Hackensack River Canoe & Kayak Club

paddling for over a third of a century

Delaware River (SNOW)
by Ron Kleiman

Sunday, October 29, 2011

“Are you crazy” asks my Wife, as I lift my Kayak onto my car “Is that a rhetorical question” I answer, in my best Jack Nicolson impersonation. We have this conversation every time the weather oracles on CNN prognosticate bad weather on a beautiful paddling day. The Accuweather forecast for Barryville NY is for 32 degrees, snow and wind starting around 7:00am and continuing all day.

I, Ron Kleiman, will be meeting Lee Reiser, our trip organizer, Bill Menke, our mad scientist, Harris Reinstein, the only canoeist in our group and Ted Wright who I have not paddled with before. All experienced cold weather, white water paddlers. Except for Bill, all of us are members of the Hackensack River Canoe and Kayak club (This is not a club sponsored paddle).
Our plan is to meet at the takeout at Sparrowbush at 8:00am and shuttle the boats to the put in at Narrowsburg, Covering about 33 miles of the best rapids on the upper Delaware.

I arrive at around 7:30, no snow or wind yet, 39 degree air and 55 degree water, so far so good. Lee arrives about 15 minutes later, Bill and Harris shortly after. No Ted yet. We decide to break the paddle into 2 legs. We will do Lackawaxen to Sparrowbush, about 22 miles and the more aggressive part of the river first and then depending on the weather, do the Narrowsburg to Lackawaxen leg. A good decision as it turned out. We leave at 8:30 figuring Ted has decided to sleep in.

This entire section of river is one of the areas that Verizon doesn’t like to talk about, white on their otherwise red service map. There is no service here. Asking Ted where he is, is not an option.

By the time we get into our multiple layers of clothing, dry suits, safety gear, get our boats in the water and are ready to push off its 10:30. Still no wind or snow. Just as the last of us is getting our skirts fastened a car with a kayak on top pulls into the lot. “Are you Ted?” shouts Lee to the head sticking out of the window. The incredible timing leads me to conclude that G-d wants Ted to paddle with us. By 11:00 all 5 of us are on our way. I explain to Ted the shared adventure trip model under which we paddle (This is not an organized event, we are independent paddlers, each totally responsible for himself, sharing a common adventure) Lee explains about the waver he will be required to sign. It is sad that we are such a litigious society that these have become as necessary for self-protection as Life Jackets and throw ropes.

The leaves are arrayed in all their fall finery. It’s a great time to be on the river. Several Bald Eagles wave at us from above. The snow starts and we find ourselves in the middle of a Currier and Ives winter scene. The wind, which evidently hasn’t read the same forecast as I, now starts to pick up. Harris, whose white water canoe has a high profile, starts to do 360’s. After about 20 minutes of gusting it stops. (Stupid wind, doesn’t it know that CNN oracles had commanded it to blow all day) The shore is now blanketed in white, I am glad it’s not sticking to the water. Out of the whiteness Familiar landscapes now seem to materialize, menacing in their beauty. We paddle in a wonderland. The rapids only serve to enhance our odyssey. As the stories of this trip are retold over time it could easily take on Homeric proportions.

Now the dangerous part of our adventure begins. We reach the take out and pile shivering into the car and drive through snow fallen trees and slippery roads to complete the shuttle. Ted heads for home (probably the wisest move) while the rest of us head for dinner in Port Jervis. While the 4 of us are enjoying our repast and reconjuring the magic of the day, the snow outside is silently pulling down trees, power lines and turning SUV’s into crumpled junk. Thankfully we all make it home safely before the next morning.

I am greeted by a large tree lying in my driveway, where my car would have been had I not been paddling ….. Thank you G-d for not allowing me to hear the voice of reason and listening to my wife last night and for a beautiful day.