Hackensack River Canoe & Kayak Club

paddling for over a third of a century

Up On The Delaware: A Beginner’s View
by Valerie Josephson

Saturday, August 9, 2003

We all have our special places, and the Delaware River ranks up there with Pt. Reyes on my list. My daughter, who led canoe trips for her summer camp for many years, communicated to me the beauty and power of the river during the one time we were able to paddle from the Gap to Belvedere together. I declined the chance to do Foul Rift that day - She had routinely done it with 8 canoes of 12 year old campers. As a parent, it is sometimes better you don’t know what this entails until years later.

Two months ago, as a new club member, I paddled at Monksville Reservoir and got to try out Charlie's kayak. The next day, I did my usual hit-and-run shopping expedition to Campmor and came home with a Wilderness System Shaman, which was christened “True Blue” in a shower of champagne at a post-paddle lunch at the Weis Ecology Center. Suddenly, safety training classes offered by the club became important. I had passed an American Red Cross canoe safety course years ago and knew I needed big time help with the “yak”. A basics class with Fred Feingold was followed by weekly sessions at Green Turtle Pond with Fred Cohane. First time out on Green Turtle Pond, I did a wet exit and paddle float re-entry. It helps if you like to get wet. More recently, Fred, who is patient and non-judgmental, showed me the finer points of edging, paddle braces and other devices for staying afloat. You really can dunk by tripping over your own paddle!

Then the Upper Delaware trip was posted. Two days of intense deliberation ensued – am I ready for this? Will there be other wusses on the trip? What is the river like now? Will I make a complete fool of myself? Fred encouraged, and I concluded, that as I didn’t mind getting wet or knocked about, it was worth a try. We gathered at the Zane Grey Museum, sweated through the shuttle arrangements and finally put in at Narrowsburg. Twelve boats started down the Delaware, which was a lot colder than Green Turtle Pond due to recent rain. It was moving! First rapids, no sweat. Second rapids, learned what a good boat I had - put her on automatic and she eats waves. Shamans have a very high bow and she takes waves with grace. We took out for lunch on a wall of rock, and many jumped in for a refreshing swim in a moderate current. George Rafferty patrolled the shoreline for sharks.

At the next rapids, stronger paddlers went to play on the far shore and we all got to watch four canoes come to the aid of a kayaker who dunked. Another on-site lesson in water rescue! The finale was a frisky set of rapids at the railroad bridge, what a rush! As two foot waves rolled over “Blue’s” bow, I felt euphoric. A forgiving river, a stable boat and enough careful people on the water with you to make you feel safe! Does it get any better?

Yes, it does - I had my first Meanyburger.