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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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!

Rowing On My Birthday

6-3-2018

I don’t get to row the river very often. As a matter of fact, the last time I rowed was in Desolation Canyon on the Green River in Utah several years ago. Usually when I guide overnight trips, I am guiding a paddle raft full of guests while someone else rows the gear boat. This trip was mine to row! My friend wanted to guide the paddle raft and I was more that willing to row the gear boat. My muscles remember the technique and my left wrist (although it did get fatigued rather quickly) did just fine with the mechanics of rowing. By the end of this summer my arms, back and shoulders will be all muscular and tones, but right now it’s still a work in progress. So today is my birthday; I turned 48, and I got to row the Hudson River for my birthday! I may be almost 50 years old, but I am one strong, capable, bad-ass woman having fun with my life! It’s going to be a fantastic summer!

Overnight In The Gorge

6-2-2018

One of my best friends and I are guiding an overnight trip through the Hudson River Gorge! I haven’t seen her since that relaxing rafting trip we had down the “lower gorge” earlier this spring. We floated down in my own raft and ended up pulling off the river early because I was not feeling well, which meant we had to hitch-hike back to our shuttle vehicle parked at the originally intended take out. Every day is an adventure…

I have been looking forward to guiding this overnight trip since last years trip! They are a group of amazing women who have a lot of fun rafting and camping. We set up camp at the top of the first big swimming hole just below a small rapid. This spot is known as Upper Dunk (so as not to be confused with Lower Dunk further downstream). Apparently there is a pond somewhere up the ridge called Dunk Pond that is accessible (via bush-whack hike) from both campsites. I have never been there, but it could happen someday. We watched the water drop; it’s always fascinating to see how much water the dam releases as the “bubble” flows by and the river returns to its natural level. The sun was bright and warm, the water refreshing as we all frolicked and swam, laid out on the rocks like lounge lizards, laughed and ate. That evening we sat around the campfire on the beach watching as night fell, turning the sky purple to black, and watching the stars slowly appear in the narrow band of open sky we can see nestled down in the bottom of the gorge. This is what life is all about! Enjoying the company of good people and experiencing the wilderness in all her moody tranquility. Later, I climb into my hammock, through the bug net to keep out mosquitoes, and listen to the river flowing over rocks, a musical lullaby eternally singing my soul to sleep.

Rafting Lower Gorge

5-8-2018

A friend and I  blew up my little raft Indigo Star and took her down the Lower Gorge. We wanted a quiet float trip and she had never seen this section before. I almost canoed it, but wimped out at the last minute. Glad I picked the raft though because by the end of the day I wasn’t feeling well and we took off the River in a different access point than the one we had planned. But the float trip itself was beautiful! Long shallow ripply rapids we not a lot of maneuvering to do, bright blue sky, cool wind but all sun shine. It was a wonderful way to spend a day. Usually the river isn’t high enough to run this section so we made the best of it. After loading the inflated raft on top of my car (the raft is wider and longer than the car, so that was a sight to see and a feat of engineering to secure it), we put on the Hudson in North River above Perry Ellers Rapid, then floated down to Riparius. We had run the shuttle for The Glen, but rafts go slow when you are just floating and enjoying the day. We saw some hawks, and other birds, and in an especially calm deep eddy, a giant snapping turtle as well as a beaver. All in all, it was a relaxing and peaceful day. A beautiful day to be alive and rafting on a pleasure float.

Small Rafts In A Steep Gorge

8-15-2017

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.