couldn’t go against the current, so I missed that opportunity,” Feaster said.

“Another thing that stood out to me was how friendly everybody was. Everybody you meet on the river was very friendly, very curious, asking questions like, ‘Where are you headed?’ and ‘Where did you come from?’ It was just a neat trip.”

During the course of his days on the river, he kept friends and family updated on his journey through Facebook. Feaster said he quickly learned he had garnered quite the following on social media, with some of his video updates being viewed more than 300 times.

In fact, the social media following brought friends to the river he hadn’t seen in years, including old friends Tricia and Steve Beeler.

“I was coming around the bend at Lafayette and I’m looking ahead and seeing people sitting on the boat ramp. I didn’t think anything of it. Then, as I get closer they stand up, start waving and holler my name,” Feaster said, admitting initially he was very confused. “I paddle over there and it was Tricia and Steve.”

Feaster said the couple, who he had not seen in 20 years, had been following his journey on Facebook. He paddled over and they restocked the ice on his boat and brought him sandwiches -- a welcome deviation from the MREs he had been eating.

Somewhere along the journey, Feaster said an anonymous supporter of his trip also set out energy drinks and ibuprofen along the bank for him.

Though the journey was filled with mostly calm weather, the last day as he made his way to mile 385 near Mount Vernon, rain clouds erupted. Luckily, Brent Allman, a friend from Mount Vernon, was there waiting to take him back home.

“He met me on the river in a boat in the rain at the point where I ended. It was pouring down rain. We went back to his truck, then to his house where they fed me and I got a shower, and he drove me all the way back (to Linton),” Feaster said.

Feaster said he has also utilized the trip as a learning experience for his social media followers, offering up some history as he went along and providing information about how others can plan a trip of their own -- though assuring them they do not have to travel nearly 400 miles to enjoy the river.

“You can make a day of it. You can go online and find access points along the river and travel a few miles to the next access point,” Feaster explained.

The website WabashRiver.us provides a detailed map -- complete with photos -- about each access point and what should be anticipated.

He also used the opportunity to talk about the Department of Natural Resource Healthy Rivers Initiative, a program which is important to Feaster as a DNR employee.

“I think the Wabash River is probably largely under-appreciated in the state. People think of it as being a dirty, nasty river, but it’s really not. It’s really nice,” Feaster stressed. “Once I realized how many people were following along, I really tried to raise awareness.”

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