Float Out

7-29-2018

Another summer River treat is the Governor’s Race float out. Every year, the Governor’s Challenge gets a lot of important people out of their offices for a couple of days and into the fun tourist activities that up-state NY has to offer. One of those activities is white water rafting. All the rafting companies contribute 3 boats with gear (helmets, life jackets, and paddles) and guides to take the Race participants down the Indian River to the confluence with the Hudson. It’s a big deal, covered by several media outlets and news stations. The Race participants end their rafting trip at the confluence and take a bus to town for a big dinner and award ceremony, many of the guides who raced go too.

That leaves a lot of boats and gear that has to go down the Hudson part of the trip (about 14 miles). Although people can exit the river at the confluence, it would be exceptionally difficult to get rafts up the hill and down the mile of trail to the parking area, so the rafts go downstream. A whole gaggle of us guides think it is great fun to take empty rafts down the river. We all float together and pretty much have a guide party all the way to take out.

It is a completely different experience guiding an empty raft. It is just you making it happen, and you have no one to worry about. The float out usually takes the rest of the day because we float through all the flat water, and with just yourself paddling, all you really are doing is steering. Of course with no weight in the boat, you can explore parts of the rapids you can’t get to (or wouldn’t want to) with guests. With no one else around, we goof off and do silly things that we can’t do when we are working. It is an exceptional amount of fun.

This year was lively escapade as well. We hung out with a couple of other companies, swam, floated, ate tons of good food, laughed, and generally clowned around. We even got off the river before dark (always a plus)! Good summer fun was had by all on the float out.

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Music By The River

7-28-2018

Back up North! Another glorious and physically demanding day in the gorge, followed by hanging out with a bunch of friends down at the train station in town for Music By the River night. The band was kickin’, people dancing, kids running around, folks laughing and talking, a bunch of us hula-hooping, food cooking on grills, and generally a good time was had by all. Nothing excitedly screams “This is what Summer is all about” than watching a yellow and gold sun set over a distant mountain in a clear pale blue sky that turns purple as the stars come out, while hula-hooping to an awesome band at a free and local outdoor concert. The warm and soft endless summer days (and nights) are upon us!

Ahead Of The Release

7-22-2018

The river level has gotten down to its summer time low. It is still a ton of run to run; it’s just a lot more physical work for the guide and is a longer day out on the water. We run four days a week, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday on a dam release from Lake Abanakee down the Indian River three miles to the Hudson. This time of year we have to stay on the release water as it travels downstream. We call it staying on the bubble. Now, being at the top of the bubble is optimum, however when your guest paddle through the rapids to get the good hits, your boat moves faster than the water is flowing, and we tend to paddle off the front of the bubble. Which is actually no problem because you just stop paddling, sit on a rock until the water comes up and you drift off the rock. You do not want to get behind the bubble because once the water has passed, you can’t really catch up to it.

So today we got way ahead of the release. It was fascinating to see the rapids before most of the water gets there. Of course on the camping trips, you get to watch the water drop and you see the spot your are camping in with just the natural flow, but it is very different to be in the bigger rapids an see this. The steepest rapid is Givney’s and seeing it ahead of the release was mind blowing!

Normally there is a fun little wave sometimes small hydraulic hit at the very bottom. There is a rock you can pull your raft in behind and actually jump off into the current to float down into the giant calm pool at the bottom. The rock is flattish, just s few inches above the water’s surface, with enough room for a couple of people to stand on. When you get a little bit ahead of the release, this hit becomes Bubble Beater; a wicked fun surf!

Today however, this last little fun hit was insane! The little rock was steep and standing 6 feet or more out of the water. It has a twin partner (I’ve never noticed before) across the channel where the little wave usually is. This far ahead of the release, between these two rocks is a four or five foot vertical drop into a what looks like a nasty boat munching hydraulic. I have never seen this intense side of this feature before and I am transfixed.

Another guide and I were at the front of our group, both of us having the intention of surfing Bubble Beater, until we saw it. You never saw two rafts change speed, direction, and intention so fast. We were both able to sneak around the drop and pull in behind the rocks on either side. There were a couple of other guides in play boats with us as well. They each had also pulled in behind the now giant rocks and had climbed up on top of them to offer encouragement. I sat in the eddy behind my rock and and the other guide sat in the eddy behind her rock, both of us staring at the churning behemoth hydraulic between us.

The guys standing on the rocks were laughing and yelling at us to “Go for it!”. The other guide and I were laughing and yelling back “No Freaking way!”. Our guests were also highly weary of putting themselves into the boiling frothing convulsing hydraulic.

We waited. We watched. The water rose. The character of the hydraulic shifted, morphed into something more surfable, and we both went for it! It was one of the best surf ever!

The water rose some more and with it other rafts started coming through the rapid above us. The hydraulic changed some more and spit us out into the calm pool. Our guests were completely pumped and so were we! What an amazing experience!

Dress Up Day

7-21-2018

WOO HOO! Its here! Dress Up Day 2018! The guides are all in high spirits. The guests are all on board too. I have a big bin of “costume” clothes that I let people help themselves to. They loved it! I have my shiny gold mermaid fish scale leggings on, a bright colorful tank top, a frilly pink tutu, and of course a necklace and earrings from the mermaid jewelry I made. The rest of it went to the mermaids who will be in the mermaid boat. I cant wait to see their pictures. Sometimes I get so excited I can’t contain it and end up jumping repeatedly as if skipping rope (with no rope), silly grin and all, quietly repeating the word bounce bounce bounce with every jump. Its either that or run around like a wild woman for no reason. When I feel this way, I understand why some kids can’t ever sit still. It was a great day. Had a fun group of good paddlers, enjoyed seeing all the costumes come through the rapids, had a blast rafting down the Hudson River. I love my job!

Pontoon Plane

7-15-2018

My friend and I had a marvelously enjoyable camping trip; lazy mornings, relaxing afternoons, too much food, orange sunsets, misty sunrises, loons and coyotes serenading in the night, exploring the lake. Today we packed everything up to head out later. We were lounging around by the fire when a float plane fired up. There are a couple of houses across the lake that regularly use their planes to come and go. We like watching them take off and land out on the open water so when we hear the engine fire up, we run over to the shore line to watch the show.

This morning the roar of the engine was different, throaty, almost like a coughing chugging sound. Neither one of us though it sounded right, but the plane roared down the lake skiing on its pontoons, gaining speed and clumsily lifting off from the water. The pilot banked into a graceful curve increasing altitude over the tree disappearing from view, although we could still hear the plane as it up flew past our island. Until suddenly we couldn’t hear it. A few moments of silence slipped by, then at the same time I caught a glimpse of the plane gliding barely above the tree tops we heard the sound of air whistling around the body of the aircraft. The silent plane banked again to line up with the open water as it quickly descended from the sky. A few moments before its pontoons hit the water the engine roared back to life with a huge gust of black exhaust. Amazingly, it touched down gently and idled back to its slip. I cannot describe how hard and fast my heart was pounded in my chest from having just witnessed this event. I sat on a rock with my feet in the water for a long time waiting for clam to return.

Over the next hour or so we could hear the plane being worked on. Occasionally the chugging engine roared into life and sputtered our. After the close call, we figured it was grounded. Eventually camp was packed up, our boats were loaded, and we were ready to paddle back to town. We were in the middle of crossing the open boat channel when the pontoon plane again roared into life. Although I find it somewhat exhilarating to watch them take off and land on the lake, I don’t enjoy doing so from a tiny green kayak that is in the middle said lake.

Earlier, the pilot had used the other side of the island for his runway, so at first I wasn’t concerned. However it quickly became apparent that the plane was headed in our direction. Again my blood pressure and heart rate spike through the roof as I dug in and paddled faster to get myself out of the way. Adrenalin fueled panic can be a good friend… Oddly, the plane seemed to turn toward us as we frantically tried to remove ourselves from its path. The roar of the engine grew louder as the plane bore down on us. Barely 50 feet away from our position it lifted from the surface of the lake. I screamed in utter panic and frustration. I wanted to jump out and swim to the bottom away from the noise and confusion, but I did not want to swamp the kayak and knew I wouldn’t be able to get back in easily with it all loaded down. I curled into a sitting fetal position as the plane thundered over us. We could feel the air disturbance as it skimmed by us, my friend merrily waving at the pilot who was clearly visible smiling and waving back. I was completely dumbstruck as the plane flew into the sky and off into the distance.

That pilot had buzzed us as a flirtation technique using an airplane that had barely escaped crash landing a couple of hours earlier! My panic flashed into anger at his stupidity, then morphed into relief at having survived the morning, and I started laughing so hard I almost flipped my boat. This life we live is wacky and weird; you have to just leap up and catch what gets thrown at you and run with it. If you don’t it will hit in the head, hard. Life will be peculiar, kooky, strange, and flaky sometimes. Might as well laugh at it and keep paddling! And yes, I still do not like low flying aircraft.

Exploring Raquette Lake

7-14-2018

Today dawned overcast and windy, the warm summer sun hiding away. Of course, we paddled anyway. Took off to another area of Raquette lake neither of us had ever been too, searching for some other lean-tos marked on the map. We hugged the shoreline somewhat to stay out of the motor boat traffic lanes, and also because the shoreline can be less windy, and is usually more interesting than the middle of the lake. A ways up the lake, we tucked into a large bay where the wind died down completely. Still following the shoreline, we meandered deeper into the bay where it became a small cove and wetland. It is always delightful to paddle new places and go exploring with a good friend. We did find the lean-tos on the map and a new one that wasn’t on my (oldish) map. It seems the trail crew/lean-to volunteers are still working on this new one. It is completely built but the ground immediately around it is still littered with building materials and tree stumps. It is in a wicked awesome location; completely secluded in a deep dark primordial classic Adirondack forest. The landing area is a small shallow white sand beach at the back of a completely protected cove. We could see the whitecaps out on the main lake but where we were the water was serene and calm. Best of all the view is facing east for maximum enjoyment of sunrises over the craggy mountain tops along the eastern horizon! I want to camp here! Soon! We paddled and explored a little more before heading back to camp. Another day well spent.

Raquette Lake

7-13-2018

My friend showed up today! After was got all her camping stuff shuttled over to the island lean-to, we took off across the lake to an area neither of us had paddled before. We explored some rock outcroppings, jumping and swimming. The rocks don’t see much human traffic and were covered with a thick slime or algae below the surface of the water that made them exceptionally difficult to climb back up on once one had jumped off, but we prevailed. We walked around and looked at the ruins of some old wooden structures off in the woods, maybe an abandoned camp cabin. There was a lot of rusty metal and broken glass around as well and neither one of us was wearing protective shoes, I was actually barefoot, so it wasn’t much of an investigation, but it was a nifty find. Then we paddled down the shore some more and found tucked in a small protected bay a narrow strip of white sand beach between the lake and a wetland boggy area. The water was warm and shallow near shore so we floated and lounged and relaxed in the sun. We took turns walking down the beach and back relishing in the solitude of the immense open lake, basking in the grandeur of the endless blue summer sky. We talked and laughed through the afternoon. After depleting all our lunch snacks, hunger motivated us back into our boats to paddle back to camp.

We heard the loons before we saw them, hooting and cooing to each other. Forgetting our hunger, we stopped paddling to look and found two striking black and white adults with red eyes and two fuzzy dark grey babies. The adults were taking turns diving for food. When one surfaced it would call out a warbling sound, the babies would trill, and the other adult would call back. After a while the adults split up each with a baby loon following. The diving and twittering peeping continued as the adults dove and the babies waited impatiently bobbing in the wind and waves. When they surfaced, sometimes the adults would be a fair bit off a ways from their offspring and then would make a louder cooing call to locate each other. We sat a watched this loon family for a long time. Eventually the loons came back together and the babies swam around each other in a playful manner, diving for a few seconds, then popping back up to the surface to squeak at each other. It was fascinating, exhilarating, and captivating to watch and listen to this family. I never loons made so many different noises. Later that night as we were falling asleep, we were serenaded by many loons out on the lake with their exquisite ethereal calls while laying beneath the thinnest silver sliver of a shimmering moon hanging low over the horizon.