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