Trip 7: Hudson River, Albany to Hudson

Text by Vladimir Brezina
Photos by Vladimir Brezina and Johna Till Johnson

After the leaves have fallen

13-14 November 1999

Saturday, 13 November
6:10 a.m. Amtrak train to Albany. Launched by 9:30 a.m. Ebb current, little or no wind, river calm. Overcast and grey. Almost all leaves are now gone from trees. Very little color left; only here and there a solitary vine on a tree-trunk still orange.

Paddles south past the Port of Albany; herd of white-tailed deer running through the waste ground between the petrochemical tank farms on the eastern bank. Eventually, lunch on the shore of Houghtaling Island. Extreme low tide; muddy along the shore line. Onward past Coxsackie. Current now starting to flood, but a slight north wind helping. Overcast beginning to break to show patches of blue sky between the banks of white and grey; streaks of sunlight on the water.

Down to the campground at Stockport Middle Ground, but a hunters’ boat anchored offshore. Back to the deluxe campground at Gays Point. Arrived around 4 p.m. First thing after landing, two hunters in camouflage outfits, with guns, drove out of the brush in a eight-wheeled armored-car-type vehicle to draw a bucket of water from the river. Many ducks and geese flying and honking overhead; occasional shots.

(Note: Another semi-comic reference to hunters–note the “camouflage outfits, with guns” and the “eight-wheeled armored-car-type vehicle”…. all that costuming and heavy equipment just to “draw a bucket of water from the river”.  Vlad’s dry sense of humor at play! As I’ve mentioned before, Vlad had many traits in common with many hunters, including a deep libertarian streak, and of course the love of the outdoors. But in his narratives hunters always seem to come across as slightly goofy. I think it’s the paramilitary costuming and equipment that he finds a bit over-the-top…)

Camped right on the beach, protected from the north wind, rather than on the elevated grassy area. Drifts of dry brown leaves everywhere, and dry twigs and driftwood on the beach. Lit a fire in the ring on the beach before getting into the sleeping bag; provided pleasant warmth against the evening chill, now considerable. Brilliant brief sunset: vivid purple, red, and blue against the banks of grey cloud, reflected off the water, with a crescent moon high in the blue above, and the bright fire below.

A campfire for warmth..

Sunday 14 November

Just after midnight, awakened by gusts of wind from the south. Very soon the wind increased to what seemed like 15-20 knots, with strong gusts. Leaves and even some sand flying past, trees, even though bare of leaves, swaying prominently. Moved tarp and bivy-sack to slightly different spot, where no danger of being crushed by a falling tree. (Especially several right on the edge of the water seemed not very securely rooted in the sand. Shores around here littered with trees fallen in previous storms.) Otherwise very snug and comfortable in the bivy-sack.

(Note: It’s reassuring to me that Vlad encountered the same situation that I’ve often run into: camping under trees that might come crashing down in a high wind. I never remember until it’s too late, and then find myself moving the bivy in the middle of the night, as he did. In future years he will learn to check the weather on the maritime radio, and thus have early warning about  an oncoming front, which this was. I also like the way he hyphenates “bivy-sack”. And his joy in feeling “snug and comfortable” also resonates. Neither of us are in the slightest claustrophobic.)

Morning: wind from the south at 20-25 knots, whitecapped waves up to 3 feet in the main channel. (Current starting to ebb against the wind.) Almost exact reprise of windy day with John and Kathy in this spot a few weeks ago, except that today not sunny. Campground not well protected against a south wind. Was a little cold through breakfast (eaten while moving to keep warm) and getting into the wetsuit, etc., still slightly—but thanks to the quick-drying material, only slightly—wet from yesterday. Will be much more uncomfortable to do this when it is really cold; drysuit a lot better in this respect.

Once in the boat and on the water, however, much warmer and more enjoyable. Left around 9 a.m. Sure progress with the current, but slow against the headwind. Waves fun (but wet). (Note: Hence the genesis of the name of our blog: WindAgainstCurrent). Went through the eastern channel around Stockport Middle Ground (only very brief protection against the wind). Arrived at Hudson around 10:30 a.m. With strong headwind, forecast for strong cold front later in the day, and early winter sunset, further paddling options limited. Decided to take 12:25 p.m. Amtrak train back to New York.

Vlad in Albany: Similar day, different season

8 responses to “Trip 7: Hudson River, Albany to Hudson

  1. What a beautiful campfire photo. He must have been so pleased when he found you, and was able to share all this right in the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Johna Till Johnson

    I like to think so… :-). One of the remarkable things about our “chemistry” is that we really never went on a “bad” paddle together. Cold, conditions, uncertainty about where to sleep…. it was all good!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Perhaps you both are also quite comfortable adventuring alone; something that some people avoid at all costs. (Greatly enjoyed that sunset photo – thank you!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      This is true, actually—we both are. Or were, in Vlad’s case. He obviously spent many more years adventuring alone than I have, which made him highly appreciative of good company.

      There are pros and cons to traveling by yourself. The cons have to do with safety–traveling solo increases your risk of pretty much anything. You have to consciously bring spares for anything critical, and stow the spares apart from each other (as I described here:

      On the positive side, the freedom of traveling solo is hard to describe. You can set a goal–or set no goal at all. If you do set a goal, you’re free to change it on a whim. I imagine that Vlad felt a bit of that at the end of this trip, when he decided to stop at Hudson and take the early train back to New York. (When we we were together, our arrival back in NYC would have been celebrated with a steak dinner).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Michelle Morris

    Beautiful photos – I love your italicized side comments.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Thanks Michelle! In the last year of his life, Vlad curated his photos very carefully, so I just have to look through the archives and select from among the photos he already processed. I can be confident that any picture I select is something that looks exactly the way he wanted it to.

      And, of course, there’s the challenge of selecting the right photos for each post. There are so many that this is more daunting than it sounds.

      Sometimes when I’m choosing between two (or among several) I mentally ask Vlad for his advice, and wait for the answer.

      The “campfire” photo was one that he picked. Or that I felt impelled to select. Interpret it as you like :-).


  5. You weren’t fooling about “many more to come,” delightful reading. Being eons removed from the commutation scene that aspect is particularly amusing in a slightly fantastic way.

    I’m sitting in the railway station.
    Got a ticket to my destination.
    On a steel-wheeled rolling raft landlubbers facing fore and aft.
    And every float has ample draft for a paddler with a Feathercraft.

    Liked by 1 person

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