Monday, July 21, 2014

Celebrating Seven Years of Rafting Together

This family has rafted with North Creek Rafting for seven years straight.Each boy joined the team as he became of rafting age.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Toads, Tributaries, Dragonflies, Frogs, and Fish

Overlooking a tributary that runs into the Sacandaga River
About a week ago, my friend Carey and I took a rare dog-less walk in search of Square Falls. We ended up walking a trail that led to the Sacandaga River. I knew we'd see fauna so I carried the abridged version of Jamie Sams and David Carson's book Medicine Cards. This version is in the form of a deck of cards. On our way down the river's valley, we crossed tributaries and paths with several toads until we joyfully discovered the river. Dragonflies hovered just above the current. Frogs and fish chilled at various depths. On a small sandy beach, we ate our lunches and contemplated these words: 

DRAGONFLY
Confront denials
Break through illusions
Honor inner truths

FROG
Bring in the rain
Tears cleanse your feelings
Refill with well-being

Thursday, July 10, 2014

"There I Was ...... "

North Creek Rafting Company's overnight rig.
There I was ..... exhausted and content thinking, "if I can do this I can do anything". I'd connected with nature and rafters in a way I had never before. It was evening two of a three day raft trip in the Hudson River Gorge. I "sat on a beach by a fire, watching the stars while the warm wind blew a faint hint of cedar by my nose", as Wayne Failing would say. "It's good for the soul, it's good for the spirit. A good guide can take you there and back. A good guide can help raise a client's consciousness". Coming to the wilderness allows the average person to come in contact with their roots again.

I've had the privilege of guiding with one of the best and most experienced guides in the Adirondacks, Wayne Failing. Wayne works year round at guiding and is licensed in all areas. He's done trips all over the world and has been my mentor. 

Over a dozen years ago, I was in my twenties living as a part-time whitewater raft guide in Lake Placid. Wayne hired me to guide with him for the season, and I was excited to gain experience with overnight raft trips. On my very first overnight, I learned about "cooler fairies". I also began to grasp how to plan a menu, shop, pack, cook and clean for overnight trips. 

This story is about an overnight raft trip that summer. Raft camping is a whole lot different than other types of camping where you pack your food into a remote location. No freeze dried food on board. Although we are in a remote location with access only by miles on a narrow trail, we are able to bring anything we desire because everything, incl food and cooking equipment, is floated in by raft. The meals are hearty and delicious - from apps to dessert. Most recently we are mastering the art of Dutch oven baking.   

Wayne and I planned the menu for the trip and I shopped and schlepped groceries for nearly 12 hours. "Cooler fairy" is now a household term at North Creek Rafting Company. My husband Nate is our "cooler fairy". A "cooler fairy" is the packer, keeper and emptier of the coolers.

Wayne and I had 10 river adventurers on a 2-night overnight trip - 5 men and their 5 teenage sons were coming from the tip of Long Island. It was tradition for this group to camp somewhere in the Adirondacks with Wayne. Wayne had led them to several other wilderness spots over the years. These guys knew Wayne better than I did and were relaxed in his hands.

Wayne picked me up, as he always did, at my cottage down the road from him. Together we rode in his van for over an hour to get to the put-in for the Hudson River Gorge trip. The group of 10 boys and men met us at the put-in in Indian Lake. We were rafting 17 miles altogether and stopping somewhere in between to camp.

We did the "conga line" from the van to the water, with our mountain of gear. Wayne was guiding the men in a paddle raft, and I was guiding the boys in a paddle raft. A paddle raft is powered by rafters paddling together as a team. We roped our friend Jim Swedberg from Long Lake into rowing our gear raft in and out. A gear raft is powered by one person rowing two ~10 ft oars. The oar-powered rig was overloaded but we had everything - from camp chairs and roll-up tables to fishing poles and musical instruments. All items were sealed in water proof bags and cases and strapped to the 16 ft rig.

We navigated three miles down the Indian River to the Hudson River. On the Hudson, we floated through Cedar Ledges to a campsite above Elephant Rock. We perched our kitchen in the warm sand on the beach. Tucked in the forest with the river in view, we set up our tents. Wayne entertained with fly fishing and live music and tended the fire. I slipped into the role of wilderness cook and dish washer.

I busted out the apps for the ravenous teens. Then I got the food prepped and eventually the burners going for dinner. I had a parboiled chicken steam facial and sweat it out over the stove, washed dishes by headlamp and schlepped water buckets from the river for cooking and dishes in between.

We dug latrines, bathed in the river, solved the world's problems by the campfire, and slept under the stars completely unplugged from the grid. It was heaven. I loved every second of it.

This trip, we had the pleasure of a layover day, which is a day spent along the river without travel. The river was our background music for 3 days. I reflected in my journal about the animals I saw, swam, and stretched on a ledge overlooking the glassy moving water.

Life was simple.

Working with Wayne, I realized that beyond the obvious roles I play as a guide, I'm a rafter's friend and companion for the length of their stay, and beyond. I'm also a steward of the Adks by demonstrating minimal impact skills, so if rafters go off on their own next time, they will treat the wilderness with care and respect.

After three graceful and stylish days of camping in the gorge, we packed up, the dam water arrived and carried us through 12 miles of  rapids until we saw signs of civilization.  

If I have my way, I'll repeat trips through these rapids over and over and over again. The great sense of well-being from running a wilderness river is really what these whitewater trips are all about.

Wayne guides our western-style overnight trips here on the Hudson River Gorge. These trips are mid-week (Tuesday-Thursday) and include a layover day for added relaxation and fly-fishing. Nate leads our weekend overnight trips. Me, I'm usually a day-tripper and at the base in between, taking calls, tidying the old farm we call our raft base, and enjoying our 4 dogs. We run Hudson River day trips Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, from the first weekend in April through Columbus Day in October. Our schedule is based on dam releases. 

Recent photos of overnight trips with North Creek Rafting Company below:
"Big Blue", 18 ft long and loaded.
Kitchen on the beach above Elephant Rock
Tents tucked in the woods.

Water-proof dry boxes that hold the kitchen.
North Creek Rafting Company's "Cooler Fairy".
North Creek Rafting Company's Dutch Oven Master prepping an Apple Crisp.

Guide Jason on dish duty. Some say cleaning dishes on a river trip will equal clean lines on the river.
The charcoal chimney preps the coals for the Dutch oven.
Dutch ovens at work.
Cooking over the fire.
Campfire.
Tiki torches provide light and atmosphere.
Mist in the morning.
Getting ready for breakfast.
Pumpkin Pie Pancakes on the griddle.
Looking downstream.
Getting ready to ride the rapids.

* I wrote this story for an event at the Adirondack Museum on 7/7. See previous post for details. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Adirondack Guide and Dog Scout Boreas River

Ellie and I by the Boreas River. Photo by Carey Pooler 
 I shared a story with Carey along the Boreas. I'll be telling a story at the Adirondack Museum.
 Check museum website at: http://www.adkmuseum.org/exhibits_and_events/special_events/detail/?id=436

There I Was . . . Adirondack Guides Share Their Stories of Woods and Waters Adventures"

July 7, 2014


moderated by Betsy Folwell, with Pete Burns, Don Mellor, and Becky Pelton

Monday, 7:30 p.m. in the Museum Auditorium
FREE for museum members, $5 for non-members

Guiding in the Adirondacks may be the oldest profession here, dating back to the 18th century and the men who could find their way safely through the war-torn woods as soldiers followed.

In the last century and a half the Adirondack guide has risen to mythic status, as someone who could catch a mess of trout and fry them perfectly, put the trophy buck in front of a neophyte hunter, and even make a snug balsam bed for the sports' restful nights. Every watershed and mountain range had its resident experts whose skills were in demand.

In the 21st century we have guides for any outdoor passion, from bird-watching to snowshoeing, rock-climbing to whitewater rafting, fly fishing to snowshoe hare hunting.

This evening guides from Lake Placid, North Creek, and North River talk about what they do, how they learned their specialized knowledge and where they take their clients to show them the best of the Adirondacks.

The program begins with a brief overview of historic guides and then modern-day guides take turns in the spotlight. There will be plenty of time for woods wisdom, tall tales as well as questions from the audience.


ABOUT THE PRESENTERS:

Betsy Folwell is creative director of Adirondack Life, where she has written hundreds of articles over the past 25 years, led its transformation into one of the top regional journals in the country, and enlightened thousands with Adirondack stories past, present, and future. She served as the first director of education at the Adirondack Museum and was the director of the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts for many years. She and her husband, Tom Warrington, live in Blue Mountain Lake.

Pete Burns, grew up in North River, N.Y., a fifth-generation Adirondack native with the wilderness waters in his blood. His grandfather "Jack" Donohue was in charge of the log drives on the Hudson River watershed for nearly 40 years. Pete himself has been guiding professionally for more than 30 years, in New York, Maine, Canada, and the Pacific Northwest. In 1991, he started Beaver Brook Outfitters in Wevertown, N.Y., where he and his staff guide fishing, whitewater, canoeing and kayaking, caving, and hiking trips full-time from April to October each year. In the winter, Beaverbrook Outfitters offers ski rentals, and Pete also coaches the Johnsburg Central Alpine ski team. The man who fished the Adirondacks almost daily as a child and never tired of exploring the local streams, rivers, and ponds ("It was better than mowing the lawn") has found a life of excitement and exuberance in sharing his outdoor-adventure passions and skills. He and his wife, Diana (they met while both were guides on the Lehigh River in Pennsylvania) live in North River about one hundred feet from where he grew up, with occasional visits by their three daughters, all of whom have been, or are, Adirondack guides as well.

Don Mellor is a climber, teacher, writer, and guide who has spent most of his 40+ years of climbing here in the Adirondacks. He has been guiding professionally for more than 30 years, and gets more of a kick from seeing the light go on in the eyes of a newcomer than from any climbs he gets to do on his own. As a climber, Don knows the area's rock and ice potentials as well as anyone. And as an educator, he understands not only how to teach skills but also how infuse an appreciation of the wild places that climbing can take you. His resume ranges from multi-day ascents of the biggest rock walls in Yosemite to first ascents of ice routes in Newfoundland. Locally, he's done more than 100 first ascents, including Big Brother (NEI 5), Airie on Moss Cliff (5.12) and the first free ascent of Mental Blocks (5.12) on the big back-country cliff of Wallface. Among his books are four rock and ice guides to the Adirondacks, the instructional Rock Climbing: A Trailside Guide, American Rock, and Alpine Americas. Don also serves as a volunteer for a high-angle rescue team, a peregrine falcon restoration project, and the steering committee of the Lake Placid Outing Club. He's been seen on The Outdoor Life Channel, The Travel Channel, NBC Morning News, and NBC EXTRA! Don holds a master's degree in counseling and serves as school counselor at Northwood School.

Growing up in a suburb of Albany, Becky Pelton learned how to swim in her backyard pool. Her passion for clear, cool, moving, mountain water came from her family's regular summer vacations camping in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It was there, on the pristine Saco River, that Becky canoed on class-one whitewater at the age of 10. While studying communication sciences and disorders at Plattsburgh State University, she discovered the Ausable Chasm and the opportunity to guide her first raft of people on the Ausable River. She became a licensed guide on the Hudson River, and has been on it ever since. She feels a special affinity for the Hudson River because in 1636, her ancestors settled along its shore in Albany. After working for the biggest rafting company in the Adirondacks as a guide, and then the smallest one, Becky and her husband, Nate, started North Creek Rafting Company in North Creek, N.Y. When off the river, Becky is a speech and language pathologist at Long Lake Central School; she also has a private practice in which she sees individuals at all levels of development in their homes.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

North Creek Rafting Reaches an All-Time High

Nick "threw a little North Creek Rafting love out while on the summits" of the highest peaks in Idaho and Oregon this month. 
 
Nick at Chicken Out Ridge part way up Borah Peak in Idaho.
Nick at 12,688 feet in elevation on the summit of Borah Peak in Idaho.
Nick at 11,294 feet in elevation on the summit of Mount Hood in Oregon.

Nick's view from the summit of Mount Hood.
Morning on Mount Hood.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

At the Helm of North Creek Rafting

Suave, Maddy, Nate and I taking a break while running the Gorge in the early days of North Creek Rafting. Suave and Maddy's Wedstival is in Ithaca this weekend.
I'm at the helm of North Creek Rafting Company. Our skilled guides are making it possible. I've got two weeks left of school. Nate drove to Idaho with a raft and the equipment needed to run the Middle Fork of the Salmon River for a week. The Middle Fork is 112 miles in length.

Folks like John M. from Nanuet, NY make my behind-the-scenes role seem immense.

"If you are looking for a great experience on a white water rafting trip, look no further. Our family of 4 enjoyed a tremendous day of rafting the Hudson. Their equipment is top notch. The rafts, wet suits, helmets were all in pristine shape. What really makes the difference though, is the staff. The management and guides of North Creek are outstanding. Joe, Mark and Becky were tremendous hosts. It's clear that they want you to have fun and encourage you to do so. It's true that there are some serious parts of the river, and those were managed very professionally. On the other sections, it was all about enjoying the beautiful scenery and the river. We'll be back again."
-John M. rafted 6/7/14

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Memorable Memorial Day

 Nate and I guided a two-raft trip through the Hudson River Gorge on Memorial Day.
Photos were taken in the Narrows by our photographer Jim Swedberg.