Kayaking on the Hudson

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A great trip that only sort of happened

One of my favorite day paddles on the Hudson River is to launch in Peekskill and head north up across under the Bear Mountain Bridge and up Popolopen creek.  There is a waterfall on the creek that makes the perfect lunch spot.  To get there, you have to paddle up the narrowest section of the Hudson where the river essentially makes an “S” turn and has steep rock walls on either side.    Because of the “S” turn, you have limited visibility of oncoming boats.  Because of the topography, you often get big waves refracting off the rocks, especially in the afternoon when the wind kicks up.  Because of the potential for rough conditions, this is considered an intermediate to advanced trip despite the short distance. 
Before we left Peekskill Bay the conditions on the Hudson were not too bad
On this summer day, my wife, Andrea, and I set out early in the morning so we could get back across the river before the afternoon winds kicked up.  We headed out of Peekskill and as soon as we cleared the bay and entered the Hudson, we knew we were in for a rough ride.  The wind wasn’t too bad, but the narrow section of the river had 3 to 4 foot swells.  We were both paddling 16 foot sea kayaks and we had all of the necessary gear, clothing and skills to handle the situation.  We paddled up to the bridge and waited for a clearing in the boat traffic.  It was before the price of gas went over $2 per gallon which meant lots of powerboats.  It was an unusually busy boat day, even for the Hudson, so we waited, and waited, and waited….
As we waited we bobbed up and down on the increasing swells.  After about 40 minutes, Andrea voiced her concerns and I was thinking the exact same thing.  Even if we got across, would we be able to get back?  We turned around and paddled back.
So why was this a great trip?  Because we made it back safe and sound.  Our experience and judgment served us well.  When you paddle, the weather is really in charge.  Even if you are prepared for rough conditions, sometimes it is best to just turn around, go home and live to paddle another day.

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