How A Bad Expedition Spawns A Tradition – Part II

The trouble with telling long stories is that I sometimes forget where I was when I paused, and I start re-telling the same things all over again. Fortunately, as this is a multi-part blog post, I was able to read what was last written which should minimize the repetition. In my last post, I had been blithering about how, on Y2K Day (01/01/2000), I had decided to start the year century millennium off in grand style by kayaking on the Hudson River. In retrospect, I must admit that I had neither the experience nor the skills to contemplate such an outing, but perhaps I shouldn’t skip ahead. Instead, let me simply set forth my highly suspect thought processes at that time.

I like to start off each year on a high note, hopefully setting the tone for the following 364 days. Starting the year 2000 would have to be even more spectacular, since I would be creating precedent for 1000 years. As a rule, I begin each year with a heavy exercise routine because for one day at least, that let’s me believe that I have been really good that year. Normally my routine would involve lifting weights and running, but 2000 required something different.

dumbbell It’s January 1, And I’ve Exercised Every Day This Year! I Deserve Tomorrow Off!

In honor of the new century, I decided that I would kayak … in January! Certainly, no one that I knew had ever done that before. Some might suggest that I don’t know enough people, and they might be right. Not that it matters. I was about to participate in an activity unique in my circle of acquaintances, and the possibility of promoting this feat to instant legend was a virtual certainty. If the weather that day happened to be particularly nasty, I thought, then there might truly be a tale to tell.

As it turned out, January 1, 2000, was cloud free with temperatures cold enough to remind you it was January in upstate New York, but warm enough to invite outdoor activity. The combination of relief that Y2K’s pessimistic prognosticators’ dire predictions proved phony and the enthusiasm generated by my novel idea temporarily suspended reasoning and fueled fervor. It was January, the river beckoned, and I was powerless against her siren call. I treated myself to a substantial breakfast and rested for several hours before I started getting antsy. It was now or never.

Wet suitTime To Put That Brand New Dry Top And Wet Suit To Use

Though I had never kayaked in January, I had been out in mid-December, so how much different could it be? I was eager to wear my newly acquired wetsuit and dry top combination because they were extremely warm. I certainly did not put them on due to any possibility of going in the water. My intention was to kayak, and not swim. In my younger, white water rafting days, I had on several occasions been tossed into the river, sometimes in conditions cold enough that ice lined the banks and snow filled the air. Each time I had been wearing the standard issue 3 millimeter wet suit, and each time I had survived with no more than a slight chill that quickly faded when paddling resumed. It was not the immersion that I recalled, but rather it was the internal heat generated by paddling in a wetsuit that marked these events, and that was the sole reason I purchased one. I don’t like to be cold.

Ed & Mike in the frothy hole editedI’m Sure That The Hudson In January Couldn’t Be Colder Than This – Could It?

By mid-afternoon, I had the car loaded and I was swathed in my portable sauna. I was proud as a peacock of my new uniform, one that loudly proclaimed my status as an adventurer. Elizabeth R, however, was awash with conflicting feelings, fighting the urge to laugh hysterically at the grotesqueness of my all too revealing farmer johns, while simultaneously wondering if I had finally lost my mind. As she grappled with these emotions, and probably planned an intervention, I took my leave and pursued the perfect ending to this inaugural day. I had never before started a new thousand year cycle, nor did I think it likely that I would do so again. I had to get it right this time.

When I arrived at the deserted boat launch, I noticed something strange about the river. There were white things floating on the surface. I’m not a total dummy, and I recognized them immediately. They were plates of ice … large plates of ice … and they were spread out as far as I could see. I’m sure most experienced boaters would intuitively understand that a significant amount of ice in the river could have an adverse effect on boating. I can honestly say that this thought never occurred to me. I would love to extol my sense of daring by saying that I grasped the danger and cast it aside, but that is not the way it was. I simply failed to see the problem. There appeared to be plenty of water that was not covered by ice, so I would merely kayak around the sheets and meander down stream, like playing in a maze. No problem.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASure Looks Like Plenty Of Water Out There To Me – All I Have To Do Is Avoid Those Solid Looking Things

That is exactly what I set out to do. In the beginning, I encountered wide stretches of open water that extended straight ahead for several hundred yards. Eventually, each section would lead to large sheets of ice, and I would be forced to turn left or right to find a way around them. It took on the features of a game: scan the surface in front of me and try to pick a path that would allow for the most paddling before being stymied. In no time at all, I considered myself to be an expert at this game. Isn’t there an old saying preaching that “pride goeth before the fall?” If there isn’t, there might be one now.

I probably should have noticed that not only was I moving south, but the ice was, too. Had I done so, there is a chance I might have realized that since the ice was moving, the lanes I had previously paddled through might not be available on the return trip. Working your way through a maze is easy when you have no particular destination in mind and the positions of the maze walls are fixed; the difficulty arises when you need to finish at a predetermined point and the walls are moving. I believe a wisp of that notion may have floated through my mind when I stopped just north of the lighthouse and took a look back. There was a lot more ice behind me than there was in front of me, and in some places it appeared to form a solid line across the river. It might be a good time to turn around.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhere The Heck Did These Ice Obstructions Come From And Where Did Most Of The Water Go?

What is it that causes someone who apprehends that a disaster may lie just ahead to rush forward to see if that apprehension is justified? Why not take your time and postpone any unpleasantness? Better yet, why not go the opposite direction and avoid it altogether? Don’t expect me to have an answer to any of those questions. I’m the one who turned around and headed toward the ice as fast as I could. As long as I was moving, I could truthfully think, “so far, so good.” Still, I knew this was too good to last, and it didn’t. At a point south of Malden, where the river narrows, I was halted by a wall of ice. In a moment of perspicacity, I understood that this was not a good thing. The boat launch, my car, and an undamaged reputation all waited on the other side of that ice. Hmm.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOh Man, When Things Start To Go Wrong, Obstacles Keep Piling Up

Okay, that’s enough for today. I will let this question linger for several days: did I make it back or was this post written by the Ghost of Paddlers Past? The answer to that puzzle, as well as the resolution of my predicament, will be provided in sufficient time to prepare for this year’s Malden Yacht Club New Year’s Day paddle.

About Ol' Philosophizer

Having had the opportunity to develop wisdom and maturity over six plus decades doesn't mean that I'm always inclined to use what I've learned. Instead, I choose to believe that "60 is the new 16," at least when this creaky old body agrees to let it be so, and that is why my family cringes during those infrequent flights of fancy when I set out to prove that I am undaunted by my lack of judgment. The rest of the time, though, I'm either dispensing my scattered thoughts on our blog, or dreaming up new ones after I've settled in for a nap.
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