I'm not old. I'm experienced. Or mature. Or something that sounds dignified while also portraying me as a fun-loving spirit. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
However, as I took an early-morning car ride on to a whitewater rafting adventure with my coworkers last fall, I can readily admit to feeling my age. As they piled into the car chattering excitedly and ready for the day's adventure, all I could think was, "Damn, I need more coffee. Now." And, "How the heck are they this cheerful, they're more animated than my talkative kid. It's morning. It's early. Where's my coffee?"**
It had been over 20 years since I last took this trip. Twenty years. Many in my cohort were barely in middle school at that time. There were not GoPros and cell phones to document our adventure — we pooled our money and brought a few state-of-the-art waterproof disposable cameras with us. Yeah, think about that for a minute.
I had visions of my younger self paddling like mad on an early April day with ice chunks floating in the river next to us as snow showers came and went. The river was fast, super-fast, and melted snow from the mountains made for really high waters. I was younger, stronger, and dressed warmer, and that trip has always stayed in my mind as one of the fastest, craziest, coolest (literally) things I have done.
Whitewater rafting. What the heck had I voluntarily gotten myself into — again? What was I thinking!?
Well, to be exact, this is what I was thinking: Maybe I was in over my head. Then again, what's life without adventure? But, I'm a responsible mom now. But, why live in the beautiful Adirondacks if you're not willing to push your boundaries every once in a while? But, but, ahhhhh...
Time to suck up my apprehension and seize the day (and paddle) — after a quick 3 mugs of coffee and a two-hour drive later I was prepped to begin this truly Adirondack experience.
Whitewater rafting on the mighty Hudson River
My coworkers and I were heading out with Adirondack Rafting Company (ARC), and as luck would have it, owner Bob Rafferty — one of the original pioneers of rafting the Hudson — was our guide. We were signed up to run the 17-mile Hudson River Gorge and it was a gorgeous summer day for it!
Quick side note: If you are a downstater like me, you may have spent a good deal of your life associating the Hudson River with NYC. It came as a little bit of a shock to me the first time I floated down it and realized this beautiful, wild river is the same one I grew up with 3+ hours south of the Adirondacks. Here it is smaller, more intimate, there are no motor boats, and signs of civilization are few and far between. I would never have guessed the source of the Hudson is actually Lake Tear of the Clouds found on Mt. Marcy, New York State's highest peak.
They say a picture says a thousand words, and in this case, I think these pictures will describe the experience and fun vibe of the day better than I ever could! So, below are some pictures to document the adventure.
We arrived at the ARC base in Indian Lake, checked in at their headquarters, and quickly changed into our swimwear. Next we were fitted for life vests and helmets, and matched with correctly sized paddles. We were soon suited up with gear and ready to get this experience under way!
I dare say the guides enjoy their jobs here!
Of course, it was not all fun and games. There was some lifting involved — let's consider it a morning stretch. We had to warm up those muscles for the upcoming hours of paddling!
I think one of the best things about this adventure is the fact that it appeals to so many different types of people. In addition to our clan, there were a variety of folks ranging from a group of young women celebrating a reunion weekend to a multi-generational family from Long Island.
Side note: Yes, kids can take this trip. Yes, Oliver, my son, wanted to join me. But, before you make me feel guilty for not bringing him along, the minimum age is 8 in the lower water months, and ARC suggests 16+ in April /14+ in May. So, although I drag him along most places, at 6-years-old he was just a tad too young for this trip — besides, sometimes you need to have an adventure sans child, right!?
After the rafts were loaded up, it was time to get to know the guides and get the low-down on what to expect for the day.
Let the adventure begin
Once the basics were over, it was time to load into the busses and head to the launching point. The ride was jovial, and everyone was psyched for a beautiful four-ish hours on the water. We parked, unloaded, and started hauling the rafts to the water. It was the last time our feet would hit dry land until we stopped for lunch.
Last chance to bail before literally getting cold feet!
It was a beautiful day and all of the other local rafting companies seemed to have full rafts too. Not that it mattered, this is a big river, and once we got started we felt like we were the only ones on it.
Making a splash
You can tell this first pic is the beginning of our trip — because we're dry. That would soon change!
Let's get this party started...
Sometimes the wave hits you. Sometimes you hit the wave.
There are a few fun stops along the way. One of them includes a stop at this rock — for those willing to climb up, jumping off is the fun way down.
Here was where I hit a dilemma. I love the water. I have no problem with heights. But, I was terrified of taking the step off — what do I do?? Well, people were watching, people were cheering, so I sucked it up and jumped. And, it was AWESOME!
Now it was time to regroup and fuel up. ARC provided a hearty river lunch consisting of sandwiches, fruit, and cookies. After the morning's action, I can say that a simple turkey sandwich never tasted so good. We had a few minutes to explore, and after a very short hike up a trail, we found yet another way to get wet!
It was a warm day. We had fun talking with the folks from the other rafts. It really was an eclectic group.
Row, row, row your raft
We were soon back in our rafts and ready to move along — we were happily anticipating the rapids to come. There were also a few chances for us to take a leisurely swim, a few more jumping experiences, and a few fun surprises.
Bob asked us if we wanted to go surfing. I had no idea what he meant. I soon learned he meant submerging the exact part of the raft where I was seated into a wave — for an extended portion of time. I laughed. A lot.
Honestly, I was so glad I pushed my boundaries and decided to join my coworkers for this adventure. If you get the chance — do it. Plan to stay close and spend a few days exploring the heart of the Adirondacks. Bob pointed out some beautiful hiking trails that lead to scenic overlooks and the river's edge. Whether you're in your 20s or 40s, it's definitely an Adirondack experience to remember. I would absolutely go again — invite me along if you don't want to be the oldest one in your raft!
Make sure to check out the video at the top of the page to see a bit more of the fun our team had! Start planning your whitewater vacation now.
*When using the term wimps, I am undeniably referring to myself as a wimp. I would like to clarify that in no way am I referring to you. I am sure you are not a wimp. Actually, after this trip, I do not think I am that much of a wimp either — you can't hear me screaming in the video, right?
**All inner dialogue edited to be reader-friendly. I may have been a bit more candid in my thoughts. And by a bit more, I mean NSFW more.