Gearing up for the great outdoors

Kayakers trying out one of the whitewater spots at the ECO Sports Corridor in Springfield. Kayakers trying out one of the whitewater spots at the ECO Sports Corridor in Springfield.

Last of summer festivals conclude with the most active of the season: Get in gear with the Buck Creek Bash and Gearfest Dayton

By Emma Jarman

Kayakers trying out one of the whitewater spots at the ECO Sports Corridor in Springfield.

Kayakers trying out one of the whitewater spots at the ECO Sports Corridor in Springfield.

With summer winding down and the inevitability of indoor activities trumping the great outdoors for the coming six months, it’s hard to come to terms with winter weight gain and self-diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder. Some people can handle this change in climate, ogling over steaming bowls of comfort, full of cream and cooked root vegetables, nary a fresh ingredient to be seen. They happily switch to mouth breathing while outside to avoid the freezing of the nostrils so common in our fair city of Dayton. Other people refuse to succumb to the knocking of winter weather and cling to summer, 70 degrees and sunshine for perhaps a little longer than most. These people wear flip-flops through Halloween.

They don’t buy their Christmas decorations until December and they keep their Jeeps topless until the rain solidifies into the blinding sleet and snow we call “looks like summer’s over” weather. Some of these people, however, take it a step further and organize full-blown summertime sports awareness festivals celebrating everything outdoors and invigorating in October.

This month, brave celebrants, outdoor enthusiasts and their lucky (poor?) offspring will see the dawning of two new festivals in the Miami Valley: The Buck Creek Bash hosted by Springfield’s ECO Sports Corridor, and Gearfest Dayton.

ECO Sports Buck Creek Bash
The ECO Sports Corridor is relatively new to the Miami Valley. And when I say relatively new, I mean its fledgling organization began eight years ago; but its popularity has recently soared. The corridor, consisting of whitewater for rafts and kayaks, hiking, biking and running trails, surfing, sailing, boulder climbing, fishing and camping was created and engineered by Kevin Loftis and his brother John when they saw the resources in Springfield that could be used for these activities, but no one taking advantage of them.

“[What was] originally a selfish pursuit to have a place to kayak [turned into] an effort to bring outdoor recreation activities [to the area] and capitalize on our natural assets, improving them and making them available to the public,” said Loftis.

It was quite a considerable effort, actually. Three dams were removed and improved with kayak waves. Limestone boulders were cleared from downtown and made into a permissible bouldering park. The corridor, which is now a part of the Springfield Metropark system, is currently working to clear more mountain bike trails. The areas were there, said Loftis, we are just modifying them.

All of these activities are located within one half-mile from downtown Dayton, and everything is free to the public, although you must have your own equipment, as rental facilities are not (yet) available.

The Buck Creek Bash is the first effort by the duo and Metroparks to bring awareness and the opportunity for enthusiasts far and wide to take part in this unique experience. With no other kayak park or whitewater features for recreational boaters within a hundreds-of-miles radius, paddlers come from all over the Miami Valley, the tri-state area and the country to navigate the corridor. The same turnout is expected for the bash, October 8 from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The first of what is surely to become an annual celebration will play host to river races including taxing paddle and portage, celebrity canoe and standup paddleboard challenges. There will be a kids adventure zone featuring rock climbing, slack lining (more on that later) and a zip line. Springfield native and renowned musician Griffin House will hit the stage at 6:15 p.m., performing as the main musical entertainment of the evening, although other add-ons are in the works. There will also be food and beer all day in the concession area, and, despite what you may have heard or what some advertising may lead you to believe, it will be more than just Oktoberfest selections.

“More than just brats,” said Loftis.

If you’re one of those cold weather mouth breathers who isn’t sure what to do or where to start when faced with anything but a steaming bowl of white chicken chili and a corn muffin once August is over, might I suggest testing the waters in a kayak?

“The kayaking, without question, is the most popular,” said Loftis. “People come in from across the state. The kayaking, by far, has been very well received [and the corridor] is a great spot to learn to kayak.”

Perhaps don’t jump straight into the challenging Paddle and Portage race, which will kick off the event at 11 a.m. and must be registered for beforehand (again, more on that later).

But with last and final dam modifications completed, the entire six-mile span from the put-in on Beaver Creek in Old Reid Park to the confluence with Mad River will be navigable and open for even the most novice of participants. Aside from the bash, there will even be scheduled releases Saturdays and Sundays from mid-September through November.

“The opportunity to do it is so convenient [but] to learn is relatively new out here,” said Loftis. “ Normally, in this part of the country, you’re driving hours to go kayak. Here, it’s 30 minutes from Dayton. It’s a controlled atmosphere to get people to try it.”

And, if you truly fear the rolling waters of Buck Creek and value your life and leisure, there will also be a self-paced adventure race divided into age groups and between kayakers and canoers, just like every other activity. Safety boats will be paddling along the creek for the duration of the back, making sure everyone’s heads are above the water and possibly offering kinds words of encouragement and direction like, “Paddle harder you sissy!” or “Scoop or sink!” The last canoe down the river will be a sweep canoe and the fire department will man the bridges along the course. Also remember, in the eight years this passage has been operational, nobody has ever been injured aside from a bruised ego or hurt feelings after being passed by a 7–year-old or the 80-year-old woman who frequents the corridor with her brand new boat.

The ECO Sports Buck Creek Bash is a great way to fight the video game epidemic and get outside and recreate, clinging to those last few drops of summertime before the snow begins to fall, the waters begin to freeze and warm soup belly leaves us all glued to the couch in front of a Cincinnati Bengals game we don’t dare brave the elements to attend (or pay money for). Before tailgating turns to tablegating, pick up a few good hobbies at the Buck Creek Bash.

Equipment will be available to purchase at the event. There is no cost except for the Paddle and Portage event and the concessions. Canoe teams are $80 and kayaks are $45.

For more information and to find a link to register for the Paddle and Portage race, visit the Buck Creek Bash’s Facebook page by visiting and


Gearfest is not only an accessory, but an unconnected extension of the Buck Creek Bash. While a celebration of the region and local resources, Gearfest also reaches a bit further and mixes the uber professional with the super novice.

“[Gearfest] is the ultimate place in our region to learn about the outdoor adventure opportunities that are available in the Miami Valley,” said Tom Helbig, special events coordinator for the Five Rivers Metroparks. “It’s a place where people can watch outdoor activities, they can try outdoor activities or they could compete in outdoor activities.”

This is the seventh year Gearfest will grace the streets, rivers and paths of the Miami Valley. This year, it will be at Eastwood Metropark, Friday, Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 1.

There will be demonstrations in activities including snowboarding (yes, snowboarding), slacklining, which is a super athletic form of tightrope walking, tree climbing and kayaking.

The demonstrations will be done by practiced and seasoned professionals, including the athletes at the festival slated to participate in the U.S.A. National Championships hosted by Gearfest, which will be at 6 p.m., Saturday. But don’t just stand there in awe of the long-haired guy striking yoga poses on a highwire stretched between two trees. Activities for all are available and include a climbing wall, kayaking, canoeing, a regatta, mountain biking, geocaching, a children’s adventure zone, fishing, skateboarding and, you guessed it, slacklining. The weekend is scheduled to the brink of overbooking with things to do, see and get active with.

Gearfest is a great place to network with others interested in the same activities you are. Fly fishing? There’s a club for that. Mountain biking? There’s a club for that. Hiking the miles of Metropark in the great Miami Valley? Hey, there’s a club for that, too. While joining clubs and getting involved is one of the main aims of the festival, there is a time slot from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday for a membership drive, where regional clubs will be available to answer questions and extend invitations to their organizations. Joining a club is a great way for beginners to meet people who enjoy the same activity, said Helbig.

One message that was blatantly clear in speaking with Helbig was that the activities, demonstrations and competitions that make up the festival are much more than a assortment of hobbies. The outdoors is a lifestyle and Gearfest is a celebration of its collective experiences.

“[Gearfest is for] people that live an active and healthy lifestyle, and for those that want to experience life in a fun, active way,” said Helbig.

And, despite what some may think, the Miami Valley is rich with the means and opportunity to adopt such a lifestyle. Gearfest also aims to showcase these.

“We want to showcase the amenities that are available in our region,” said Helbig. “Local musicians, local outdoor retailers and clubs. Because of the outdoor scene that is here, and the really cool culture that is developing we think it will [also] attract people from out of the region.

“There is definitely a blossoming outdoor community. We get 10,000 visitors that come so that’s a pretty good start. The more and more we do this stuff, the more enthusiasm develops. For some it’s purely a hobby, for some it becomes a lifestyle.”

Whether you’re fully engaged in the outdoor state of mind or you’re just barely thinking of poking your toe out the front door, Gearfest is a great place to introduce yourself to Mother Nature. There will be instruction and equipment available for all experience levels including the non-experienced, which is a major draw since diving headfirst into the outdoors can be a major investment. Gearfest provides the opportunity to test a few different waters before making any major purchases — like a kayak.

And better yet, everything is free — with the exception of three of the competitions. But there is no charge for admission, no charge for the demonstrations or the slacklining championship and even camping immediately adjacent to the festival is, you guessed it, free. There will be more than 70 vendors from local outdoor shops and national outdoor brands if you’re really looking to spend some money. But bring the kids, bungee the tent you got for your wedding from your crunchy uncle that has yet to be pitched even once to the top of your car and clear your schedule for the weekend. Gearfest looks to be an incredible showcase of national pastime in a regional context, attracting attention from around the world.

If the worlds best slackliners are willing to give it a try, by golly so should you. Maybe you’ll learn a few things, get a little healthier, and lay the foundation for a lifetime of appreciating the entertainment value of nature, even in October. And if you must, visit the beer garden Friday from 6 to 11 p.m. or Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m. to get a little warm and fuzzy the old fashioned way.

For a complete Gearfest schedule and for more information on competition registration, visit

Reach DCP editorial intern and freelance writer Emma Jarman at

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