Thunder on the River is always scary and exciting. Lightening is nothing to mess around with. I have been hit once (indirectly of course, very few people survive direct hits) and have been close enough to four other strikes that I could hear, feel, and smell the electricity in the air a split second before the strike happened. This may sound like too much lightening for one life time, but for the amount of time that I spend outside during thunderstorm season, five close calls in thirty years isn’t really that crazy. So there we were rafting down through the Hudson River Gorge, when a thunderstorm blew through. This happens several times every summer. Most of the time all that happens is we hear the thunder rumble through the mountains but never actually see the lightening because the storm cloud is behind a ridge. This storm started just like that. Distant grumbling from hidden clouds, with stray rain drops in the breeze. This storm grumbled out of sight all the way through the gorge, then seemed to move on as we paddled out of the steep part and into the three mile float out section. It was overcast and cool so we kept paddling to stay warm. We were about a mile from the take out when the grumbling started again, louder and more persistent. Our paddling efforts doubled in a race for the take out. Then the lightening became visible, general flashing lights high up in the dark clouds with responding loud thunder . We all just wanted to get off the river quickly. All the rafts from all the companies were bunched up along the river bank together fiercely trying to get to the take out. Nothing like a little adrenaline to motivate strong paddling. No one wanted to pull over to wait it out for concern of losing the dam release water and for hypothermia setting in among chilled wet guests who are already cold. So as pink lightening forked across the dark brooding cloudy sky behind us and angry thunder chased us downstream, we paddled for all we had! I kept my guests attention focused forward toward our destination so they never saw the scary lightening dance performance behind us, but I saw every streaking bolt, felt the energizing rush of adrenaline, and shouted encouragement over every cracking peal of thunder. My internal consolation (however untrue it may be) is that when you are at the bottom of a gorge, you are Not the highest object around. The lightening tends to hit the ridges and the tallest trees. As we all pulled into the take out at mostly the same time the sky opened up and dumped all its rain out in a blinding torrent completely soaking everybody in a matter of seconds and turning the path to the river into a rushing muddy creek. Streaking lightening and deafening thunder were happening simultaneously as all the guests ran en mass through the trees for the shelter of the waiting buses, and dripping guides started carrying and loading rafts onto flatbed trailers. Fifteen minutes later as the steamy buses pulled out onto the road to carry everybody back to their raft bases, the rain stopped as abruptly as it started, the sun shone brightly like a clear summer day, and the thunder and lightening were nothing but a memory. Five miles down the road at our raft base, the sun was shining merrily, nothing was wet, and they hadn’t even heard the thunder! The energy from the storm has ebbed, but I am still humming inside.