One of the motivations for Cathy Mumford’s solo paddle down all 440 miles of the Susquehanna River is the people she meets.
Ironic then that — her trek nearly complete — the 56-year-old woman’s first encounter after landing in Marietta was a thief or not-so-merry prankster.
Her beloved, bright-yellow kayak was gone, and the completion of her trip was in doubt.
But in the next 24 hours, the whole river town, it seemed, came together to help find her boat and allow the New Jersey resident to complete her personal journey.
Kindness of Strangers
The helpful band included:
- The American Legion Post 466 bartender, Julie Kreider, who reassured the tearful kayaker and posted about the missing vessel on a Marietta Facebook page.
- The Marietta Boat Club members and Marty Cox, owner of Chiques Rock Outfitters, who scoured the banks downriver on a rainy Monday night searching for the wayward kayak.
- Fellow New Jersey natives and owners of the Railroad House Inn, Tracy Beam and Eric Farr, who took Mumford under their wings and insisted on a free night’s lodging.
- The manager of the Railroad House Inn restaurant, Freddy States, who bought her a meal and offered his own kayak so the stranded voyager could complete the trip to Havre de Grace, where her fiance awaited.
- Sgt. Anthony Hall of the Susquehanna Regional Police Department who drove Mumford to Rapho Township to pick up her kayak.
And so, as she climbed into her 17-year-old scuffed-up kayak Wednesday, June 7, at the same spot she lost it two days earlier, it was a happy and immensely grateful Mumford who eased into the swollen river and again headed downriver.
“This town is beautiful,” she said. “People really came together to help me out and that’s the memory that will remain.”
A Rainy Arrival
It did not appear her memory of Marietta would be so shiny when she pulled her kayak onto the bank off of Front Street the afternoon of Monday, June 5, on the 23rd day of her trip, which begin in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Normally she ties the kayak with a bicycle chain and lock, but who would be out in the rain and commit larceny in the few hours it would take to find a room with a hot shower? Or so she thought.
After checking into the Railroad House Inn, showering and downing her first hot meal in several days, Mumford returned to retrieve her kayak. It was gone, along with all her camping gear and clothing stuffed inside.
Distraught, she wandered into the American Legion, seeking any kind of help or advice. Bartender Kreider hit on the idea of posting about the stolen kayak on a Marietta page on Facebook. Beam later added a photo of the kayak Mumford had provided her.
Mumford went to bed unsure of what the next day would bring.
The next morning, a man replied on the Facebook page that the kayak was safe and in a warehouse in Rapho Township, ready for pickup.
Someone asked where the kayak was found. The man replied that he and a buddy were fishing that morning at the base of Chickies Rock — a short distance south of Marietta — and found it along the bank.
Sgt. Hall drove a relieved Mumford to retrieve the kayak, and she gave $20 to each of the two men who turned it in.
On examination, she found that the tether rope that had been tied to a tree when she landed in Marietta had been cut.
All her gear was intact except for a bag of food and a wheel she uses to portage around dams.
A Nice Town
The happy ending and the townspeople’s response to a person in need doesn’t surprise Beam, of the Railroad House Inn.
“It’s amazing,” Beam said. “As many times as there have been bad situations in this town — for example when we were flooded in 2011 — the outpouring of love from the people in the area coming to help was wonderful.
“It’s very disheartening when you hear that somebody’s kayak is taken. But then people come to the rescue to do whatever they can to help. That’s one of the nicest things about this town.”
Adds Sgt. Hall, “I’m grateful that people at least took notice and tried to help her and that it all worked out.”