Suzanne booked the location. Minisink Campground on the Delaware River. A mere 2.5 hours outside of the city. I reserved the zipcar. Juleen secured the camping equipment. We were good to go and counted down the days.
Friday afternoon we set out. We were perfectly on time. Suzanne and I picked up the car 14 minutes early as zipcar allows without penalty. Speaking of which... if you're in NYC, GET A ZIPCAR ACCOUNT!! We hit the Triboro Bridge, or should I correctly call it the RFK Bridge which it's been renamed?? About halfway over it hit traffic. The following hour and half we crawled the 3 miles to pick up Juleen. We would not be deterred though!! We were troopers and would not let the rest of the New Yorkers fleeing the city for the weekend upset us!
We reached Juleen and set off crossing the Tappan Zee (thanks, Juleen for that suggestion). Getting hungry and needing gas, we stopped at Monroe (I think??) which is apparently a solely Hassidic Jewish village slightly upstate. Even the signs at the gas station were in Hebrew. Interesting. We went to the Burger King in town to find the nicest people ever, grabbed Whopper Jrs for the road, stole some ketchup packets, and set off again.
Next stop: Middletown for the Mother Ship - WalMart Supercenter!! Suzanne had never been to a Supercenter, and as much as I hate the way Wally World treats their employees and puts mom-and-pop business out, I am an Arkansas girl at heart. Seeing those concrete floors, uber cheap prices, and everything under one warehouse roof just took me right on home.
And off again with more food than we could ever need for a 2-day trip. We arrived at the campsite in the pitch dark right as the workers were about to leave. But being awesome like we are, we set out to pitch our tent (thanks, Juleen), start a campfire (thanks, Suzanne), and stand around taking pictures (thanks to me). We made some s'mores and chatted while sitting around the fire until late into the night.
Saturday we awoke to a gorgeous view, a beautiful river, and a perfect day! But first... we realized we had set up in the wrong campsite. Oops!! I went to the office to see if we needed to move. Of course we did because some seasoned campers had specifically requested Site #8 - which we couldn't blame them as it was definitely the best Minisink had... just lovely. I asked the lady what time we needed to venture out for our day of floating the Delaware, and she said there was no rush since we needed to move our whole campsite. We took our time, set up appropriately, and even breaked for PB&J sandwiches.
Around 2pm we went to check in for our float trip. The gal informed us that we had waited too long. Unfortunately she didn't know who she was messing with... she.didn't.know. This poor backward woman with no cell phone service just didn't know that "you're too late" was not a sufficient answer. After letting her know that we would indeed be floating the river like we had paid for, she sort of pushed us off to the boat launch location. Unawares to me(Juleen can attest) I was somewhat direct with the girl behind the counter and informed her she was speaking Greek and needed to be clearer. Sometimes I'm a bit rude when I don't mean to be... maybe I should work on that. At the boat launch spot, the lady behind that counter was irritated that we would be, in fact, floating like we had paid and planned for. Then the shuttle driver to take us to the river had clearly been told about the NY girls who were bucking the system. AND THEN the lady who issued our life jackets and intertubes ALSO was frustrated. It seems they thought this float would take 5 or so hours. They just didn't know us.
We got out onto the river, bungeed our tubes together (which wound up being the BEST idea of the weekend), and off we went! After our first round of rapids, I decided popping into the water would be a great idea. The water wasn't too deep, I had water shoes on, and I just jumped in... where it was around 10 feet deep. I went completely under the water and when I popped back up shouted "MY SHOE!!" One shoe had gone the way of all men. And even though I'm a pretty awesome swimmer, I couldn't see it and simply had to resign to the fact that I was down a shoe. After that the water returned to a normal depth, and we had a fabulous 3.5 hour float... not 5 hours...
That night we had hotdogs and s'mores like one should do when camping. Juleen was tuckered out having been up the earliest that day. And a bit after that Suzanne retired as well. And then there was me. Those 2 hours by the fire bundled up (it was a brisk 50-something degrees out btdubs) were some of the most peaceful I've had in a long time. Sometimes my own thoughts freak me out. Sometimes they give me panic attacks. But this time... it was just peace. I reflected on me. I reflected on my friends and how much I love the girls who were in the woods with me as well as the wonderful friends I left in the city and have around the country. I reflected on 2010. And I realized how incredibly blessed I am.
Sunday we awoke, packed up, and headed over for our kayaking adventure. And adventure is exactly what it turned out to be. The river was insanely shallow which seemed a bit troublesome, but no one advised against going out and they are the experts, right? It started out with me slipping, falling, and yes, losing a shoe before I even made it into the kayak. This should have been a sign to us, but no. We chalked it up to Joy being clumsy. Don't worry, I retrieved this shoe. I got myself sorted and off we went.
The waters were rough and shallow for sure. The first set of rapids we went through were brutal and Juleen nearly tipped. But being an athletic genius, she made it without incident. The next few sets were not as bad but very rocky. Then came some of the roughest waters we had been through. My kayak tipped, water rushed in, but I managed to employ every muscle in my body and upright it!! Woohoo!! Yay for kayaking experience on the East River!! The 3 of us regrouped and Juleen and I decided we were done with the rapids, but Suzanne thought we were just silly... Hmm... maybe that's why what happened next happened.
We rounded a bend and headed for more rapids. We braced ourselves. Juleen went first and Suzanne and I were side-by-side right behind her. The was a rock sticking up right in the middle of the river. Suzanne tried to dodge it, but alas could not miss it. She went up on it, slid back down it, and was stuck.
Already having made it through the rapids, Juleen and I paddled in place to see if Suzanne could dislodge herself. She could not. She was SERIOUSLY stuck. Juleen paddled to the side and parked her kayak. She got out to go back upstream along the bank to see what we could do. In the meantime, I decided (in my brilliance) to paddle upstream through the rapids to go save my best girl!! I couldn't leave her stranded!! This turned out to be a much more daunting task than I was cut out for. So I went as far as I could and parked my kayak thinking I could maybe swim out to her (remember: good swimmer here) and save her. Again - not a possible task. Kayakers and rafters sped past Suzanne. She determined that being in the stuck kayak in the middle of the river was not helping anything. She got out of her boat, crouched on the enemy rock, and waited. The kayak dislodged and took off down the river. I hopped back in mine and sped toward the errant boat. I reached it and through some miraculous force of adrenaline, dragged it with one hand while paddling against the current with the other hand, and parked it up on the bank.
I paddled back up where the Kayak Rescue Unit had come out to save Suzanne. The red canoe circled around her several times determining the best way to get her in these rocky waters. Dramatic Alert: If she slipped off the rock and went head first down the rapids, she would reach me with a gash to the head. If she slipped off the rock and went feet first, she would surely break a foot or ankle. Luckily, the guy in the canoe was able to get her freed and back down to us after no small effort.
We were reunited, on an adrenaline high, several minutes later and continued our kayak trip. When that adrenaline wore off, we were physically exhausted and emotionally spent... and still had 3 miles to go through more rapids and rocky shallowness. Sighs. We eventually made it and land had never looked so good. We dried off, changed clothes, and went to have ice cream for dinner. Who cares about healthy eating at that point, right?!
Whew... that was a healthy post. But I couldn't leave a second out of it. Suzanne and Juleen, I adore the 2 of you, and wouldn't want to have an adventure like that weekend with anyone else!