Hackensack River Canoe & Kayak Club

paddling for over a third of a century

By Betty Wiest

Sometimes the urge to paddle outweighs any “normal” consideration of our environment—especially when most people think about paddling on a warm, sunny day in May. But Ed Snutes, Fred Cohane and I didn’t give the foggy weather a second thought when we set out to paddle on Mother’s Day morning.

The thought of having breakfast served to me in bed by my two daughters on Mother’s Day was a fleeting thought. Since one daughter is in her late teens and the other having just turned 20, their idea of serving breakfast would occur at noon. That wouldn’t do in my book. I’d have half a day behind me by then.

Driving over Skyline Drive, the fog was thick as soup. At the top of the mountain, cars with their lights on crept along and a contingent of mountain bikers parked at the crest of the road were all decked out and ready to ride. Making my way down the mountain, the fog cleared somewhat but not enough to change the overcast atmosphere.

There were few boats on Monksville that morning—a few small fishing boats and us. You could see across the lake but the hillside was enshrouded in fog. “Did anyone have a foghorn,” I wondered?

Actually this turned out to be an inaugural paddle—at least for Fred who was testing his skills with his new fiberglass Current Designs touring kayak, and Ed was equally testing his new wooden kayak. Ed was proud of his kayak since he spent countless hours making it by hand, and during the paddle he commented on the various steps in the process. I started to wonder if many of us would have the patience required to make something of this caliber seaworthy.

Ed remarked, “All we need is a bottle of champagne to mark the moment.” “Well,” I said, “I have one in the car. We’ll mark the occasion later!”

Once on the calm water, one of us realized we didn’t have our PFD. Back to the launch for a quick emergency stop. Better to be safe than sorry.

“You know I’m doing this for you, Betty,” Fred remarked. “This is the first time out in my new kayak. I’m just getting ready for that Bannerman Hudson River trip.”

And so we paddled. Fred and Ed side by side—technical chatter between dips of their paddles.

The only sounds were an occasional hum of a small fishing boat or the geese overhead. Visually, the swallowtails seemed to play with us as they flew nearby and dipped just inches from the water surface then took off in mystical flight. And on the edge of the hillside, Florida dogwood trees were in full blossom.

“Close your eyes,” I said to myself. “Drink it all in.” The air, the water, the sounds and the smells. Another day in paradise.