Float Out


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.


Ahead Of The Release


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!

All Girl Guides!


So we had a huge group (so big we shared it with another company) go rafting on the Sacandaga today who needed all female guides. Although rafting is still primarily dominated by male guides, females have made a gigantic leap into the profession in the last 20 years. On any river you want to raft (in this country) most outfitters will have several women guiding for them. All I can say is it is freaking awesome to be a female raft guide! So the big joke leading into this trip was between us and the other company we had every female raft guide in a hundred mile radius booked to work today. All in all, the trip went super smooth too. We all had fun on the River, and nobody missed that take out (easier to do than you think). After we had cleaned up at the end of the day, all us girls were hanging out on the back porch with some beers, talking and laughing. Some of these women I hadn’t seen in forever, and others I had just met today; it was exhilarating, revitalizing, and invigorating to be in the midst of so many strong, independent, vibrant, dynamic women. So with the vivacious zest for life that most raft guides possess, we headed out for triple scoop ice-cream cones and watched a ponderous thunderstorm blow into town. What an amazing day!

Squirrel Visit


Back up North to guide the Hudson Gorge again! Rafting with boy scouts is always fun. Near the end of the run there is a hydraulic everybody surfs; kind of like the last hurrah before the end of the trip. We were floating in the eddy near shore waiting our turn to paddle up into the rapid to surf when the kids in the boat behind us started yelling- loud noisy indistinct syllables. It got my attention so I looked around to see what they were yelling about. Suddenly one of the boys in the front of my boat started wailing and flailing his arms as all the kids in the boat next to us started screaming! All eyes in my boat focused on our shouting passenger and we all realized there was a sopping wet red squirrel running in a panicked frenzy around the boy’s head and shoulders. It jumped on to another boy who started screaming and flailing. I started shouting vaguely worried the squirrel would try to bite somebody. In a matter of seconds, the terrified squirrel had sprinted up and down each passenger in my boat, frantically leaping from one to another as the screaming continued. It then leapt from the troop lead onto my knee, ran up my body, over my head and took one last desperate flying leap through the air, landing in the water. It frantically swam to shore and disappeared into the undergrowth. The boats in the front of the eddy obviously could hear and see the commotion but could not figure out the cause. Necks were craning, but only our boats and the two boats next to us actually saw the squirrel Once the squirrel made its exit we were all laughing too hard to explain to the curious crowd. What a random crazy event that was!

Rowing On My Birthday


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


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.

Pileated Woodpeckers


Fun trip down the River today, good group of people in my boat. Active paddlers with entertaining stories. We were near the end of the trip, floating along close to shore, relaxing, hanging out, when a loud rapid hollow knocking rang out from the trees, echoing across the river corridor. The pounding starts out fast and furious, then after a few moments, the intensity peters out. Half a minute later the knocking rings out again. My guests turn to me with a question on their lips, my eyes lights up as I smile with delight. I think its a pileated woodpecker! As the raft slid closer on the currents, the hidden bird took flight out over the open water right in front of us. We were entranced watching its characteristic wing beat pattern (flap, flap, flap, fold, dip, flap, flap, fold dip), large black and white body flashing in the sunlight, dazzling bright red head a beacon as it traveled to the tree line on the other side of the river. As it disappeared into the newly green branches, its playful laughing call trumpeted out like a monkey in the jungle. Everybody in the boat cheered with the sheer joy of experiencing a simple wonder of the natural world.