Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Memorial Day weekend recap

What an amazing Memorial Day! I had gotten an email from Abbie (“The Law”) asking if I wanted to join her on a weekend trip to the Adirondacks, organized by a company called Adventure Society. I looked up the details and it sounded like a great deal. $440 gets you roundtrip transportation, breakfast and lunch for 3 days and a dinner as well. Also included were the activities, which were Whitewater Rafting on Saturday and a choice of Hiking, Spelunking, Mountain Biking or Kayaking on Sunday (I chose Kayaking). Accommodations, also included in the price, consisted of luxury townhomes on Gore Mountain (Queen bed, Jacuzzi, two bedrooms/two bathrooms, Mountain views, etc…). I’ve been saying for years how I need to take advantage of opportunities to get outdoors and this seemed like a perfect package. Plus, Ali agreed to come with me and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a nice weekend than this.

So I was in! And excited. As the day approached, the anticipation built. I got concerned when Abbie didn’t show up to one of my WSP games because she was sick but I didn’t think about it much. Then, three days before our departure, Abbie gave me the bad news. She was REALLY sick. So sick, in fact, that she had to pull out of the trip all together. Boo! I was bummed about it, but still looking forward to it. It rained a few days before the trip but all the weather reports were forecasting a beautiful weekend.

I went shopping with Ali Wed. night before the trip at Eastern Mountain Sports for gear I would need. Techwick undergarments, a rainjacket, a fleece vest, bug spray, waterproof pants, etc… It all came in handy when the time came. Thursday night, I packed up all of my things and went to sleep with butterflies in my stomach.

Friday at work couldn’t go fast enough and when 1PM hit, I flew out the door. The bus was leaving at 3:30PM from 59th and 9th but I had one more purchase to make before I could leave. I’ve been in the market for a subcompact digital camera and was pleasantly surprised to find that the Canon PowerShot 870IS is not only significantly cheaper than I thought ($270 at J&R), but is more full featured than my state of the art digital that I got 7 years ago. With a 4GB memory card, the total came out to $300. Camera in hand, I hauled my way uptown to meet the crew.

When I got to 59th and 9th, luggage in tow, I found two passenger vans and a large group waiting to board. Our trip leaders, none of whom were above 30, greeted us and got us on board for the trip. We hit some traffic on the way out of the city and I was surprised that neither of the vans had brought a GPS with them. I learned this fact when we went local to avoid an accident on the West Side Highway and ended up getting slightly lost in Harlem. I suggested the best route (125th street) and we found our way back. From there, it was a pretty easy ride and we made it up to the townhouses at 10:45P. Ali and I, along with another woman we met, were in the first townhouse. Scott, one of our trip leaders, got the key for us and walked us to our door. He inserted the key into the lock and turned it, or tried to. Back and forth, he jiggled the key, but the knob wouldn’t budge. After 60 seconds of this, I was starting to get a bad feeling. It was 45 degrees outside and the prospect of not having a place to sleep, or sleeping on the floor of someone else’s house, was not pleasing in the least. We all gave the key a turn, just for the sake of our sanity, but it was clear we didn’t have the right key. We tried all the keys, to no avail and were not happy to learn that the office was closed for the evening. We tried the emergency number they gave us (specifically for lockouts), but it was only a beeper number and no one ever called us back! Luckily, since there had been a few last minute dropouts from the group, there were 2 spare bedrooms we could use and we didn’t really care at this point. So Ali and I made our way to a full-sized bed (tiny) and promptly fell asleep.

We were woken up by a knock on our door at 6:45AM, telling us the bus for the White Water Rafting would be leaving at 7:10! I jumped in the shower quickly and started to layer up my clothing. Ali did the same and we groggily made our way to the bus for breakfast. The breakfast location was a beautiful cabin in the woods with a restaurant called The Log Cabin, natch. But when we got there, our ‘gourmet’ breakfast was really just a buffet of eggs, pancakes, sausages, bacon and frozen fruit that had been defrosted that morning. We didn’t really care, though. We were hungry and excited to start the day. I made sure to eat light (You don’t want to be out on the river when ya gotta go) and we all clambered back in the vans. We got to the White Water Rafting outfitters and got a brief safety discussion about what to do. It seems there are lots of signals to follow (Easy forward, All back, Hit the deck, Lean in, etc…) and there are things you DON’T want to do if you fall in. For example, if you hit the water, you DON’T want to stand up because, as we were told, your leg might get wedged in a rock and then the current could break your leg and then keep you held under, drowning you. Yep, I won’t do that, I promise. We got our wetsuits (I brought my own wetsuit booties that I have from diving) and got back in another van to drive us upriver to the dropoff point.

The route we followed was 14.5 miles from our location and when we got out, we had to carry our boat down a trail. This was evidently a popular spot with lots of outfitting companies because there was a long line of boats to get onto the river and we schlepped our boat along a few feet at a time.

It was finally our turn and we all awkwardly boarded, paddles in hand. There was a small lagoon that we practiced the paddling commands in and then we were off on the river! Let me tell you, it was a real rush. I wish I had pictures, but I forgot my wallet back at the town house so I couldn’t buy one of those disposable waterproof cameras and I was certainly not bringing my new digital. You get WET on these trips! I’m happy to report that no one on our boat fell in although we must have seen at least half a dozen other boaters hit the drink, which was fun to watch! We also had our own cheer. After each set of rough rapids, we’d raise our paddles in the air and yell, “Smashing!”, which is a little gay but that was the point. It was supposed to be semi-ironic. Trust me, it was fun. The other boats were so mellow that our guide said we were ‘sucking all the fun into our boat’. Hahaha! We had a blast. The scariest part was when we went ‘surfing’ with the boat. This involves finding a big rock where there’s a rough rapid and then paddling back upstream until you’re in the eddy created by the rock. From there, you can keep turning the boat around and around, getting all of the boaters soaked until you’ve had your fill. Well, the first time we did this, I nearly fell overboard, which my guide remarked was ‘fun to watch’. Wiseass. The second time, Ali let go of the handle end of her paddle and it swung around and smacked me right next to my right eyeball. Ouch. Other than that, it was a blast. We finished up 4.5 hours later completely exhausted and exhilarated. The one thing I didn’t like, other than the very cold water, were the bugs on the river. They were swarming quite a bit of the time and we spent a large portion of our quiet river time swatting them away. But hey, that’s nature for you.

When we got back to the outfitter, we stripped down and got into our dry change of clothes (yay!) and hung out for a bit. Part of the rafting experience that the Adventure Society puts together is a barbecue dinner afterwards. One of the employees at the outfitter was roasting chicken parts on the grill and it smelled amazing. We were all starving somewhat fiercely and we lined up eagerly to fill our plates with chicken, macaroni salad and potatoes, all of which we scarfed. After driving back to the townhomes, I took a much needed nap before joining the group for a SMORES session in the fireplace. We had fun just getting to know each other and making fun of the few in the group who had NEVER HAD SMORES! Are you kidding me?!? We put on a SMORES clinic and all the newbies were impressed. Speaking of newbies, Ali introduced me, and the group, to Oreos with Peanut Butter. Here’s the recipe:

Take an Oreo double stuft (must be double stuft).
Take a knife full of Jif creamy peanut butter.
Spread the peanut butter on the Oreo.
Repeat until sick.

One of the group got all Martha Stewart on us and unscrewed the Oreos, put the peanut butter inside and then placed the top back on. I have to say it made for a better presentation and less messy eating. Good times.

As I was leaving, Sarah, one of the group leaders, told me they had gotten the right key for my townhouse. Me, Ali and Jaclyn (the other roommate) got our stuff from our Friday night home and made our way to the place we’d be sleeping for the rest of the weekend. When we opened it up, we discovered that both bedrooms were on the second floor, adjoining each other. I had no problem with this but Jaclyn was slightly upset. She had assumed that the bedrooms would be on opposite floors and she didn’t want to disturb Ali or I. I told her it wouldn’t be an issue but she was adamant about giving us privacy so she went back to the other townhouse! I couldn’t stop her (and didn’t want to) so Ali and I ended up with our own place for two night! SWEET!!!

We got some really good sleep that night and we woke up at 7:15a in preparation for an 8AM take-off for the next day’s activities. Saturday had been overcast and 73 degrees but Sunday was sunny skies, not a cloud in the sky and 77. The wind was blowing a light breeze with no humidity and there wasn’t a bug to be found on the river. It was a PERFECT DAY. We had another mediocre buffet breakfast at the same place and then we split into our groups. I was Kayaking with Ali, Jaclyn, Maricelle and Sarah (our trip leader). We went by van to the Kayaking outfitter, where I purchased a hat (forgot mine at home) and mosquito netting for my head, just in case. Ali insisted I’d look dorky in the netting, and I agreed, but I’d rather be dorky looking and comfortable than the reverse. As it turns out, I didn’t need the netting at all because the day was so beautiful and lazy that even the flies were giving it a rest.

We very lazily floated down our 4 mile route, soaking in the fantastic scenery and generally relaxing. It was idyllic, bucolic and other adjectives meaning freaking awesome. At the end of the trip, in sight of the drop off point, we had 30 minutes left and decided to rest on a nearby beach rather than drop off our Kayaks. We sunned ourselves and napped on our Kayaks for a bit before deciding on some impromptu swimming in the river. Or rather the girls swam and I fell out of my Kayak into the water while I was trying to get out onto the beach. So sue me, I’m not a boater.

We got back to the townhomes, raving about our fantastic river experience and passed out in our beds, waking up at 7:00 for dinner out at a local tavern. For a shit-kicking little tavern, the food was actually pretty good. I was particularly amazed at how cheap it is relative to Manhattan. A pint of beer was $4 and a full glass (not a shot) of Maker’s Mark was only $5! One of the girls got two glasses of wine at the bar and paid $10 for the two glasses. One of the locals, a grizzled older man, about 60, remarked that, “that better be good wine for $5 a glass!”. The lady informed the gentlemen that it was actually quite cheap compared to Manhattan, where we lived. The conversation went like this:

Gentleman – “Really? How much is it in Manhattan?”
Lady – “About $15”
Gentleman – “For both, I hope”
Lady – “No. Each.
Gentleman – (Elbows his friend like he’s in a sitcom) “You hear that Elmer (ed. Note: Real name)? She pays $30 for two glasses of wine! I can’t understand you city folk”

The theme from Deliverance jangled through my mind.

The group was going to meet that night for some Trivial Pursuit but my team deflated the expectations of the other teams. After 8 correct answers in a row, the other team members started to get “tired” and started to drift off to their rooms. Cowards. My team remains undefeated and victorious.

Monday morning, we slept in late, went for yet another cruddy breakfast at the same place (mountain views notwithstanding) and hit the road to go home. Despite the fact that it was Monday after a holiday weekend, we made it home in just over 6 hours and had absolutely no traffic within 90 miles of the city. Outstanding. At 7PM, we disembarked and we all went home to our respective apartments. The day was beautiful and I wanted to enjoy it, but the van ride home killed me a bit and I was able to get into bed early for work the next morning.

I can’t begin to say how wonderful the entire weekend was. I feel invigorated for more outdoor activities and I’m definitely going to plan a few as the summer rolls along. In a few weeks (June 14th I think), I’m going to do a horseback riding/strawberry picking day trip. Anyone want to join me? Also, a few weekends afterwards, I want to do a canoe trip on the Delaware river with overnight camping on the river. The fresh air is making me giddy, me thinks.

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