Entries in kayaking (11)



I’d like to think that people who eat Stone Blue chips (as I do) don’t throw the packaging overboard or out the window of a speeding car. But it seems they do. I picked up the wet and silt covered bag along with an empty Gatorade bottle, a plastic coffee container and other stuff that littered the Tivoli landing. The debris washed up on shore shook me and made it near impossible to get my boat into the water. I spent twenty minutes picking up trash before I could slide my kayak into the water on my first paddle of 2017.

In spring, snow melts and the roadsides are revealed for what they are: dumping grounds for people’s stuff. Some is overt, like the trash bag tossed that then bursts or is torn apart by a hungry raccoon. But most are items casually flung from a car window. I like to undertake a thought experiment: I picture myself sailing down the road in my Subaru and I toss a Ginger Ale can from the window. I can’t do it, even in my imagination.


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Kayaking the Arctic

On my last day in Longyearbyen, in the Arctic, I wanted to kayak. In a kayak you sit close to the water, and I hoped to feel more inside of this landscape that we had been floating through on a sailboat for the past two weeks.  But also, at home in the Hudson Valley I kayak every day, so to be in a little boat on the water for me is to feel home.

In 1896 Nansen with his traveling companion Johansen end their three year expedition in the Arctic crossing open water in kayaks made of skins stretched over a wooden frame. The kayaks were boxy and stable and could carry a large load. At one point, walrus surround their boats, and a walrus “shot up beside [Nansen], threw itself onto the edge of the kayak, took hold farther over the deck with one fore-flipper and, as it tried to upset [him], aimed a blow at the kayak with its tusks.” At another point, a walrus punches a hole through his boat.


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Baby Beaver

Horned GrebeI am an optimist. But on Tuesday morning as I launched my kayak onto the Hudson River at 7:30 in the morning I was not filled with my usual sense that just around the corner was the next glorious sight. I wouldn't say I was feeling pessimistic, but rather more grumpy. And I was grumpy because the height of migration has passed--it comes and goes so quickly it is excruciating. I decided that nothing special could come my way ("all the best birds are gone" I said to a friend, sounding like a twelve year old having a tantrum). Armed with this bad attitude, I stroked south under a bluing sky toward Magdalen Island and the entrance to the North Tivoli Bay.


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Back on the water, 2014

I woke to fog. To a duck perched in a tree. It was beautiful and felt out of place., the tree high on a ridge in my front yard. Still, this seemed a good omen: wonders for the day.

Four of us carted our kayaks down the wooden stairs at the North Tivoli Bay launch at noon. Sun, blue sky, a light breeze had taken over. We eased our wetsuit-cloaked bodies into our sleek boats and pushed off. It seemed so normal. And yet but two months ago we were walking this same spot on ice, hefting through snow that reached to our thighs. Now it was all liquid and freedom. To paddle out, under the railroad trestle onto the Hudson River, cold and brown, wide and empty. We skirted the eastern shore, trailing the rip rap, and the still bare trees; the wake of a tug and barge knocked us around a bit. Then we popped back into the bay through a southern passage.

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River Time

Kate and Hudson River Dog NeenaWe left from the Troy Dam later than planned. High tide was at 9, and by 11 we had already missed two precious hours of the ebb current. On the Hudson, the tides become a tyrant, not letting you stop or rest or eat. You go with those six hours, rest later. Or that's what you do if you want to travel. By noon, when we made our first gravelly stop, the roar of Albany traffic in the background, I knew we were not making miles. This was a trip about river time.

We included Merle, who at age 72 teaches Outward Bound courses, has a shock of curly gray-white hair and a calm steady demeanor; Kate on her pedal boat, after shoulder surgery, long legs shoving south; and me, on a short fall break from teaching, desperate not to think about faculty meetings. The most important team member, however, was Neena, a pint sized dog, which Kate had just rescued. This was Neena’s river baptism. To keep her happy--and who doesn't want to keep a dog happy--we stopped every hour to stretch and pee and marvel over how slowly we were moving.

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