Today was another day of rest spent out of the kayak. Notice I said - out of the kayak - not off the water. I did manage to end up joining Ken from Bay Creek Kayak on a stand up paddleboard for a quick run up the river behind the store. Besides playing around on the boards I took advantage of a bit of civilization to tune up the Ikkuma. I’d managed to tweak the skeg wire a bit but a few minutes of fussing (and some super glue to stiffen it) got it straightened out and almost as good as new. Hanging around at the kayak store made me home sick for Aqua Adventures. Like I said in an earlier post, it’s a great shop staffed by real kayakers who care. On this night they were running the weekly time trial race on the river behind the store. Finish times are carefully kept by Ken, with the most competition coming from the paddlers against their old best times. The “race” is followed by grilled hot dogs and beer served by the Bay Creek staff.
The rest of my day was spent still trying to hunt down maps for the western half of Lake Erie. Even the local West Marine didn’t have quite what I was looking for. I do have most of the eastern end of the lake covered so my plan now is to check stores further west with hopes that as I get closer to the lake stores might have charts for it. Surprisingly a Michigan state atlas was not hard to find and I spent a couple hours in the morning tearing out the pages I need (which is a lot with Michigan’s long coast line), now I just have to get there.
Sorry I got a couple days behind in the blog, I'm doing this double post to get caught up. As always it’s when I get around people that I get too busy to blog, and that’s a good thing. At the moment I’m staying at the home of Duffy whom I met, along with his friend and business partner Cathy, at the rough water symposium in Rhode Island earlier this month. After learning about this trip, Cathy and Duffy immediately invited me to stay at either of their homes for a little R&R when I made it to Rochester. Over the last couple weeks as I made my way across the canal we coordinated a way for Duffy and Cathy to join me on the water the last day into town. It turns out another local paddler, Marc (who I also met in Rhode Island) was also interested in paddling with me. So a few phone calls were made and the plan was hatched for the three of them to set up a car shuttle and meet me on the water in the late morning and paddle with me into the Rochester area.
Start: 11:00 AM - Palmyra, NY (Lock 29)
Finish: 5:00 PM - Pittsford, NY
Daily dist: 18 miles
Total dist: 4000+
Companions: Duffy, Cathy, and Marc
Weather: Mostly cloudy, high mid 70‘s, off and on rain showers
Notes: A later than normal start after the others dropped kids off at camp and set up car shuttle.
With kids to drop off at summer camps and a car shuttle to set up, we got a somewhat later than normal start. The extra time in the morning was fine with me as it gave me a chance to start to dry my gear from the soaking it got in the heavy rains that had passed through in the early morning hours. Once the gear was somewhat dry I packed the boat and secured it to a tree then walked a mile through Palmyra (the town where I was camped) to find a local restaurant and a heaping plate of breakfast. On the walk back to the park where I’d left my boat I took advantage of the old tow path trail that borders the old canal that runs through town which is now a bike/walking trail that runs, in sections, all the way across the state. The walk took a little longer than it normally would as I dove off the trail every few hundred feet to feast on plump black raspberries growing along the trail.
About a half hour after getting back to the park a conversation I was having with a local berry/fruit farmer was interrupted by the arrival of a truck carrying three serious looking kayaks and equally serious looking kayakers. After unloading the three relatively new, mostly unscratched, kayaks next to my Ikkuma it made it look a little warn after so many miles. A bit warn, but full of the signatures and stickers showing where I’ve been over the last 4000 miles and… still ready for more.
The four of us enjoyed a pleasant run toward Rochester into a tolerable headwind through intermittent rain showers mixed with sunshine. The sun shone bright through broken clouds as we took a nice lunch break in Fairport (how could you have anything but a nice break in Fairport). After lunch we paddled the last six miles or so to a somewhat interesting take out at the docks in Pittsford. It had rained the last hour we were on the water but as we reached the take out the skies cleared and it turned into an absolutely beautiful day.
Things ran a little late with the boat, car, and people shuffling involved with getting ourselves and the second half of the car shuttle sorted out. Ultimately I ended up at Duffy’s house to get cleaned up. A bit later Duffy, Cathy and I found a pub still serving food and enjoyed a great dinner a the end of an equally great day of paddling.
Today was my first full day off the water since I left Manhattan 15 days ago. I did manage to sleep in a bit (until 5:00 AM). However, the sound of waves lapping against the shore of Lake Ontario roused my curiosity to see what the winds we were having would make the lake look like. After deciding to stay on the Erie Canal and bypass Lake Ontario altogether on this trip, it is nice to still get my first glimpse of the lake and a tiny piece of what I’m missing. My mind right now is preoccupied with figuring out the run down the length of the south (and windy) shore of lake Erie and, as always, it’s the unknowns that cause me the most concern. One can assume what miles and miles of open water and wind will do, but it’s another thing to actually get a look at it. Figuring a windy day Lake Ontario is a pretty good indicator at what Lake Erie might bring me, I was anxious to have a look at it. The lake was beautiful and the 10+ mph wind was blowing up waves that would be completely tolerable in a sea kayak. If the westerly winds prevail (as I know they will) it will be a slower go than I’m used to but if this morning was any indication, I know it will be doable.
After spending the better balance of the day chasing all over town hunting down maps for the rest of the trip I ended up at the Bay Creek Kayak store where I met most of the crew. Bay Creek Kayak is the shop that helped Otto out with a kayak and paddle so he could join me last week. The store reminded me a lot of Aqua Adventures out in San Diego where I worked the last three years, it’s right on the water, staffed by a bunch of real kayakers who have a passion for the sport, and seems to be the epicenter of the paddling community in the area. When I met Duffy, Cathy, and Marc in Rhode Island they all spoke very highly of the store.
After hearing about my trip from Larry and Otto the guys at the store asked if I’d be interested in doing a slide show for the locals. Always eager to share this adventure, I was happy to oblige, and the presentation was scheduled to be held at the restaurant next door to the shop at 8:00 this same night. With getting my gear sorted and dried and preparing for the slide show in mind, I cut my visit to the store a bit short and returned to Duffy’s house to get busy doing just that. The bright warm sunshine, wind, and warm asphalt in the driveway dried my tent and gear in minutes. It was the first time everything had been completely dry since I left Manhattan two weeks ago. After the gear was re-stowed in it’s respective duffle bags, I added a few pictures from the Erie Canal to the slide presentation and was ready for the show.
About 30 people attended the presentation which went well and the Ikkuma was brought inside the restaurant so everyone could have a chance to put their signature on it. One could say that the Ikkuma has not only been far and to a lot of places, it’s also been IN a lot of interesting places. So far the Ikkuma has been in a middle school, church, health club, warehouse, friends dining room, college lecture hall, and now a restaurant. Lord knows where it will end up next.
Start: 5:45 AM - Clyde, NY (Lock 26)
Finish: 2:00 PM - Palmyra, NY (Lock 29)
Daily dist: 27 miles
Total dist: 3700+
Weather: Mostly cloudy, high mid 70‘s, off and on rain showers
Notes: I saw more canoes than motor boats today.
With a group of ten canoes paddled by Boy Scouts, a pair of kayaks near a park, and two guys doing a multi day canoe trip, I saw more paddle powered boats than motor boats on the canal today. Besides that it was a fairly quiet day on the canal.
I’ll be meeting up with some friends late tomorrow morning so I positioned myself in camp this afternoon to be close to where they may put in tomorrow. I’m situated on the edge of a huge grassy lawn below Lock 29 that I thought was canal and lock property. I learned otherwise when the friendly owner of the property walked down just before dinner and did inform me that it is his land. He couldn’t care less that I’m camped here, he was just curious about what I am up to. It turns out that he’s currently living in Wyoming and is in town visiting his parents (who actually own the land). He was impressed by the trip and asked if I could send his young children a postcard from somewhere on the route. His daughter Lucinda signed the Ikkuma and I promised to send a post card from someplace interesting.
Start: 5:15 AM - Baldwinsville, NY (Lock 24)
Finish: 3:30 PM - Clyde, NY (Lock 26)
Daily dist: 37 miles
Total dist: 3700+
Weather: Mostly cloudy, high mid 70‘s, off and on rain showers
Notes: Today felt more like work after yesterday
Compared to yesterday, today was a bit of a routine day on the water. A highlight was seeing another section of aqueduct that used to carry the old Erie canal over the Seneca River that is now part of the canal. It still amazes me how such an engineering feat was pulled off in so short a time when the canal was first dug.
I could have stopped after 31 miles of paddling but I didn’t want to get stuck behind the next lock before the 7:00 opening time. So I pressed on, in a steady rain, another six miles so I could lock through and be above it and ready to go early in the morning.
The rain that had persisted through my last three hours on the water graciously let up long enough for me to put up my tent. After a hearty meal of ham and rice, I’m ready to fall asleep trying to read a book once again.
A tired but excited Jake called me (his brother Luke) to post a quick update. Things are going great as Jake put in a 48 mile day today. He set out to paddle Lake Oneida but finished at noon and decided to press on. When he called me he was sitting in the Baldwinsville Diner preparing to order yet another burger. Jake hopes to get a complete blog post covering his awesome day on the water tomorrow.
Start: 4:45 AM - New London, NY (Lock 22)
Finish: 5:45 PM - Baldwinsville, NY (Lock 24)
Daily dist: 48 miles
Total dist: 3700+
Weather: Mostly sunny, high of 80, west wind 5 mph
Notes: It was so nice I didn’t want to stop
Wow, what a day!
Every once in a while everything seems to fall in place resulting in such an enjoyable time on the water that I just don’t want to quit. Today was one of those days. After getting up very early (even by my standards) I was on the water and well across Oneida Lake before the winds had a chance to catch me. It was really more worry than was necessary as the winds never did build past 7 mph all day. With such light winds I made great time and made the west end of the 26 mile long lake by 11:00 AM. An hour later, even after stopping for a soda, I made it to Lock 23 which had been my destination for the day.
Because it was so early, and because I was still feeling strong and full of energy, I figured I’d press on to the next lock which happened to be 19 miles away. It was in lock 23 that I met a man named Lyn Morgan who was captaining a large pontoon boat. He noticed that I didn’t look like I was out for a day paddle and asked where I was going. It turns out that he’s on a big loop trip of his own. Putting on almost 100 miles a day, starting in early May he’s already come from the TennTom waterway, around the Gulf, up the Intracoastal, and so on to where he crossed paths with me in lock 23 today.
It wasn’t much further on that our paths diverged as he turned right and went north on the Oswego canal toward Lake Ontario and I made my previous decision a reality by turning left and continuing west on the Erie Canal. My original plan was to head up to the lake then west toward Niagara. However, the Erie canal was dug for many reasons that still hold true today. The canal will give me a couple hundred more miles of sheltered water before I have no choice but to deal with the wind on Lake Erie. In addition, and probably most importantly, the canal takes me up and around Niagara Falls, the several hundred foot road block that cut Great Lakes shipping traffic off from the Atlantic until the Erie (and later the Welland) canals were dug.
People had offered to help me get my boat and gear around the falls (I checked you can’t take a kayak through the Welland Canal) however, I decided that it would just be simpler, if not more pleasant, to stay on the canal. As it turns out the Erie Canal will be one of the few waterways I paddle in it’s entirety on this trip. So far I’ve paddled half the Mississippi, half the Gulf coast, and two thirds of the Atlantic coast. It will be nice to paddle ALL of the Erie Canal.
After I turned my back on the Oswego canal (and lake Ontario) option, I blazed out another 13 miles into Baldwinsville just to be sure there would be no changing my mind. Baldwinsville, I must say, was one of the most pleasant and boater friendly river/coast/canal town I’ve seen on this entire trip. The town was clean, people were friendly, and everything a boater could possibly need was within a short distance from the public docks. It only took me minutes to find a great place to get a burger and a few doors down from there I found the worlds largest “small” ice cream cone for only $2.00. What a great town!
With my boat tied up amongst the yachts on the public dock I checked in with the police to see if it’d be alright if I camped on the lawn right near there (kind of right in town). They didn’t mind and as it turned out, I wasn’t alone. A bicyclist named Rich already had his tent spread out on the lawn when I got back from dinner. Rich is in the midst of a ride from Chicago to Boston, like Lyn in the pontoon boat, he rides 80-100 miles a day. Unlike the pontoon, however, he’s not burning 50 gallons of gas to do it. With the sun already set and darkness closing in, Rich and I hastily set up or tents before the mosquitoes paid their nightly visit. Through the walls of our tents I bid Rich good night and good luck before I passed out after such a long day.
Start: 5:45 AM - Utica, NY (Lock 20)
Finish: 11:45 AM - New London, NY (Lock 22)
Daily dist: 19 miles
Total dist: 3700+
Weather: Mostly cloudy, high of 80, west wind 15-20 mph
Notes: Had to stop short of Oneida Lake (too windy for exposed lake)
As far as I’ve counted, only three boats have gone through Lock 22, and one of those boats was me. Lock 22 which is outside of New London, NY is the last lock a westbound boater encounters before entering Oneida Lake. About six miles wide and 26 miles long, Oneida Lake is situated with it’s long axis aligned east to west. This east/west orientation means that the prevailing west wind has 26 miles of open water over which to blow before hitting land on the eastern shore. Consequently, it doesn’t take too much wind to whip up sizeable waves on the eastern shore of the lake… and today was one of those days. That means that nobody but the most hearty or impatient boater is going anywhere much beyond this lock today.
The buzz amongst the boaters at the park where I camped last night was that today was going to be windy. Too windy for lake Oneida. I had been planning on finishing up today somewhere on the eastern shore of the lake to make the run to the western shore on Friday as short as possible. However, the winds that were predicted would have made landing on that shore anything but pleasurable, so it was time for plan B. The alternative plan was to simply camp at the last lock, Lock 22, (a few miles inland from the lake) and then get up extra early to get a jump on the crossing before the winds build tomorrow. Hence that is where I ended a relatively short 19 mile day today.
Knowing that the wind would be up, and that storms could be in the area, I got an early start this morning and made is almost all the way in before the winds did build. The lock master at Lock 21 suggested camping at the mouth of a tributary stream just below Lock 22. Never knowing what I’m in for, I was delighted to see a quiet grassy area tucked behind the ruins of an old dam. About three miles from the nearest paved road, there is nobody else around and for the first time since the last week of May I have a camp site all to myself.
Start: 6:30 AM - Little Falls, NY
Finish: 5:00 PM - Utica, NY (Lock 20)
Time: 10:30 (2:30 spent in town w/ Otto and Larry)
Daily dist: 24 miles
Total dist: 3700+
Weather: Mostly cloudy, high of 80, west wind 7-10 mph
Notes: Very nice camping at lock 20
As I was working my way north along the Atlantic Intracoastal from April through late May, one of the biggest challenges I faced at the end of many days was finding a suitable camp site at which to spend the night. With a fair dose of creativity I did manage to come up with fairly decent places to camp most nights. Sometimes, however, things didn't go so well and I got downright desperate to find a place to land for the night. Regardless of how desperate I may have been, a camp spot had to meet two simple criteria:
1) It had to be far enough above the water so that a large wake at high tide wouldn’t flood it out.
2) It had to be at least as big as my tent.
Those seem like simple enough stipulations but many times I had to stretch one or both of those rules in order to call a spot of land campable.
Ever since I began my run north on the Hudson River last week and now my travel west on the Erie canal, the bar by which I judge camp sites has been raised considerably. Now instead of viewing a 20’x30’ sand spit barely above high tide as home for the night, I have lock masters apologizing for not having hot water in the showers while I set my tent up on a lush grassy lawn. Last night promised rain so instead of paddling a few miles further Otto and I opted to camp under a picnic shelter. Tonight, rain is again predicted so I’m set up under a large park pavilion complete with a freshwater fountain a few yards away and an electrical outlet within reach of my computer’s cord. Those tiny sand spits seem like they’re a million miles away.
Before arriving at this great camp spot I had a great day of paddling that started with Otto just outside of Little Falls below Lock 18. It had rained all last night and the ground was soggy wet and squished water as we carried our dry gear from the gazebo under which we camped to our boats waiting at the boat ramp a few yards away. After launching (earlier than Otto would have preferred) we made our way west toward an eventual rendezvous with Otto’s day Larry Herrmann at the Ilion Marina eight miles away.
In lock 18 I found a bullfrog treading water in a notch in the lock wall. I scooped the tired critter up and placed him on the deck of my boat which is exactly where he stayed and watched me as I paddled. It was almost an hour later when the frog was either rested or figured he’d had enough of tolerating my boring stories and jumped back in the water. One can only imagine how much Otto may have wished he could do the same.
Like clockwork Larry was just arriving in town to pick Otto up as we pulled up at the boat ramp in Ilion NY. While Otto emptied his boat, I shuffled gear around in mine to make room for the goodies that had been sent with Larry and Otto from my friend Alicia in San Diego. Once I knew I could get everything in the boat without standing on the hatch covers, I joined Larry and Otto for a ride into town. There we found the post office where I mailed some gear back to Wisconsin and stopped a the Mohawk Diner in the adjacent town for lunch.
With a warm full belly and an overstuffed kayak, I said good by and headed west.
Start: 7:00 AM - Conojahari, NY
Finish: 7:00 PM - Little Falls, NY
Time: 8;00 (4 hours in little falls)
Daily dist: 21 miles
Total dist: 3700+
Weather: Mostly cloudy, high of 80, rain late in day
Notes: Little Falls is worth the stop
Hi everybody, this is Otto filling in for Jake. He’s too tired to write tonight… I think I wore him out.
I woke up this morning at 6 like any normal person might, but of course Jake had already been up for two hours. After about an hour of preparation we hit the water leaving our lovely campsite island at lock 14. We made good time through the first lock of day, lock 15, as we paddled on placid water. On our way to lock 16 we decided to take a break near what used to be an aqueduct and walked through the shallow water covering it’s ruins.
Lock 17 has been my favorite of the locks, and also the largest of the ones I’ve traveled through. The lock had a different gate than other locks on the canal, instead of opening up outwards, this one raised and lowered the gates. After a forty foot lift we left the lock and decided we wanted to visit the town next to it. The seawall made it difficult to land near the lock, so we paddled a little farther to the municipal marina. There the employee told us of a good spot to camp at so that we could beat out the rain that would come later on in the day.
Excited about having a dry place to sleep tonight we set out to the town of Little Falls (mainly because Jake was craving ice cream). A quick walk led us to Ol’ Sals, a place that had a little of everything, so Jake could have his ice cream. After eating our ice cream we went out toward the lock to see the whole thing close up. Next to the lock are the Gneiss cliffs, which provided some fun rock clambering for a little. We met the lock master on duty, and had an interesting discussion with him. He left us with advice to go to this good pizza place in town. We eventually found the pizza place, but it was closed. As we walked down main street, we asked two girls where else we could get pizza. They both recommended different places (Jake thought they were cute). We ate pizza at one of the girl’s recommended spots then headed back to the marina where we had tied our boats up and headed about a mile to a boat ramp that has a large gazebo, and set up camp. Jake started dozing off as the rain lulled him to sleep, so he suggested I write the blog tonight. I did and I hope this isn’t too bad. All in all this was a great day on the canal.
Start: 7:30 AM - Lock E12 - Fort Hunter, NY
Finish: 3:45 PM - Lock E 14 - Canajoharie, NY
Time: 8:15 hours
Daily dist: 18 miles
Total dist: 3600+ miles
Weather: Mostly sunny with a 10-15 mph head wind
Notes: Otto’s first time paddling a loaded boat.
If you didn’t see where I mentioned him in the last couple of weeks, you may like to know who the mysterious Otto is. Otto is a friend and employee at Aqua Adventures San Diego. I met Otto and his dad when they were taking a kayak lesson with me about two and a half years ago. He was then a fourteen year old kid which in the sea kayaking world is very rare, and I was delighted to see such a young person interested in the sport. In the two years since his introduction to the sport Otto has fostered his interest in Greenland rolling while picking up well over a dozen types of Greenland Kayak rolls. In addition he has already earned his BCU 3 Star kayak skills award, and, as far as I know (at the age of 16) Otto may be the youngest Level 1 BCU Kayak Coach in the United States.
Despite all of the time Otto has put in on kayaks over his short, but busy, two year run with the sport, he hasn’t had a chance to go kayak camping. So, why not test the waters in another facet of the sport by spending a few days with a 5000 mile multi month expedition. Being his first day kayak camping, today brought a lot of first for Otto. First time packing a boat, first time paddling a loaded boat, and the first time paddling over 15 miles in a day. All of these firsts, of course, came along with the experience of paddling in a state he’s never been to before on a body of water that has such unique things as locks to ride through. It was quite a day to say the least. I never expected less and am happy to say that after his first day Otto did quite well. It was nice to have familiar company on the water and in camp.
Our route today first took us immediately past the ruins of an aqueduct that used to carry the old Erie canal across Schoharie River. Only a few of the many stone arches that once spanned the river still remain but it is still a sight to see and makes one marvel at the skill, ingenuity, and craftsmanship of the builders of the time. After the aqueduct the canal took us west toward Lock No. 13 where we were lifted about 11 feet to the pooled up Mohawk river above.
It was another ten miles upstream and upwind to the next lock where we planned to spend the night. After about an hour and a half of slogging into the wind we pulled over in a quiet cove to take a lunch break. Otto’s dad Larry had sent along a frozen package of sausage that are a specialty from Rochester, NY. They had already thawed and were not going to stay cold much longer so we figured we’d eat them for lunch. So we gathered up some dry wood and made a quick fire on the stone beach to cook up the sausage. It was only the second fire I’ve made on this entire trip and well worth the effort once we were enjoying the special taste treat.
Just after we got back on the river after lunch, we came upon a gentleman rowing a dory toward the east. As he passed I asked where he was going and he replied Manhattan. Another long distance traveler can’t go un-greeted so I paddled over and said hello. It turns out that this young man is from Ireland and is indeed on his way from Buffalo, NY across the Erie canal, down the Hudson, all the way to New York City. He had a rough go of it last week with heavy storms that destroyed his tent, but a stop at Walmart with a twenty dollar replacement got him back underway. He seemed to be in good spirits with the now glorious weather we’ve been having and was interested in learning more about the Mississippi River once he heard that I’d paddled it last winter. Apparently he’s already planning his next adventure before he’s finished with this one.
Otto and I ended our day at lock 14 where we were welcomed by the lockmaster, Chris. He actually had recommended that we continue on to Lock 15, not because he didn’t want us at his lock but because, as he apologized for, the water heater was broken and all we could get was a cold shower. In no real need for a shower, Otto decided that he’d rather stay here for the night than press on so we pulled out on the little mowed grass island that is wedged between the lock on one side and the dammed up Mohawk River on the other. Chris told us to make ourselves at home so we took advantage of a couple empty electrical sockets in the lock office to charge up some electronics. We then toured the facility a bit getting a closer look at the machinery that operates the doors and valves of the lock. It is really an ingenious system using gravity and control gates rather than pumps to flood and drain the lock chamber.
After checking out the facility, I subjected Otto to my cooking which tonight was Cajun red beans and rice with canned ham followed by pudding and cookies for dessert. As we washed up our dishes in the waning daylight of what was the longest day of the year fireflies began to emerge in the thousands. While I watched their twinkling green lights dancing in the trees on this warm summer evening, I couldn’t help but think back just six months ago when I was camped out alone on a cold sandbar in the Mississippi River on the first days of winter and the shortest days of the year.
Look below for Day 196 post
Start: 6:30 AM - Outside of Schenectady, NY
Finish: 11:00 AM - Fort Hamilton, NY (Lock No. 12)
Time: 4:30 Hours
Daily dist: 15 miles
Total dist: 3600+ miles
Companions: Solo on the water but met up with Otto and Larry Herrmann later on
Weather: Hot mostly sunny and windy
Notes: I needed to get my gear sorted and dried before meeting up with Larry and Otto so I made it a shorter than normal day.
A rain shower woke me at about 4:00 AM this morning and I happily rolled over in bed and fell back asleep to the sound of rain drops strumming the roof of my tent. Happily by 6:00 when I emerged from the safety of the tent the skies had broken and rays of sunshine through the broken clouds hinted at the nice day that was in store for me.
Bill was to be picked up by his wife sometime in the late morning so he slept in while I packed the Ikkuma and finalized my plans for the day. The first lock was only two miles upstream (and wouldn’t open until 7:00 AM) so I took my time saying farewell to Bill before hitting the water.
The morning remained flat calm until I reached the second lock of the day. There when the gates swung open a the top of the lift I was met with a bit of a headwind. Working against the headwind (which was actually more refreshing than frustrating in the 80 degree heat) I made my way through two more locks to Lock No. 12 where I planned to set up camp and wait for my friends from San Diego, Larry and Otto, to arrive via. Rental car from Rochester.
Just like clockwork, the guys arrived just two hours after I got off the water and we quickly stowed my gear and piled into the car for a re-supply run into town. Afterward we returned to camp and while Otto set up his new tent for only the second time ever, I sorted the newly acquired food into it’s respective dry bags. Larry hung out as long as he dare before getting back on the road for the three hour drive back to Rochester where he’ll be visiting his family while Otto and I paddle west over the next two and a half days.
Start: 9:00 AM - Entrance to Erie Canal - Troy, NY
Finish: 10:00 PM - Outside of Schenectady, NY
Time: 13:00 Hours
Daily dist: 23 miles
Total dist: 3600+ miles
Companions: Pam joined Bill and I through the flight of 5 locks in the morning
Weather: Hot mostly sunny and windy
Notes: It took an unusually long time to go thorough the first five locks because they were short staffed today.
In only about two miles of horizontal distance, the “Flight of Five” locks at the east end of the Erie canal lifts boaters, I’m told, higher than any other series of locks in the world. To experience this unique feature of the canal, and to share a bit of my journey, Pam joined Bill and I at the put in this morning. By 9:00 we were all launched and ready to go, however, before we entered the canal Pam and Bill suggested that we take a quick side trip to check out a local waterfall. A few minutes of paddling up a branch of the Mohawk river brought us to a very beautiful channel wide water fall. After grabbing a couple quick pictures we headed back out to the canal and resumed our journey west.
Because of a short staffing issue, the locks took much longer to negotiate than normal and we ended up not clearing the top lock until 1:00 PM. Bill and I knew we’d never do the twenty odd miles we’d planned until after dark but we wanted to put in the miles so we settled in and made it happen. It wasn’t just a mindless grind though, the area is stunningly beautiful and our route was marked by two more locks. To mark our last day on the water together, Bill and I decided to treat ourselves to dinner at the “Jumping Jacks” burger stand which is located right off the canal. The place was crowded with tourists and locals alike all enjoying one of the first truly nice weekend days in a while.
With bellies full of excellent burger stand food, Bill and I pressed on to and through Lock No. 8 before pulling over at a local community park to camp for the night.
Start: 5:30 AM - Hudson River Island State Park - Near Colombiaville, NY
Finish: 3:00 PM - Entrance to the Erie Canal - Troy, NY
Time: 9:30 Hours
Daily dist: 30 miles
Total dist: 3600+ miles
Companions: Bill Quick, Alan, and John
Weather: Very calm, hot, and sunny
Notes: Locked through at the Troy Lock leaving “sea level” for the first time since locking into the Industrial Canal in New Orleans last January.
With 30 miles to cover during the day, much of it upstream against the last of any tidal current I will see on this trip, Bill and I got an early start on the water. We were rewarded for the early start by a couple hours of the end of the incoming tide and absolutely mirror smooth water shrouded in morning mist.
After about four hours and fifteen miles into the day we met up with Alan Mapes and John Ozard, two Albany area paddlers that had put in from above and paddled down to meet us. Alan I had met at a BCU Level 2 coach training in may of 2009 and John I’d already met at the Sweetwater Kayak symposium this last February. After a few quick hellos and handshakes, the four of us worked our way north through the downtown area of Troy, NY and on up to the Troy Lock.
After pulling into the lock, the huge doors of the lock swung shut behind us and, ever so gently, the four of us were raised about fifteen feet in the flooding lock chamber. At 2:00 PM when the lock gates opened on the north end of the lock it marked the first time I was above “sea level” and free of the push and pull of the tides since I locked down into the Industrial Canal outside of New Orleans early last January. Even though I’ve been paddling on fresh water for the last two days, it was a strange feeling to cut the last tie to the ocean after so many miles.
A couple miles above the lock we came to the boat ramp where John and Alan had left a car earlier in the day. The plan was for me to stay the night at Alan’s house and to do a slide show at the nearby nature center. Bill had planned on camping at a nearby spot but we twisted his arm and convinced him to come back with us. Waiting for us at the boat ramp were two TV camera guys from the local news stations. Alan had put out an e-mail telling them about my adventure and expected arrival in the Albany area. While the guys started loading their boats on John’s car, I paddled a couple loops on the water and answered a few questions in front of the cameras.
That boat ramp happens to be right at the beginning of the Erie canal itself as indicated by a giant blue sign on shore. It is at that point, tomorrow that I will return to the water and start paddling west for the first time in the trip. As I looked at the huge lock gate towering over the water a few hundred yards upstream on the canal, the thought also hit me that, except for a small exception on the canal itself, it’s all up hill from here.
Start: 6:00 AM - Esopus Meadows, NY
Finish: 5:15 PM - Hudson River Island State Park, Near Colombiaville, NY
Daily dist: 31 miles
Total dist: 3600+ miles
Companions: Bill for the first three hours then solo until he caught up at camp
Weather: Windy - NW 15-20+ temps in the low 70’s mostly cloudy
Notes: Parted ways with Bill on the water so we could paddle at our own pace.
The first and brightest highlight of the day came very early on when Bill grabbed a roll of toilet paper and a short shovel then headed down the trail on a long walk. Moments later he returned with a big smile on his face with the exciting news that he’d discovered a composting toilet (complete with toilet paper and hand sanitizer). I guess us kayak campers are easy to please
While walking over to check out Bills discovery, I came upon wild black raspberries along the trail. There are few foods that say summer in the north woods more than wild raspberries picked right off the plant and I was happy to add them to my breakfast.
The other highpoints of the day included more stunning scenery and, yet again, a fantastic camp spot. The great scenery is stretched out all along the Hudson River Valley. The great camp spot is on the Hudson River Islands State Park. The islands the state park encompasses are actually huge spoil islands left over from when the river was deepened to allow larger ships to travel the river. Fully grown up with large trees that provide plenty of shade yet with nicely sloped sand beaches, the camp sites are a kayak camper’s dream come true.
Bill and I started the day paddling together but after the first three hours it was plain to see that our individual speeds were not running together well. So it was decided that I’d paddle ahead at my own pace and meet Bill in camp at the end of the day. Even with an hour and a few miles between us we both managed to find the concession stand at a small park in Catskill and each enjoyed a quick snack before passing by. My faster pace did bring me into camp about two and a half hours before Bill and I was sitting on a stump eating dinner as he paddled up. Still, with his dinner already taken care of, Bill set up his camp quickly and even made it to bed before me. You can tell he’s done this before.
Start: 7:15 AM - Newburgh, NY
Finish: 3:45 PM - Esopus Meadows, NY
Daily dist: 23 miles
Total dist: 3600+ miles
Companions: Bill Quick
Weather: Overcast with one spell of rain for about a half hour temps in the low 70s
Notes: Into fresh water for the rest of the trip.
Knowing that the tide would be working against us for the first six hours of the day, we figured sacrificing one mile per hour of progress was preferable to sitting around in camp until noon waiting for the tide to change. Thus we set out at just after seven this morning and made but steady progress past small river towns with a sprinkling of industry as headed upstream on the outgoing tide.
With the first day of summer rapidly approaching, and established camp sites as our daily destination, making slow progress (at least slower than I’m used to) is not worrisome at all. It’s that lack of worries, combined with stunningly beautiful scenery and great weather, that has made the last three days of paddling on the Hudson some of the best I’ve had so far. Even though yesterday’s camp site was amazing and tonight’s site pretty darn nice too, Bill promises that I may find tomorrow night’s camp to be even better. I can’t wait to see it.
LIFE IS GOOD ON THE HUDSON RIVER
Start: 11:00 AM - Tellers Point - Crotonville, NY
Finish: 4:30 PM - Newburgh, NY
Daily dist: 23 miles
Total dist: 3600+ miles
Companions: Bill Quick joined me at about mid day.
Weather: Clear with a nice NW breeze about 80 degrees
Notes: Hung out with the set crew waiting for the tide to change.
Yesterday was a lesson that the tidal currents on the Hudson (at least on the lower half) can make or break your daily progress. Today, by making sure I caught the flooding current, further reinforced that truth. In a little over eight hours of heads-up paddling yesterday I went only 27 miles. In only five and a half hours of easy paddling today I went 23 miles (only 4 miles less). You gotta love a nice ride.
Originating around Pete Seeger, one may imagine the interesting cast of characters that might volunteer two weeks of their time to help set up a benefit concert for an organization he started. With so many interesting people to hang out with in the concert site crew camp, it was easy to kill time this morning while I waited for the tide to switch. After eating breakfast I wandered back over to the mess hall where people were slowly rallying around the coffee pot. Coming from all over the area, many of the crew have volunteered their time every year for the last 20 to 30 years. With so many stories to be told about the old days the site crew has taken on a culture all its own. They were very interesting and fun folks that I could have easily spent more time with. However, by 11:00 the tide had switched and the river was calling.
With the humid haze gone (which muddied my view yesterday) I finally had a clear view of the rolling green mountain valley through which the Hudson River flows. The distant tree covered summits hint at what lies beyond the occasional turns of the river as it continues north. One can’t help but feel a sense of curiosity and desire to paddle on just to find out what is up there, and every time you round a bend you’re rewarded with vistas that urge you to paddle further still.
Many people have compared my trip to hiking the Appalachian trail. Today my path and the trail actually crossed when I passed under the Bear Mountain Bridge. Which I understand is close to the lowest elevation the trail crosses on it’s run from the mountains of Georgia all the way to Maine.
Just a few miles past that bridge lies West Point (the famous Navy academy). I paused for a couple pictures there and noted in my mind that this was where a large chain was once strung across the river to prevent invading ships to continue down the river. With a tight turn to make, a chain to prevent your progress, and cannons above you on the hillside, it would have been a deadly place for any enemy boat. As I rounded the bend just past the academy I noticed a man in a kayaker hanging out amongst the rocks along eastern shore. He had a serious look about him, like a man on a mission, so I paddled toward him to say hello. As I approached to within ear shot I heard the man’s voice ask “Are you Jake?”… I had been found again.
The man in the blue kayak turned out to be Bill Quick. Bill had e-mailed me a couple weeks ago about the prospect of meeting up for a day or two on the river, but in the rush of all the fun I was having in New York I failed to get back to him. Banking on the fact that I have always had a rater open invite to able kayakers to join me for a day or so, Bill figured he’d load his boat with a few days worth of supplies and see if he couldn’t find me, and sure enough, he did. It turns out that Bill has paddled the length of the Hudson River over a half dozen times carefully chronicling his travels every time. I’m not sure I’d be able to find a more knowledgeable person when it comes to where to camp and what to see as a kayaker along the river. He has enough time and supplies to escort me all the way to Albany and even a day or so up the Erie and I think it’s going to be fun to have him along for the ride.
Start: 12:00 PM - Pier 40 - New York, NY
Finish: 8:15 PM - Tellers Point - Crotonville, NY
Daily dist: 27 miles
Total dist: 3600+ miles
Weather: Mostly cloudy with widely scattered showers, 80 degrees
Notes: My first day back on the water after my NYC break.
People have warned me that on the Hudson River it’s very important to pay attention to the tide currents that flow up and down the river. Paddling with the current can add a mile to your pace while paddling against the current can slow you just as much. Tide charts exist that predict with amazing accuracy the time direction and flow rate of the currents on the river. Today a smart person would have jumped on the river in the early morning to ride the tide north to my camp site by early afternoon before the tide switched. Of course a smart person is powerless against the heavy traffic that crushes the city every morning as people come in to work. It was that traffic that kept Steve Kristin and I at home until 9:00 AM while we waited for rush hour to end before driving in. So, after waiting for traffic to clear and the two hour drive in, Steve dropped me off at the dock at Pier 40.
With 27 miles to go out of the city to the first camp site, and only an hour and a half of incoming tide to still run with, I quickly loaded my boat and was on the water by noon. With Steve waving goodbye from the pier I swung the loaded Ikkuma into the river and headed north.
At first I made great time as I paddled up the length of Manhattan island. Two hours into the days paddle I reached the George Washington Bridge and the river changed character. Right there (and right on schedule) the tide switched and I found myself paddling upstream against the now southbound current. The scenery changed too, just past the bridge the western shore changed from buildings right to the waters edge to towering bare stone bluffs dripping with lush green foliage. To say it was beautiful would be an understatement.
Paddling right next to shore I was able to avoid the maximum flow of the building current but it did slow my progress. The distance I had to go would normally take me seven hours which would have gotten me to camp by 7:00. By the midpoint of the day I was already a half hour behind my pace and I already knew I’d be coming in to camp right at sunset. Because I knew I was headed toward an established camp site that is part of the Hudson River Water Trail, I wasn’t worried about coming in to camp late. The reality was however, that I had no idea exactly what the camp looked like.
Right at sunset I arrived at the end Tellers Point to find a young couple sitting on the large boulders that line the steep trail that leads from the rocky beach to the grassy camp site above. Not sure of exactly what the camping situation was I asked the couple if they knew. They weren’t sure either but did know that there was a deck and set of stairs just a little further on that may make the climb off of the beach easier.
After landing between the boulders at the waters edge I climbed the stairs and was shocked to discover a full county park camp complete with cabins, mess hall, and shower houses all open for business. Spread out on the lawn was also a small village of tents. I walked up to the first person I saw and asked who I should talk to about camping. He didn’t exactly know, but the gentleman filled me in on what was going on. The camp was set up to house a site crew for an upcoming event to be held at the county park. Every year these volunteers spend two weeks setting up the Clearwater Festival. The event brings in dozens of bands that entertain 20,000-40,000 people on seven stages.
When I learned that the person behind the event was Pete Seiger I figured I was in good hands and could set my tent up and blend right in. By then the young couple had wandered back from the end of the point and invited me to visit the folks that had assembled in the dining hall to hang out for the night. After quickly setting up my tent in the remaining glow of dusk I cooked dinner and wandered over then, before I knew it, I was wrapped up in a rousing game of Boggle. As people came and went from the hall they asked who the new face was. I was quickly introduced as the kayak guy and as I elaborated on what exactly I was up to they were very interested to hear more. Before the end of the night I ended up doing an impromptu slide show on my computer for a few of the most interested of the group.
In yet another “small world” moment the ring leader of the Boggle game mentioned that ten years ago she had met a young man that was going a trip just like mine and he had stayed with her for a night or so. She scrolled through her memory and recalled that his name was Nathan. I just about fell over. Before starting this trip I researched everything I could find about people who had done similar routes. One book that was mentioned to be by a friend was titled “On The Water” which I‘ve mentioned on my web site. The book was written by a young man that rowed a rowing shell then dory around a very similar route as mine, his name, Nat (Nathan) Stone. It was the very same man that the woman had taken in during his trip.
Somebody might say it should be illegal to have as much fun as I've had the last few days. It all started with a trip back into Manhattan on my birthday last Wednesday and flowed right on through the weekend while I was with loads of friends at the Northeast Rough Water Kayak Symposium in Rhode Island. As you may know I've been so busy having fun that I haven't had time to post. Right now I'm on a ferry heading back to Long Island and finally have a chance to get caught up. I've posted here for day 189 and 190 and also finally got a chance to put up the post I had written up for my birthday on Day 186 so you can scroll down the blog list and check that one out too.
Yesterday (day 189) I joined a group that was headed out to train on a local tide race. [For the uninitiated, a tide race is a place where tidal water flow is constricted by either a narrow or shallow spot to form a series of standing waves that result from the flowing water bouncing off the bottom. One could think of it much like the rapids in a white water river.] By the time we loaded our boats and trailered over to the put in we still had a few hours before the peak flow that would give us the best play waves. We used the build up time to warm up on the little eddies and such that we could find in the slower moving water. Right on schedule the tide flowing out of all of Long Island Sound through a relatively narrow and shallow gap on the east end kicked up three to four foot standing waves and it was playtime.
Plenty tired after a few hours of hard but fun paddling our group re-loaded the trailer and returned to the symposium headquarters. With everyone else distracted by another great dinner I grabbed a plate of food and my computer and found a quiet corner where I could work on a quick “opening act” slide show for the nights entertainment. This presentation would be different than others I’ve done because I was joined by Glenn Charles who happens to be the gentleman I’ve been chasing up the coast for the last two months. When I was still back in South Florida I had heard about a guy that was paddling up the coast in front of me. Right before I flew out to San Diego for my March break I got an introductory e-mail from this mysterious man that was then in Tybee Island Georgia. After taking a quick look at his website (http://oneoceanproject.com) I learned that he had paddled much of the coast of Alaska last summer and was in route (on the outer coast) from Key West Florida all the way up the eastern coast of the US and on up to the St. Lawrence with plans to finish up in Quebec.
With me taking so much time off I thought there was no chance to ever cross paths with Glenn. However, by the time I reached my friend Lamar’s place in North Carolina, I learned that he had passed through there only a couple weeks earlier. Apparently the weather and conditions I was able to avoid by primarily traveling the intercostal had slowed his progress up the outside. With a carrot to chase only a couple weeks ahead of me, the race was on. Well… sort of anyway, I just thought it’d be neat to cross paths with Glenn if the chance should come. Over the following month, my somewhat faster pace closed the gap between us to about seven days. Yet I was just not destined to see him because at that point Glenn had reached New York and had just turned east to continue further up the coast. Our paths were due to diverge when I began to follow a different course north up the Hudson River then west further across New York State on the Erie Canal. That was before we both learned about the Northeast Rough Water Symposium which we were both lucky enough to attend. In the end I needed a ride on a ferry and a friends truck but I finally did catch up with Glenn. When I met him last Thursday we were instant friends and talked for hours comparing our experiences on our travels up the coast.
With both of us at the event Tom Burg (one of the organizers) asked if we could put together a quick slide show to talk about our trips. Of course to make things interesting he waited until the night before to ask. Hence after a full day of paddling we found ourselves organizing our pictures over heaping plates of food with show time only a few minutes away. In the end we were able to put together a great presentation that everyone seemed to enjoy highlighting the different experiences Glen had on the open coast verses what I experienced on the intracostal.
Today (Day 190) was a short day of paddling for me as I had a ride to catch back to the ferry that would take me back to Long Island. Before the busy day started I had a chance to say good by to Jen before she set of on her full day class. This was the fourth time since I left San Diego last November that I‘ve had to part ways with Jen since I left San Diego last November. Having these opportunities to see her has been fantastic but each time I have to say farewell to her, or any of my friends, it hurts… thankfully just a little less each time.
On the water today, I joined Sherry Perry and Turner Wilson on their Greenland Rolling class. It was another opportunity to learn (both skills and teaching styles) from a pair of excellent coaches. Thankfully it was just a half day because helping out with rolling instruction involves wading next to the student so you can support them while they work on the technique. After two and a half hours in waste deep water I was plenty cold and ready to get back to the truck and into warm clothes.
After riding back to the symposium headquarters with the rest of the half day folks, I quickly gathered up by gear and clothes and caught up with a gentleman named Jeff who was gracious enough to drop me off at the ferry on his way home further south. As I write this I’m sitting at a table on the ferry which is chock full of weekend travelers returning home from a soggy stay on the Connecticut shore. Steve and Kristen are due to pick me up at the ferry terminal on the Long Island side and to take me home for my last night with them. Tomorrow I will bid farewell to another pair of great friends as I launch back into the water at Pier 40 in Manhattan and start my way north up the Hudson River and on toward home.
Sorry for the sparse posts lately. Once again when I find myslef around dozens of friends, I also find I have little time to post. I had posted the first half of this post yesterday but a glitch in the date settings buried it down the line abit. Read on to find out what in the world I'm doing in Rhode Island.
The other day I found out that Jen was going to be instructing at the New England Rough Water Symposium just across the sound from where I was staying on Long Island. Long story short; a few e-mails, phone calls, a ferry ride, and a truck got me to the symposium and Jen.
Things are going to be very busy for the next few days but I’ll try to update as much as I can. When I get time I’ll be sure to get you up to date on what I did for my birthday too.
My goal here at the symposium (other than to see a bunch of old friends) is to get some time on the water working with advanced instructors in hopes of learning how and what they teach in order to improve my own coaching. Today I had a great opportunity to work with Nigel Dennis on a "Core Paddling/Paddle Selection/Forward Stroke" class. Amazing hardly describes the improvements I saw in the students just by getting them set up with the right paddle.
After a great day on the water we had an equally great meal at the commisary of the YMCA camp we've taken over for the weekend. Then after a few announcements and presentations we headed "out on the town" to see how much trouble seven Brits and a few Yanks could get into.
This is the announcement that many have been waiting for. The answer to the question that I have always planned on making when I reached New York…
“Is he going east (on a little 600 mile side trip) to the tip of Maine or north and west toward home?”
THE ANSWER IS HOME!
After weeks of serious thinking, I have decided that I'm going to save the northern segment of the Atlantic coast for another day. The plan was always to do a check on my health, gear, time, and finances to see if the 600 mile long side trip was doable. One thing I didn’t consider was the psychological side of the equation which, I’ve learned, trumps almost all else. So now that I’ve made it to New York; in fantastic health, with gear in good order, and with enough money; I’m finding that six months and 3600 miles on the trail have left me a little home-sick. Even though it means finishing up the trip earlier than I had planned, I know that if I was to turn and paddle 600 miles AWAY from home my heart wouldn’t be in it. Rather than enjoying the Northeast Atlantic coast the way it should be enjoyed, I would end up grinding out long miles just to get it done. Thus getting me back on the main route home toward my family and old stomping grounds that I‘ve been away from for so long.
I’ve said it before that this entire trip has become a scouting mission for the rest of my life. I’m now looking forward to a long life spent re-visiting and further exploring all of the places I’ve only passed by. Of course with nothing to do but think all day (all the while holding a kayak paddle) my mind has wandered toward other trips and places I’d like to see by kayak some day. The Missouri River the Ohio River and Lake Superior to name but a few. I had worried that by passing up a chance to complete the rest of the East Coast, I may run the risk of never getting back here with time and resources to finish it. However, I know that this trip is not the end of my paddling adventures… it’s just the beginning… and I will be back.
I’m now going to be concentrating on the core of what the Portage to Portage Paddling Project is all about… getting back to Portage. Now, however, I will have plenty of time to cover the 1450 miles that separate me from Portage, and the 500 miles more that will close up the gap (from Boscabel, WI to St. Louis) that arctic storms forced into the trip last winter. Instead of being a race against impending autumn storms on the Great Lakes, I will now be able to take my time and thoroughly enjoy the first summer I’ve spent in northern latitudes in years. Already the lush green trees and rolling hills in New York are reminding me of Wisconsin, it’s going to be a great summer spent paddling through a region that feels like home.
Not only will it not be a race, although my mom would disagree, I’m actually at risk of finishing up the trip too early. If I was to keep on cruising along at my normal pace I could wash up on the riverbank in St. Louis by mid August, long before the mid September I had originally planned. For that reason I believe you may be seeing the pace of this trip change a bit over the next couple months while I deliberately slow down and enjoy every day for all it’s worth.
Thank you to everyone that had offered assistance to me if I did choose to paddle up the New England coast, I really appreciate the generosity. Hopefully, when I do return to finish the East Coast we may have a chance to cross paths and meet in person. I guess I’ll see you then.
Right now one side adventure that is going to keep me for a few days is a trip across Long Island Sound (via ferry boat) to attend the Rough Water Symposium in Rhode Island this coming weekend. Attending the event will allow me to see a bunch of my friends from the kayaking world and hopefully get some time spent playing on the dynamic waters of the area. Best of all I’ll get a chance to visit Jen Kleck who will be coaching at the event and who I think about every day.
Another plan that’s in the works is a rendezvous with Otto Herrmann (the 16 year old kayak phenom. from San Diego that works at Aqua Adventures). Otto is coming out with his dad Larry to visit family in Rochester NY and more importantly to join me on the Erie canal to share in the adventure for a few days while he gets his first kayak camping experience.
Feel free to leave Jake a birthday message as he celebrates today!
First of all I must say thank you to everyone that sent me happy birthday wishes on my 35th birthday. It was heart warming to get so many well wishes and notes of encouragement while I'm on this trip so far from home.
Today Kristen needed to run into the city today for a screening of a new film. As long as she was going to be driving all the way to the train station, I tagged along and rode into the city with her so I could celebrate my 35th birthday in New York. The two days I spent in town last week barely scratched the surface of all there is to see in the city so I figured one more day would be fun. It turns out that Jen’s cousin Patrick is in town until at least July while he performs on the piano (and even says a few lines) in a play called “Nun Sense”. He had just found out I was in the area and gave me a call last night to see if he could catch up with me while I was in town. After a bit of phone tag we got ourselves sorted out and plans were made to meet up at the Cherry Lane Theatre where the show is to be held.
It turns out that the theatre is in the heart of Greenwich Village and is a bit hard to find so after navigating the subway system to get close, Patrick met me at the subway entrance and escorted me the last couple of blocks. Last week I had only skirted the edges of “The Village” and only knew so by the highlighted area on my map so delving further into the area was interesting. Although I’ve heard mention of the area in countless movies and TV shows I never really knew what made the area so noteworthy. All I can say is that after walking with Patrick along three blocks of beautiful tree lined streets… I now know. A curious mind can’t help but wonder where the sex shops purchase the ridiculously well endowed female mannequins that grace their storefronts now wearing a little less than perhaps even a mannequin should.
After getting a quick look at the theatre which was in a bit of a state of disarray as set carpenters put together the backdrop for the play (as Patrick described as the “underbelly” of the theatre world) we headed back uptown to get a look at Grand Central Station. Grand Central was busy, go figure, with people as the rush hour neared. In a day of transit type buildings being allowed little architectural creativity, it is a wonder that such a beautiful and interesting building could be built to house what amounts to an overgrown train station. Yet, in a sense, it is THE train station of all train stations so the grandeur definitely fits.
Steering an umbrella through the rainy and crowded Manhattan streets Patrick and I continued on from Grand Central station in search of a place to find lunch. Along the way we passed the Ed Sullivan Theatre where David Letterman now does his show. Then on up to Columbus Circle at the southern tip of Central Park. As far as food went, I would have been happy with another street vendor hot dog, but seems how it was my birthday, Patrick set about finding me a decent diner at which to dine. After what was a great lunch I was already running late for my train ride back to Long Island (lord knows where the time goes when you’re in the city) so Patrick guided me through the subway once again all the way back to Penn Station. There Kristen met us at the entrance to our train gate and we paused to take a couple of quick snap shots before hurrying onto our standing room only train which was full of people returning home after a day of work.
There hasn’t been too much to report from the last three days and that in itself is a wonderful thing. Throughout this trip I’ve managed to fill my “rest” days with enough activity to make my time on the water look restful. That finally was NOT the case earlier this week.
On Sunday (day 183) I had made plans to ride into the city with Steve to meet up with a kayak club from Maryland to do a paddle to and around the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Of course I had already been there but I was looking forward to sharing the experience with the group. However, by Saturday night (after the club picnic) the weather predictions for Sunday were looking iffy. That, combined with the fact that the three hour outing would involve four hours of driving, was enough to steer us away from the trip. As it turned out by Sunday morning the trip organizers had called off the outing due to the weather.
Most of the rest of the day was spent at the kitchen table (which seems to have become “Jake’s spot”) pouring over maps and guide books planning the next couple weeks on the water. Kristen loaned me an ice pack which I put on my right foot which was still sore from all the walking I’d done in Manhattan wearing nothing but Crocs sandals. Not quite the entire day was spent with my feet up. I did take a break from resting (doesn’t that sound nice) long enough to help Steve install the kayak rack that we fabricated the other day.
Monday (day 184) was spent once again taking it easy around Kristen and Steve’s house. Taking advantage of warm sunshine and a dry breeze, I washed all the salt residue off of my dry bags and stretched everything out on the patio to dry. If left salty things seem to attract moisture out of the air and stay damp indefinitely. Seems how I’ve only got four or five days of salty water travel left on this trip, I think this will be the last time I have to worry about salt on my gear. With everything rinsed and drying, I went to work on my computer revamping my slide presentation that I’ve been developing throughout the trip. It had grown from a few slides in the beginning to well over 200 and I was running the risk of boring people with too many pictures and not enough time to ask questions.
The entire day wasn’t spent at home, I did go for a ride with Kristen and friend Paul in search for a farm stand to pick up some vegetables for dinner. We got a late start and ended up at a small grocery but the outing did give me a chance to see a sampling of some of Long Islands farm country. For such a populated region it’s good to see that so much open space still remains devoted to agriculture and woodland. To me the value of land not occupied by buildings and blacktop can’t be overstated.
Tuesday (day 185) was show day which brought the very reason I ended up staying with Steve and Kristen in the first place. Almost two months ago was when Steve first contacted me via e-mail about the prospect of doing a presentation for his kayak club, The Long Island Paddlers. Of course I was interested and after bouncing e-mails back and forth the plan was made for me to do the show in “exchange” for a place to stay while I rest up and have a chance to see the city. During my stay I feel like I’ve gotten to know Steve and Kristen quite well and have marveled at all they do for their kayak club. Once again I feel like I’ve made another friend for life that I can’t wait to come back to visit some day. Of course, after emptying their refrigerator and pantry to feed me over the last week, Steve and Kristen may not feel the same way.
After a day spent putting the finishing touches on the new slide show (which included a sneak preview projected on the wall in the basement) we drove to the local community college and set up the Ikkuma and all my gear in one of their lecture halls. By shortly after 7:00 the auditorium was alive with the chatter and commotion of dozens of people who’d come to see the presentation and I was already fielding dozens of questions from people curious about details about the trip. Soon, after introductions were made, we dimmed the lights and I tried once again to condense what will be a lifetime of stories into an hour and a half presentation.
After the slides were shown and my stories told, we opened it up to questions from the audience. Once again the number one question was “Why are you doing this trip?” and I, once again, stumbled around the answer unsure of what it really is. Weather it’s a compulsion I can’t resist, the satisfaction of a lifetime of curiosity of where rivers go, a unique moment in my life where everything came into line, or a scouting mission for the rest of my life… I’m hoping that some day even I will fully understand what has compelled me to do this trip. One thing that did happen last night (when I looked at the large room full of people so interested and fired up about the trip) was I realized that, to a large extent, it’s them (and you) that are inspiring me to continue on and continue sharing in this adventure… and I thank you for that.
The big event in store for today was the Long Island Paddlers kayak club spring picnic. After two long days of touring the city I was happy to have such a simple and fun way to fill the day. After sleeping in a bit (lord knows I needed the rest) we stopped at the grocery store deli to pick up no less than 19 feet of sandwich along with salads and trimmings for the picnic. Without quite enough room in the car to haul everything we ended up putting the sandwiches in the cockpits of our kayaks in order to get it all to the picnic.
When we arrived people were just returning from the scheduled morning paddle. While the food was laid out and we waited for everyone to get off the water we enjoyed a game of Bocce Ball. This was the first time I ever played by the actual rules and I’m proud to say that Steve and I won our team match.
Once everyone was back from the paddle the call was put out that it was time to eat. But before we dug into our heaping plates of food Steve thanked all of the volunteers that helped all the organizing and work involved and then thanked me for being there (although it’s me that should be thanking him) and gave me a Long Island Paddlers hat and shirt which I was wishing I had.
Throughout the day It felt like I shook hands and said hello to all 80 people at the picnic. It was great to meet so many people so fired up about paddling and their club. After lunch I joined a pod of about 10 kayaks to do a pleasant hour and a half loop around the harbor. Steve wanted to try out my Ikkuma, so I pulled out the foam on my front bulkhead to make room for his longer legs and jumped into his boat so I’d have something to paddle. This was the first time in 3600 miles that I actually saw someone else paddle my boat. It was certainly strange seeing it from a view other than in the cockpit. I really do like how all the signatures and stickers look on it, I just need to go get more. With any luck as many folks will show up at the presentation I’m doing next Tuesday and can sign the boat then.
I must admit, after six months spent seated in a kayak, my legs and feet are not as tough as they normally are. Consequently all the walking I did yesterday wore me out. Thankfully, after getting my fill of the downtown scene yesterday, my plan for today was to sample the quieter “Uptown” part of the city checking out Central Park and some of the museums as I went.
After leaving Kirsten’s Bronx apartment I walked up a couple flights of steel stairs to the elevated subway tracks that run through her old neighborhood. A quick lesson from a subway ticket agent introduced me to how to ride the rails. The most important thing I learned was that, essentially as long as you remain underground (inside the rail system) you can change trains and go several different directions with the same $2.25 ticket. In addition I also learned that most often the shortest and most direct route to a destination (which may involve exiting the system and coming back in a block away) my not be the least expensive. Instead it may be more cost effective to ride a couple miles (somewhat) past your destination then transfer to a different line (for free) and backtrack to where you wanted to be. That was exactly the type of train hopping route the ticket agent explained to me that took me underground in the endless miles of brown brick apartment buildings in the Bronx only to emerge, a half hour and two trains later, in the lush green park that surrounds the Cloisters which was my first stop for the day.
The Cloisters are part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and house an incredible collection of art dating back over 800 years. The building itself is patterned after a monastery and actually uses many actual architectural components (such as doorways and columns) salvaged from ruined churches and monasteries in Europe. Situated in a lush garden of trees and flowers atop a steep hill overlooking the Hudson River it is a site worth visiting if you have any interest at all in art, architecture, gardens, or just plain peaceful places.
After my visit to the Cloisters, I returned to the subway to catch a ride south to 96th street so I could have a nice walk in Central Park as I made my way toward the Museum of Natural History. It was when my train blazed right past my stop that I learned another valuable lesson about New York subway travel… Be careful to not accidentally get on an express train when you don’t want one. After watching my stop pass by the subway windows in a blur, I frantically studied my maps and schedule to figure out what train I was on. It was then that I noticed the LED light display that said in plain letters “Express Train to Downtown”… apparently I was in it for the long ride. Just as I relaxed and figured “what the heck I’m in it all for the adventure.” the train stopped at about 59th street and I hopped out so I could grab a north bound train back up toward where I wanted to be. However, I’d made another small mistake and realized that although I was on a north bound train, this one was headed to Harlem. At the very next stop which happened to be 72nd street I jumped off that train deciding I’d had enough fun with trains for the moment. This time I stepped from the steel and concrete bowels of the subway into the towering high priced apartments and tree lined streets of the Upper West Side. Happy to be on foot I made a loop through Central Park on my way north toward the museum.
The park is an incredible gem, essentially an island of green in a sea of roads and buildings. While it’s not exactly wilderness it is wooded enough to almost forget that you’re in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world. Complete with, miles of walking trails, small lakes, open grassy lawns, athletic fields, playgrounds, horse riding stables, a zoo, and more you could spend a month wandering the park and never see it all. My sampling walk was enough for now as I was excited to get to the Museum of Natural History to check out some of the displays. While the huge dinosaur fossil skeletons were amazing I really got a kick out of the full sized blue whale they have hanging from the ceiling of the ocean life wing of the museum.
Originally the plan was for me to meet up with Steve and Kristen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art however, when Steve called to check in when they got to town I was still at the Natural History Museum so they were able to simply jump on a different train and catch up with me over there. After my third hot dog of the day Steve and Kristen met me on the steps of the museum and we made our way on foot across Central Park to the Art Museum. The beauty and impact of the displays at the Cloisters was only a teaser of what was in store at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With not a lot of time, Steve showed me to his favorite places in the museum which included the Hall of Armor (which houses dozens of knights armor amazing in every detail) then the Egyptian tomb (an actual tomb dismantled an relocated inside the museum) and finally the museum cafeteria which has excellent a-la-cart food prepared by chefs right there on site. With so much to see it would be easy to spend almost a week exploring each wing of the huge museum. We had other places to go, however, so it will have to wait for another day. Before we did leave we made our way to the rooftop “Big Bamboo” display which is a new (temporary) feature on the museum’s roof which consists of a huge scaffold-like network of bamboo with a winding ramped walkway going up inside it. It was quit a sight to see.
From the art museum we hopped in a cab and got a ride downtown to Times Square. Where we stopped to take in the mass of people and lights before we found our real destination for the evening, the Peter Jay Sharp Theater located just a block or so “off Broadway”. There we had tickets to see “This Wide Night” starring Edie Falco and Alison Pill. Seated only a couple rows back in the small theatre we could almost see the color of the actresses eyes. It was a great show, (if perhaps a little heavy for my entertainment tastes) and a great experience.
After the show we grabbed a slice of pizza (only $2.75 for two slices and a Coke) then dove into a K-mart where we rode an escalator down two floors to emerge… in the subway. I’m telling you it’s almost like magic the way the subway system works around here. We enjoyed a cookie at Starbucks (in the subway terminal) while we waited for the 10:00 train that would take us back under the East river and on to Steve and Kristen’s place on Long Island.