Rafting the Wild Hudson | St. Lawrence University Adirondack Semester

Rafting the Wild Hudson

by: Garrett Sopko
Erin Waters

After another week of living at Arcadia, where we have been sleeping under the stars, taking our first field trips, and starting to form wooden paddles with expert woodworker Everett Smith, we took off for a weekend excursion to raft the big waters of the Hudson River. Waking up earlier than usual, but somehow still racing the clock, we paddled across Massawepie and scrambled into the van, stoked for the day. Will Madison, our assistant director, flipped through a few CDs, finally deciding on Lemonade by Beyoncé to set the mood for our long van ride.

When we pulled into the parking lot of Adirondac Rafting Co. and saw the tiger and zebra painted school buses, we knew we were in for a wild ride. Stepping out of the van, we were surprised by the chill in the air, but our rafting guides Carrie and Mo settled our fears of a cold day by fitting us for wet suits. We squeezed into the suits, helped our guides load the rafts atop the bus, hopped on board, and headed for the put-in.

After arriving at our put-in and unloading the boats, we received a safety briefing during which Carrie reviewed the three rules of rafting:

  1. Don’t fall out.
  2. Don’t fall out.
  3. Don’t fall out.

And if you do fall out, she said, there’s a fourth rule: “Get back in!”  Carrie and Moe checked the fit of our life vests and strapped some vital necessities (a first aid kit and, most importantly, our lunches) into the rafts. We got a few more details on paddle strokes, split into two groups, and set off, ready for the rapids.

We started off on the Indian River, a nice and easy warm-up, before reaching the Hudson. Listening to the instructions of our guides, we vigorously paddled and rested, paddled and rested, all the while enjoying the beautiful wilderness surrounding us. Along the way, Carried shared her extensive knowledge of the Adirondacks and pointed out intriguing features of the landscape. She even joined our hunt for the different species of ferns and trees that we were collecting for our ecology class taught by Dr. Sue Willson. Furthermore, Carried pointed out the unusual marble streaks embedded in the typical Adirondack granite, as well as a lone shoe downstream that we would later rescue.

Arriving at our only swimming hole of the day, the only time we were allowed out of the boats, several us clambered up to the top of a beautiful jumping rock, bravely facing the shock of brisk water when we jumped. Shivering, we climbed back into the rafts with smiles on our faces, wishing that the sun would peak through the clouds and warm us up. After charging through a few more rapids, we arrived at our lunch stop, ready to refuel by a beautiful waterfall. While we munched away on our turkey sandwiches, Ali Kostick picked up a leaf and asked, “Is this poison ivy?” Her face dissolved when our assistant director Kim Covill exclaimed, “Yes!” Ali washed her hands several times as we finished our lunches, after which we hopped into our rafts, ready for what the afternoon had in store.

Before long we faced our biggest challenge of the day, a class 3 rapid, which was running especially high given the extensive rain that we had during the previous week. After getting tossed and turned the whole way down, we got to our final test, a wave called the “Greyhound,” which we effortlessly went over. Our guides then had us turn the boats around and explained that, if we hit the water perfectly, we could possibly surf the wave. As the white water runs downstream, black water acts as a conveyor belt and moves upstream, creating a reverse current that makes it possible for boats to “ride the wave.” After several tries and a change in approach, the boat with Carrie as guide succeeded in surfing the wave, which had the simultaneous effect of soaking its passengers and causing the crew of the other boat to sulk in defeat. No casualties today.

With the first of our weekend adventures behind us, we were exhausted and thoroughly satisfied, especially because we didn’t need to cook dinner. Instead we sat around the fire at Michael Frenette’s house (later in the semester, he’ll be our second woodworking teacher) and wolfed down several large pizzas, then ordered another one to appease our enormous appetites. We’re all excited for the many more adventures to come while enjoying life at Arcadia.

Signing off.