But I thought we were done!
Not only didn’t I sleep well, I woke up kind of a mess. Yesterday had been so grueling — I didn’t think I could face any more of that combined wind and tide. So, to make sure we got some miles in, Jim and I left early with the morning tide. We were meeting Dan a couple of miles downriver at Kingston Point Beach. It turned out the beach was a bit more than a couple of miles, (My bad!), but eventually we spotted his kayak. Two were now three, and Dan’s company was a welcome bit of cheer to two weary paddlers.
I will always remember those miles from Kingston to Poughkeepsie as my favorite part of the trip. We passed two Hudson River lighthouses. These are boxy, historic structures that have been restored to their former glory. (We had passed a another the day before.) But what really made the trip magical was the weather. It hit us near Hyde Park, home of Franklin Roosevelt.
We could see a storm ahead of us, creeping up the river. I was worried about winds, but instead the rain kind of enveloped us. No wind, just gentle steady drops. The experience was sublime, almost like that feeling when you’re lying in bed and there’s a steady downfall outside. Soothing.
Kingston and Poughkeepsie are about sixteen miles apart, but with the tide in our favor we hit Poughkeepsie at lunchtime, just as the current changed. A few miles south was Milton Landing Park, with a convenient camp spot.
We hit it at about 2PM. A nice easy day. Except my friends had other plans. They wanted to rest — which was good — but then continue on another eleven miles to Dennings Point near Beacon.
Another eleven miles! But I thought we were done! And this was such a nice place to stop. And I was tired. And I had all sorts of nasty blisters on my hands. And the tide was still against us. And the view was so nice. And…
Down the Hudson we go!
Okay, they talked me into it. What made the most sense was that if we did the extra distance, tomorrow would be only about 17 miles. But I wasn’t lying about the blisters. I was wearing ¾ finger gloves, but the exposed skin was a mess.
My middle finger sported three separate swellings which had connected in a disgusting ring. My ring finger had a blood blister a quarter inch high. Before we were going anywhere, my hands needed some attention.
Dan made some fancy blister pads with moleskin and gauze, which felt better. As we rested, waiting for the tide to turn, a woman named Kathie Laura came up to us. We chatted a bit and she was impressed to hear we had paddled so far. She then said a few miles back she had taken pictures of three paddlers. One of them was standing up. Could we be those paddlers? She took out her phone and showed us some pretty good shots of… us!
I was hoping with the tide, the eleven miles would go quickly. It didn’t. The tide was good, but the wind started from the south. The further south we got, the stronger the wind and bigger the chop. As we neared the Newburgh/Beacon Bridge I cut through a bunch of moored sailboats just to get some slightly better water. The good thing was we were in home territory. I had paddled in this area dozens of times, so there was no more paddling in the unknown.
Nightfall on the Hudson
It was getting dark, and Dennings Point was still miles away. So Dan came up with a crazy, wonderful idea. Since the Beacon waterfront was only a mile or so from our campsite, he ordered a pizza to to be delivered at Long Dock Park in Beacon. Instead of another night of freeze-dried food, we would have something fresh and hot and good. Then we’d proceed to the campsite. And when we pulled up at Long Dock, battered and tired, a car was waiting with a greasy, gooey, cheesy pizza. Ohhhhh…
Then on to Dennings Point. Now the sky was fully dark. I’d actually never paddled at night before, and especially not with a heavily laden board. There was a lot of light from Newburgh across the river, enough to paddle by. Jim and Dan mounted lights on their kayaks and I led the way across. For some reason, probably the light on the chop, it felt like we were flying!
Unfortunately Dennings Point offered no clear campsite. I knew they were there; we just didn’t know where. There beach was very narrow with a steep hill behind. There was nothing inviting, so we found the best we could. I figured we were above the high tide mark, which was about the best this site would allow.
I fell asleep thinking about a message on my phone. I was keeping it off during the day, especially since the waterproof solar charger I had bought for the trip was barely working. But when I checked it there was a cryptic message from the school I had interviewed at. “Hello Ian, this is —. Please call us when you get this message.”
“That sounds good,” Dan said cautiously.
This is the third installment in a five-part series chronicling Ian Berger’s journey down the Hudson.