Paddling --- 5/1/1998 - 5/4/1998 --- Delaware River

Canoeing the Delaware River from Hancock, NY to Port Jervis, NY.

My main activity in the past month was four wonderful days canoe camping on the Delaware River on the NY/PA state line. Friday night we drove to a camp ground at our put-in. We set up our tents, sat back, relaxed, then went to sleep. A few minutes later it started raining. It rained all night long and stopped just as we woke in the morning. My new tent didn't come with waterproof seams, but it did come with a bottle of seam sealer (basically polyurethane glue). Pretty typical. So as soon as I bought it I set the tent up in my living room and sealed the seams. Then I kept meaning to set it up outside and use a sprinkler or Ithaca weather to test the sealing job. Never got around to doing that. So the first test was a full night of rain at the start of our trip. The tent stayed bone dry! I was sooo happy (as was my tentmate).

Saturday morning we shuttled cars to the takeout about 50 miles downstream. Then eight of us in four canoes set off. It was overcast all day, but we had a great time paddling down river, looking at birds, and stealing each other's paddles (or at least getting a paddling break by surreptitiously grabbing another canoe's gunnels). These are open canoes and not designed for whitewater, so the section of river we picked was all flatwater or class I. Well... almost all. There are a few short, easy class II sections. We hit the first of those Saturday afternoon. I was paddling with Will because no one else would go with him through the rapids. Will is a known kayak maniac (luckily he is a really good kayaker too). Everyone else took the easy route through the rapids on the far right. We looked and decided to take the best (wildest) route. We picked a really good line, but missed it and ended up grounded in a shallow area we were trying to avoid. We pushed out of that and agreed on a new route. I guess communication wasn't our strong suit because we had different routes in mind. Now both of the routes were fantastic, but right in between sucked. Will was in back which puts him in charge, so when he screamed "NO, GO RIGHT!" I didn't hesitate and started paddling towards his route. We almost made it. We actually did a really good job getting down the rapid, but an open canoe tends to fill with water. Not much you can do about that. So we were upright, but the canoe was filled about 2" from the gunnels with water. With great foresight, Will had clipped a pot to the thwart right in front of him. There are some great pictures of us bailing. We paddled to shore and drained the rest of the water, then finished the day uneventfully.

That night it rained again.

Sunday morning was overcast and drizzly. Even so, we were all in great spirits. It was a fairly short trip to our next camp ground, so we took our time eating breakfast. Around 10am the sun came out. It was marvelous! Every soggy and damp item dried in about 10 minutes. Which is good because it started raining again after that. Still, nothing lifts your spirits like watching steam rise out of your sleeping bag. There were eight of us and eight group meals, so most folks picked one meal to prepare. Joanna and I split a breakfast and dinner on Sunday, so I made breakfast for four (fruit cobbler) and dinner for four (couscous with olives, capers, and sun dried tomatoes with no bake brownies for dessert). That way everyone could have half a serving of two meals for dinner and breakfast (more like a full serving of two meals -- there was no shortage of food). The great thing about everyone doing one or two meals and a competitive group, you know you will be eating quite well the entire long weekend. Sunday's paddling was pretty uneventful. It didn't rain much, but it was overcast. No sunburn. We passed an interesting boat bridge. There is a place where a canal system crosses the Delaware. The coal barges crossing the river had many problems dealing with the timber rafts floating down stream. So they built a boat bridge. This was before the turn of the century. Pretty cool. It was abandoned long ago, and was recently restored, though it now carries cars since the canal too is gone.

Sunday night Carl and Marci departed for home (they just didn't know what they were missing on Monday). The six of us remaining played a very aerobic game of six-way spit by headlamp light. We were on a tilted picnic table under a fairly waterproof tarp. It doesn't get any better than this.

That night it rained again.

Monday morning we set out on the final leg of our journey. Another short day as far as paddling goes. Josh and I were paddling together. In a brilliantly executed plan we managed to steal Will's bail bucket and paddle. We were off as if shot from a cannon. Will grabbed one of the spare paddles and he and Joanna set off on pursuit. (We probably wouldn't have gone too far if they didn't have another paddle, that wouldn't have been nice). They didn't catch us, but the river Gods sure did. Suffice it to say that Josh and I ended up swimming. In what turned out to be the largest rapids of the entire trip, our boat took on some water, became heavier, which in turn caused it to take on more water, which made it heavier... When the canoe was full I hopped out and swam after the stuff that was floating away (not my stuff, it was tied down, but I did save lunch). Josh hauled our soggy canoe to shore. So this was awfully humiliating for several reasons: 1) I had just been saying that morning how awful it was for any kayaker to ever swim; 2) We had been so smug about stealing Will's gear; 3) The one common denominator in both of the trip's mishaps -- Jeff. As you can probably imagine, I took quite a ribbing. And it probably was my fault. At the time I didn't have much of a bow draw/pry stroke. Never used one when kayaking. After that I worked on mastering the stroke, and it would have been enough to keep us out of harm's way. The other thing we could have done was take the easier route to the right, but Josh and I were too busy gloating over our recent theft and discussing the best way to make a pirate flag for the canoe. The river gods love irony.

Luckily it was the easiest rapid I have ever swam, so no hint of any danger. And I was reasonably prepared for the cold water. Once to shore I put on an extra layer of polypro and we were again off. After that, it rained continually for the rest of the day (so everyone ended up as wet as me). I have to admit that I was ready to see my car that evening. The thought of spending the night in my soaking wet sleeping bag was not appealing (I had planned to bring my dry bag on the trip, but decided to leave it at home instead).

At the takeout we returned the one rental canoe, then tied two canoes on to the top of my Dodge. Inside we had six people and a few hundred pounds of soaking wet gear. What a truck. Fifty miles up-river at the put in we moved one canoe and three people to Joanna's car, so the drive back to Ithaca was a bit more tolerable. That night I did three loads of laundry, rinsed all of my gear, and set it out to dry (don't want to let that river water fester). Then caught a few hours of shuteye and caught the first flight of the morning to Chicago. All that remained were the memories and a guest bedroom covered with drying gear. Did I mention that it doesn't get any better than this?

Marci smiling for the camera. (Category:  Paddling)

Marci smiling for the camera.    Delaware River -- 5/1/98 - 5/4/98

Canoeing the Delaware with Josh, Marci, Will, Rajesh, Joanna, Carl and Mike. (Category:  Paddling)

Canoeing the Delaware with Josh, Marci, Will, Rajesh, Joanna, Carl and Mike.    Delaware River from Hancock, NY to Port Jervis, NY -- 5/1/98 - 5/4/98

Me and Will bailing our canoe. (Category:  Paddling)

Me and Will bailing our canoe.    Delaware River from Hancock, NY to Port Jervis, NY -- 5/1/98 - 5/4/98

Me and Josh bailing our canoe. (Category:  Paddling)

Me and Josh bailing our canoe.    Delaware River from Hancock, NY to Port Jervis, NY -- 5/1/98 - 5/4/98

Will looking very smug. (Category:  Paddling)

Will looking very smug.    Delaware River from Hancock, NY to Port Jervis, NY -- 5/1/98 - 5/4/98

Loading canoes at the end of the trip. (Category:  Paddling)

Loading canoes at the end of the trip.    Delaware River from Hancock, NY to Port Jervis, NY -- 5/1/98 - 5/4/98