Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Croton Point-Pier 40 Camping & Rowing Adventure

For myself I choose to listen to the river for a while, thinking river thoughts, before joining the night and the stars. — Edward Abbey

The first row from Mother's Beach. Photo by Rob.

Riding along the Hudson in the MetroNorth heading to Ossining on Saturday, June 26, I smiled every time the sun (appearing after a spontaneous thunderstorm and being drenched in Tompkins Square Park) gleamed on its water. Instead of taking the train back, I would be in the Hudson with nothing but panels of wood between the water and I.

Since taking/joining Lang on the Hudson and with my newfound desire for adventures, I've been wanting to go on a huge camping and rowing trip, going somewhere far from New York and rowing down waters that are not (that) familiar to myself. I was pushing for this through the class since January.

This was finally accomplished June 17th through the 19th. Led by Rob Buchanan, the great man who does everything, I, along with my friends, Lang kids, Floating the Apple-affiliated people, and a a guitar-playing, dumpster-diving, bike-riding guy named Roger who stumbled upon us in Westchester, rowed about 36 miles from Croton Point Park (in Westchester) to two stopovers in New York, then to our camping site in Alpine Picnic Area, New Jersey, and finally to Pier 40 in Manhattan over the course of two days.

Being the smart girl that I am, I wore a dress because I wanted to look cute (sometimes, my girliness just needs to show off) and I forgot we were rowing that Sunday. I rowed anyway because I wouldn't let that stop me, but I am also never wearing tube tops again. After loading up the boats, we rowed a little further south down from Mother's Beach in Croton Point and landed on a small strip of beach, complete with a nearly-broken-down picnic table and a family with a little boy playing with a dog.

Croton Point sunset.

Lugging our bags and various equipments, we climbed up a steep trail to the camping ground, where we set up our tents and grill and dined for the night. Taking a walk back to the beach, Jon and I started a campfire, ate marshmallows and Hershey Kisses and waded in the river. Later on, Josh and I wandered up the river along the coast where we sat, talked, threw rocks and sticks into the river and looked at the stars. One of my goals in life is to see so many stars in the sky that I won't know what to do with myself. That night was getting closer.

The next morning, the sun rose slowly, coating the sky with pale oranges and pinks until the deep summer skies took over. After our breakfast of bagels, breads, and not-sweet-enough coffee, we were off on the
Hudson again heading towards the call of the city. This time, I got to coxswain which is always fun. After a quick stop at Hook Mountain, we continued on to Nyack for groceries for the night and a little "upstate" wandering. Even if it's 8 a.m., it's never a good idea to walk around in a bikini top.

Crossing under the Tappan Zee Bridge. Photo from Frank.

We rowed under the ever-gorgeous Tappan Zee Bridge (which, from the distance at night, is merely a flat line of lights. You’d think they’d want to play up the design features of the bridge, but it makes for less light pollution and that’s always a good thing). Because Rob wanted to wait for the tide to go out way, we stopped for four hours at the Italian Gardens south of Piermont Pier within the Palisades Trail in New York.

The heat was getting to us, so a bunch of us jumped in the water. Now, rocks along the Hudson tend to be covered in algae, making the rocks slippery. (I should know—in Nyack, I tried walking along this swamp/still water inlet, and I slipped on a rock, cutting my knee and elbow.) Walking in the Hudson with these rocks didn’t seem like a good idea, but it didn’t matter—the water felt so good. And once we got out far enough, we walked along cool and soft mud. Jon tried teaching me how to swim, and I think I could possibly save myself if I had to.

Peanut Leap Falls.

Then Jon, Peter, Eva, Cade, Frank and myself wandered up the Great Stairs next to Peanut Leap Falls (more on that later) where we followed the white blaze up and up. We were in search of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory for water, but Jon and I headed back to Peanut Leap Falls. Standing under the falls, the sun was right above the top and shone down on us perfectly. Also, I saw a chipmunk (I get excited with I see non-New York City creatures). Jon and I wanted to drink out of the Peanut Leap but we decided not to. This was a smart decision because later, when Rob, Suresh and Frank were lounging under the Falls, they drank the water. When they looked up, they found a dead fawn stuck in the rocks.

After unsuccessfully trying to take a nap and read (Cervantes’
Don Quixote, it seemed fitting), Josh and I walked up towards and through Jersey by way of the Giant Stairs, or the Rock Scramble. Josh pointed out a dead hawk lying right on the rocks. Of course, Josh picked up the bird with his stick. This trail was tough because I wore flipflips, but I kept on. We ran into Rob and he told us about four kids who were lost further south. They were going to head over to our camp for water and food. Then we headed back and sprawled in the boats, chatting and eating cookies. The Lost Boys, as we dubbed them, found us and ate and drank happily. Wandering up the Palisades, they were ill-prepared and soon were lost and didn’t know how to get back. We found out they were parked at the Alpine Boat Basin/Picnic Area which was our next stop. We offered them a lift in our boats back and they gladly took it. We put them to work and made them row as well. The water was tougher and choppier because of the wind, but we managed.

Relaxing at the Alpine Picnic Area.

At the Alpine Picnic Area (we got permission to spend the night there), we set up our tents/sleeping bags/blankets and soon got to work on our delicious dinner of sausages (chicken, thank you Jon), eggplant, corn and other various veggies and all washed down with beer. Then Jon and I started and combined a new fire with the grill fire and it was spectacular. Everything was wonderfully tinted with campfire light. Roger strummed away on his guitar, Jon and I played Thunder Log (companion game to Thundernova), Rob, Josh and I took pictures, and we all munched on sweets and just talked.

Jon and I decided to get as close as we could to the George Washington Bridge past the Alpine Boat Basin. The deep orange glow of New York City was in the air, tainting the darkness of the sky. There were fewer stars out here, it was kinda sad.

Campfire at Alpine Picnic Area. Photo by Josh.

With our last 4:45 a.m. wake up call, we ate as much as we could so our boat load was lighter. Once again, we shoved off and our goal this time was to reach Pier 40 at 11 a.m. Since I’m competitive, I wanted to beat the other boats. Sometimes, I was successful, other times, I was not. Rob’s boat tended to lead the way though.

As the morning ticked by, more and more barges and water taxis floated by, creating more wakes for us to cut through. Getting hungry and in need of a break, we tried to dock our boats at some Whole Foods in Jersey across Manhattan. Because the tide wasn’t high enough, Rob and Josh were kind enough to jump out of their boat and trudge through that wonderful and aromatic New Jersey sledge and get everyone coffees and croissants. Then we were on our way again.

Taking a rowing break by the George Washington Bridge. Photo from Frank.

Rowing along the river, I realized how unattractive the Jersey coast is. Being waterfront land, it has a lot of potential for great things. Instead it is home to overdeveloped and underdeveloped properties. There was a row of houses tried really hard to look San Franciscan and many other architectural disasters.

With a quick bathroom break on Hoboken Beach or Maxwell House Beach, we crossed the river and finally arrived at Pier 40. With callused hands (including two water blisters) and bruised, injured, insect-bitten and sore bodies, we accomplished our mission. And afterwards, I got a haircut because it seemed proper.

It was just great being out there outside out New York City proper without any of its everyday distractions and conveniences. I didn’t use my cell phone at all during those two days and it felt good. I barely noticed what time it was, looking at my watch only occasionally. This trip was something I wanted badly and I think everyone should hazard at attempt. Now I need to do something else along those same lines.

Pausing at Hoboken Beach. Photo by Rob.

Links for more:
My pictures

Rob's Take

Peter's Take

Josh's Take

Josh's pictures

1 comment:

rob said...

i think we need to hear more about your fashion mistakes. personally i kinda liked that red dress...