Because absurdity loves company, here are the outtakes from my trek down the Hudson.
Day 2: Im in a post-prandial stupor, watching my twig fire die. Suddenly an unwelcome thought intrudes. It was low tide when I entered Wappinger Creek. How high, exactly, is high tide?
I turn on my headlamp, which turns out to be pointless since I tumble down the embankment anyway, my flip-flops like banana peels on the dry leaves. My kayak is not behind the tree trunk where I left it. She is bathing in moonlight 20 feet offshore, retreating slowly. An hour later I would have been up a creek without a kayak or a feature story.
I strip down to underwear and escort my boat back to shore. But shes too heavy to drag up the embankment in my slippery flip-flops. I gather my strength and heave the stern onto a tree trunk that curves over the creek, then hoist the bow so it sits on a sapling.
This spots looks okay, but the tide will rise all night. I need a safety net. A hairy rope of poison ivy dangles, tempting as the forbidden fruit. My sleeping bag is singing its siren song. The vine is evil, but convenient. I tie the loop on the boats nose to the vine. Yes, I would pay for this with itchy wrists, but not until tomorrow.
Day 3: I beach at an overgrown brickyard near the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge and make a fire to heat up coffee and Trader Joes Indian food in a foil pouch (best camping food ever). My shoes got wet in a sloppy launch this morning, so I arrange my socks on sticks and shoes on bricks around the outside of the fire, unroll my sleeping bag and snooze.
The smell of burning rubber opens my eyes. My shoe is on fire. I bang it on the ground but its seriously aflame. I chuck it into the river. Now I have one toasty Converse, one wet half Converse held together with extra tent string, and a million-dollar idea.
Introducing the half-shoe: all the benefits of a sole and the breathability of barefoot.
Day 4: Returning from an exploration of Storm King Cove, a hissing sound stops me in my tracks. A very long, very black snake is sunning himself two feet away, directly between me and my gear. Im scared to death of snakes. Instinct says screw your stuff, sprint to your boat and paddle like a madwoman. Intellect counters that would be a) littering, b) expensive and c) embarrassing to explain later.
The snake slithers uphill and disappears behind one of the foam blocks that adorn this rivers banks. I cant see over the ridge so I dont know where he ended up, which doesnt do much for my peace of mind. I trace a wide circle to where my stuff is strewn, uttering my brand new mantra, be cool, which is directed both at myself and the snake.
With a long stick, I drag a bag toward me. His head pops up from under it, turning my adrenal glands into fire hydrants, and his, too, apparently, because he slithers away so fast that I cant help wonder who would win in a foot race.
I force myself to work like a scrupulous, if primitive, TSA agent, opening each bag with my stick, examining it, and methodically packing everything in its place. I spend the rest of the morning bobbing around the cove (staying far clear of shore, just in case), feet dangling in the water, basking in self-satisfaction at having overcome my snake phobia.
A fish jumps, and I scream bloody murder. - Becca Tucker, editor