I have guided the Hudson River Gorge for 20 years. I never really kept track of how many trips down the river that equals, but it has to be in the high hundreds. I never get bored with it, because every trip is different. If you pay attention, you can see changes every day, little details that could easily go unnoticed. Usually I am focused on the water, the rocks, the physical aspects of guiding my raft around the obstacles and hitting the fun stuff. Guides constantly look downstream, to keep track of their moving relationship to where they need to be in physical space, and the time they have to get the boat there. It is applied physics, hydro dynamics, propulsion ratios, spacial theory, and poetry in motion simultaneously happening automatically in our brains and acted out by our muscles. In calm areas, I make sure my guests look at the scenery, I point out cliffs and mountain tops, creaks burbling into the river and unique rock formations. I want them to fall in love with the River and the Adirondacks. I want then to experience Here and Now! And then, every once and a while, I sit back, broaden my gaze, open my eyes to the complete Big Picture all around us. My attention is no longer focused on the boat and minutia of the River, but instead it is focused up, out, and around. I am struck by the immensity of the immediate mountains, the world we are on, and the universe we are in. I see tiny rafts sliding down through rocks and rapids at the bottom of a steep gorge, surrounded by tall dark summer green mountains with blue grey cliffs, stretching up toward a slice of crystal blue summer sky that thins into outer space and beyond it into infinity. We are mere dust specks in time and space, yet an integral part of it all. If we open our hearts, minds, and souls, we are the cosmos.
Good day on the river, good rapids in the gorge! This wet, rainy, cold summer has kept the water up so rafting is wild and fun . I miss the summer sunshine, heat radiating off tanned skin, endless blue sky. Today was again wet, misty low clouds floating ephemerally over the mountains, drizzly rain drops adding to the dark swirly water in the rapids. Near the end of the trip, where the river calms itself into swift flat water, it opens out onto longer straight sections between curves, Gore Mountain comes into view. The sun momentarily peaked from between billowing grey clouds catching all the misty wispy airborne water, lighting it ablaze with a dazzling brilliant rainbow that arched completely across the river. You could almost see the pots of glittering gold at either end where the translucent colors touched the ground.
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!
Bright sunlight, fluffy bright white clouds in a bright baby blue sky, breezy, but not windy, perfect paddling temperature, we have stopped along the river for a picnic lunch, a group of high school senior girl scouts canoeing and kayaking a different section of the Hudson that yesterday’s trip through the gorge. They are loving every minute of it, laughing, talking, playing, enjoying their trip to New York state from sunny, hot southern Florida. As part of today’s lunch, we have watermelon I bought this morning on a food run. I cut through the variegated green skin, slice through the dark red fruit, juice runs over the table. With a crisp snap a piece breaks free. After all the girls have had their fill I take my first slice of watermelon of the season. The cool, sweet, watermelon flavor exploded in my mouth with the first bight. Sugary red juice runs down my chin as I noisily slurp it up. I greedily eat, crunching, slurping, and savoring. This is what summer tastes like!
Rainy wet day in the Adirondacks, we are herding 60 some odd high school senior girls from New York City down a slow moving section of the Hudson River. They are having a lifetime adventure and loving every minute of it! I am the sweep boat, making sure everyone is accounted for and goes where they are supposed to go. My long green kayak is sitting on a rock bar that juts way out on the inside of a meandering curve in the river. I had to run across the bar to the other side of an island to help a couple of canoes get unstuck and back on course. Walking back to my own boat on the ankle to knee deep rushing water I start noticing the cobbles I am traversing. Wow! So many colors, shapes, sizes, and crystalline structures! I start picking some up for a better look, and get totally absorbed in the amazing variety of rocks surrounding me. A few minutes later, back at my boat, I drop several large heavy specimens into a cargo compartment and hope they don’t shift while I’m paddling. Grey and white marble with green streaks corners smoothed round, egg shaped granite with sparkling mica, quartz with large sharp crystals. I send encouraging words to the girls floating by as I climb back in my boat to help to next girls stuck on the cool rocks!