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What's the Point?

Okay, so we know how I’ll benefit from this endeavor. I’ll gain experience in the great outdoors that will help me write a better book set in the Adirondacks. But you, my dear reader, may well be asking, “What’s in all this for me?” Hopefully you’ll gain a little knowledge, have a few laughs, and vicariously enjoy a sense of adventure. Think of it as a modern-day Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, where you get to sit comfortably at your computer screen – much like Marlin Perkins watching from a safe distance behind some bushes. I, on the other hand, will go out into the wild, ala Jim Fowler, and do all the heavy lifting in an effort to entertain you.

            Well, on second thought…

Entries in whitewater rafting (1)


Hudson River Whitewater: A Potential Raft of Trouble

Free. It’s hard to beat a price like that. At least that’s what I told myself at the Adirondack Adventure Festival when I signed up for a free raft ride on the Hudson River, courtesy of Beaver Brook Outfitters. The lawyer in me paused a wee bit when they handed me a lengthy release form. But then I thought – these days you practically have to sign a waiver to do everything from opening the mail (paper cuts) to playing miniature golf (faulty windmill blades). So, I figured what the heck and signed my name on the dotted line. The friendly people at the registration table told me to come back at 2:00, and in the meantime suggested I check out the white water derby. That was a mistake.

You see, the Adirondack Adventure Festival is the same weekend as the Hudson River Whitewater Derby (yes, that Hudson River). Taking place in the towns of North River, North Creek and Riparius (that sounds like a Latin word – it probably translates to the expletive you utter when you get a good look at the whitewater) New York, it features slalom and downriver races. And the water was pretty white, thanks to this year’s generous snowmelt along with heavy rains during the month of April. In fact, this area of the river was flooded only two weeks earlier.

I joined the many spectators to watch people in kayaks and canoes attempt to navigate through the gates in the slalom race. I tried not to think about the fact that I’d signed up for a (free) raft ride in the same river or the fact that the water temperature was probably only 40° F. But the churning water was mesmerizing, so I did what I always do when I want to take my mind off something – I ate lunch.

Afterwards I considered backing out of the raft trip – it wasn’t like I’d be out any money. There are some nice stores along Main Street in North Creek, and since many of them were having sidewalk sales, shopping technically qualified as an outdoor activity.

But at 2:00 I ended up at the Beaver Brook Outfitters van being fitted with a life jacket and helmet. The guides checked our helmets and tightened the straps on the life vests so many times that I can only conclude that the key to whitewater survival is not being able to breathe while looking like a dork. Then we all piled in the van and drove to the launch site.

I tried to remain calm while they explained the safety instructions. Maybe it was the lack of oxygen, but I could swear they said “when you fall in” not “if you fall in.” Anyways, if you do fall in, you’re supposed to flail about helplessly while screaming your head off. No wait, that’s what I planned to do if I hit the water. You’re supposed to flip onto your back and go downstream feet first until they throw you a rope and pull you in (screaming your head off is optional).

Then we were introduced to our river guides. I was put into the raft led by Nate (river name “Newt”) and Shane (river name “Insane-o” – so you can see how my confidence was building at this point), both students in SUNY Adirondack’s Adventure Sports program. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one of these rafts, but I’d always assumed the inflated bars going across the boat were comfy benches. Not so. We were instructed to wedge our feet under the bars and sit on the edge of the raft (which seemed to increase the likelihood that I would fall out).

My raft, along with a second raft, finally set off downriver accompanied by a kayaker named Tim (I figure his river name is “draws the short straw” because his job was pretty cold and wet). The trip was uneventful – the two young girls in the front of the raft got splashed a couple of times – and we saw some beautiful scenery along the way. At one point I did notice that my feet were numb, but that was because I had them wedged so hard under the benches that I'd cut off my circulation.

Eventually we reached the North Creek train station and Nate and Shane brought the raft up along the shore. Now I was faced with my most difficult challenge: exiting the raft gracefully. Once on land the blood flow returned to my toes. And with the life vest off, I was literally able to breathe easier. I’d definitely do it again.