Every summer there is one day when all the white water raft guides on the Hudson dress up in a costume to run the river. This is dress up day, highly anticipated, actively enjoyed! This year, Fate was on my side and I ended up guiding a raft full of some amazing women including our photographer. Our costumes were varied, colorful, and fun. Mine was a combination of several costumes from previous years. I looked absolutely ridiculous, which was the point. It was a blast! We stopped at the Narrows so Mel could take pictures of all the rafts. We all sat on the rocks beside the rapid and cheered at everybody who came through. It was like a white water parade! Its the kind of fun where happiness just emanates from every pore, the essence of your being is full and content, where you know that right now, right here, all is good and right with your world. It is the kind of feeling that I tuck away into my psyche to use later in the coldest darkest days of winter to remind myself that the sun will shine again!
Hanging out in Thurman with other guides, waiting for people to come rent canoes, kayaks, and inner-tubes. The wet, rainy, cool summer has kept people off them water, but we are still having fun. One guide brought her hula hoops and she is (trying to) teach me some tricks. She is amazing when she gets going, she dances with the hoops like they are part of her. It is mesmerizing to watch! She has shown me two moves, that can be expanded into more, but I need to get the basic move down first. Hoops go flying and whizzing through the air, twirling and skittering across the ground, and thunking down on my body parts. I’ll have some bruises tonight… But I’m learning. It will take many long practice sessions to get this down pat. It feels good to work at something and see yourself getting better at it the more you try.
The run down the Shenandoah is 6 miles from the Millville put in to the Potomac Wayside parking area just upstream of the 340 bridge over the Potomac. It took the three of us 7 hours to “paddle” this section. This was the maiden voyage (with me as the owner) of the two duckies (inflatable kayaks) I brought with me. My best friend from childhood (we met in the 3rd grade), her wife, and their cute little dog floated down the river in the double ducky we called Big Red, and I was in Little Blue, the single ducky. There was plenty of room for snacks and beverages as well. We enjoyed the heat and intensity of the summer sun, the refreshing dips in the river, and the amazing beauty of the Appalachian mountains. We explored behind the islands, even through there was not enough water to actually float back. We spend a couple of happy hours at Bull Falls, playing in the rapid, running it numerous times, and body surfing in the ledge drop hydraulic. I even jumped into the middle of the rapid just from old times sake like we used to do when we were young, invincible, and immortal! There was even that predictable evening thunder storm that seems to happen every July 4th, the humidity builds to an unsustainable level in the atmosphere and it all falls back to earth as a gentle warm rain. What an amazing way the spend a sweet nostalgic summer day!
Today the River was too high to take the camp kids we had as customers down through the gorge. So we ran the “Lower Gorge”, which isn’t a gorge at all, it’s just a section further down stream that we run when the water is too high for the actual gorge. I had never seen this section, North Creek to Snake Rock, in its entirety, just a few pieces of it. I love being in places I have never been to before, seeing new sights, and experiencing new things. I call these situations Hobbit Adventures, whether its a new road I’ve never driven, a new town I’ve never visited, a new trail I’ve never hiked, a new river or new section of river, new lake, or any new place to be in. Although, one may go somewhere new when one is lost, the difference is that you chose to be in a new place to begin with, even if you get lost while you are there.
So today was uncharted territory for me while guiding a boat load of camp kids down the River. The rapids are all fairly straight forward, read and run, fun crashing waves. I don’t know any of the rapid names so I was having some silly fun just making names up, and the kids didn’t figure it out until after lunch, at which point I was then familiar with the run having done that section several times before. The sun was shining and warm, the kids had a blast, and I had a Hobbit Adventure!
One of my summer passions is hula-hooping, although I am a boring hula-hooper because I have only a few rudimentary tricks I can do. I have seen some mind blowing amazing hula-hooping action from some of my friends, but I seem to lack that kind of coordination. I like hooping to live music, dancing around in circles, hips swaying to keep the giant hoop spinning. The hula hoop makes me feel open and free, like I could fly away into those endless summer nights where laughter chases through your sweet dreams, and fireflies sparkle in your eyes. One of the rafting companies up here has a summer solstice party every year that I look forward to with the greatest anticipation. This year (as always) was worth the wait! Live music, scrumptious food, all my old rafting friends to talk to and tell stories with, and lots of new guides to meet and welcome to the lifestyle. I hula-hooped half the night, bare feet stained green from the grass, daisy print dress swirling around my knees, glow sticks swinging on my wrists. We danced, we sang, we laughed. I LOVE SUMMER!!!! Happy Solstice!
Today is my birthday. I am now 47 years old. Today is the start of my first overnight rafting trip of the season. We paddle in, set up camp in the gorge, and paddle out tomorrow. Overnights are a lot of work, but spending the night in the gorge is worth it. This group is all women about my age and looking for wicked fun outside their normal comfort zone. Perfect! It was an amazing day on the water. I guided the paddle raft and a colleague (the only male on the trip) took the oar rig down with all the gear. We made camp in the on a sandy beach in the middle of a mile long rapid; so we had the roaring river in our ears and hearts all night long. We all went swimming (yes the water is still to cold but we did it anyway) before dinner and watched to moon come up over the ridge across the river. Its almost full and made the white water of the rapid glow iridescent against the blackness of the night. Dinner was cooked over the open fire and everybody slept soundly and peacefully. Year 47+ is off to a good start!