Field Notes: Disconnecting Down the Scioto

It's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life, but Shannon Thomas of Ohio is taking a timeout from his "normal" life to simply detach from that. And, more specifically, to SUP.

Plain and simple, the man just wants to unleash and standup paddle. Who can blame him? Living barely beyond a stone's throw from Ohio's second longest river—and having never actually paddled it—Thomas and kayak buddy Jon Phillips will embark on a 231-mile expedition down the historically-rich Scioto River later this month. The duo will be capturing the journey on film and sending updates throughout. So, stay tuned to and check out the details from Thomas on his upcoming trek. —SC

Give us some insight into the expedition team's background as paddlers.

Thomas: I've been standup paddling for about two years and before that, I kayaked. I still kayak on occasion and love it, but I’d much rather be standing than sitting. Since spring, I've been training at a local lake and working on my stroke, endurance, speed, etc. I'm also going to be racing in the Chattajack 31-miler this October and I thought this trip would be another great opportunity to train.

My good friend, Jon Phillips, from Bristol, Tenn. is joining me for the trip in his sea kayak. He’s a great, positive guy to have, and a knowledgeable outdoorsman.

What provoked your upcoming expedition on the Scioto River?

Thomas: I wanted to do a longer SUP expedition than what I’ve done before. I did a five-day down the Little Miami River last September and [it] was a blast. With the Scioto, it’s close enough that a shuttle from a friend won’t be an issue, and, I have never paddled it before.

I'm using it as a race training trip, but the real reason is to just disconnect from my daily life and routine. I want to wake up, and the only thing on the agenda I have is to eat, hydrate and paddle.

The Scioto River is the longest river running in Ohio besides the Ohio River itself at 231 miles, but it's small enough where there is no commercial traffic. It's not developed—except through Columbus and maybe another few towns—so finding decent spots to camp won’t be a problem.
 There’s plenty of other streams entering that we may veer off and explore, including a few waterfalls I read about. The river itself is mostly flat water, but will have the occasional rapid depending on water levels, especially up north.

I had considered organizing a way to benefit a cause or charity but time got away from me and wasn’t sure how I would raise the money or which charity it would benefit. So, I'm doing this trip for me—to just get out and paddle. I will be the first person to through-paddle the river, as far as I know, and I'm pretty positive I'll be the first to do it on a SUP board. I like the challenge of it and wanted to test myself.

How long do you anticipate the 231-mile journey to take?

Thomas: I'm planning nine to 11 days with us paddling, on average, 20 miles per day. But, if we are making good time we may take it easy for a day or two to just lightly paddle, fish, swim, and enjoy the river.

We launch on May 23rd and finish around June 2nd. We don’t really have too many plans for stops, but got a few friends along the way we may stop [to see] and if we see a decent riverside bar/restaurant, you bet we’re gonna stop for a burger or pizza!

We’ve both been planning, but since it’s a river, there’s really only one path to take and the only thing we have to plan is where to camp and portage around dams, which are things we are just going to figure it out as it approaches.

What are you looking forward to most on your upcoming journey?

Thomas: I’m most excited to just be on the river and paddle to disconnect from the daily routine of life. I really enjoying prepping my food and gear. I like to be very prepared for every outcome or potential obstacles, but also to be minimal to save weight and space.

I'm not too nervous about the trip, just anxious to get started. The one thing I am nervous about is getting a bad call from my family. My grandma has had stage 4 lung and pancreatic cancer for about five years. She has been strong and positive, but she’s been in pretty bad shape the last six months and it’s just a matter of time.

If I get that call, I will be having someone pick me up and I’ll take a break from the trip to be with my family for a day before resuming the trip. She’s the one who lit that fire inside me five years ago to start taking more chances, and [taught me] if there are things I want to do in life, now is the time to do them. I owe so much of my experiences and happiness to her for teaching me that.

Other platforms Shannon will be posting to: (personal) (blog)
instagram@s_thomas937 (personal)
instagram@ourlifeoutside (blog)

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