Tuesday, May 13, 2008

High Season...

Above: ACA members from the Delaware Valley Division enjoy surfing despite a persistent headwind.

Below: A pickerel frog poses during lunch break. This was shot with the cell phone.

May is the primary paddling season thanks to the annual United Nations International School canoe/camp trip, this will mark the 17th annual! Also, this year the Delaware Valley Division of the American Canoe Association reconstituted the Upper Delaware River Camping Trip at Landers Campground, locate in Narrowsburg, NY.

The UNIS trip took me to Manhattan to present a River Safety course to 110 thirteen-year old students representing thirty-some countries. I traveled up there by train a day early to stay over with my older brother Howie's son Jake who is finishing his Junior year at Columbia U.

I wanted to visit Jake and experience the dorm life, and the trip to the UNIS campus presented a great excuse. Jake is an incredibly intelligent and talented kid. Great writer and musician, like his Uncle John? His father is a major fine arts photographer and his mother a writer in her own right (and phD in English). Jake is also unspeakably undomesticated.

He and his six roommates presented the most depraved kind of dorm environment in terms of biological hazards found proliferating in the bathroom, kitchen and most of the bedrooms, especially Jake's bedroom, where I had to sleep. First step was to go out and purchase two pillows as Jake's brown little spittle-stained rags appeared to be slithering across the bed.

I can't describe all the activities that I either observed or joined, but it was an eye-opening, albeit nostril closing experience. I got at least 5 hours sleep -- these guys don't start partying until after my bedtime, around 10:30 PM. I left with the distinct impression that these students are determined to live to the fullest what remains of their surreal, teenage lives. These are Obama fans and their reasons definitely resonate.

The UNIS safety presentation went well enough, once I established my "rapport" with the estudientes. That was established with growls and threats. My main goal was to leave them with a sense of what a three day canoe trip will look and feel like, and to be completely prepared for three days on the river; rain-or-shine they will be paddling through the mountains. It's a formidable physical challenge for these kids to paddle nearly forty miles and camp-out a few nights. Most have never seen a canoe or been in a tent. Yet this event has become a right-of-passage for the incoming freshman class. I'll be joining Delaware Riverkeeper and over twenty other safety officers, all of whom have varying degrees of river rescue experience. Most are involved with the National Canoe Safety Patrol - Upper Delaware Chapter.

The Upper Delaware River camp-out was a much needed visit to "church" and an opportunity to hang out with some of the better paddlers in the region. We did the stretch between Callicoon and Lackawaxen. Twenty-four beautiful river miles, two campfires and a potluck dinner made for a nice "service." We did a little ACA business but mostly it was casual hanging out.

On the way up to the Upper Delaware I stopped at Hampton Park and met a guy who had a newly restored Mad River Howler for sale, just like my old one, but in perfect shape and beautifully restored in all its purple whitewater glory. This is huge because I was able to afford a few hundred dollars (a GREAT price and less than paid for the old beater). A new whitewater canoe that would be big enough for me would be over $1000. I'm set for another few years for solo river tripping and whitewater paddling.