Sunday, August 25, 2013

"Horizontal Bouldering"


Kayakers on the Genesee River

Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013  

We started today early, and made it up to the Stone Tool Show at about 10:30. The show was kind of interesting, but somehow neither Joe nor I really “got it”. It was, first of all, a gathering of flint-knappers. I understand the idea of the craft, but when all is said and done, there is not a lot you can make with flint. As craftspeople, these folks tow around trucks full of rocks—this has GOT to be seriously un-fun to load, unload, and set up! They did demos of flint-knapping, and they were all, every one of them, selling stone arrowhead pendants. I assume some people are more skilled than others, but when you come down to it, every arrowhead looks pretty much like every other arrowhead. I can’t really imagine doing the same thing over and over and coming out with pretty much an identical result. And yet they are quite passionate about it—this particular gathering was of the Genesee Valley Flint Knappers. Are there other chapters? And what in the world happens to all these arrowheads? I mean, hardly anyone hunts with them anymore. Like I said, we just didn’t “get it.” I was amused, however, by one booth, with a banner proclaiming "www.FlintKnappingTools.com." The most ancient of technologies married to the most recent.

There were other craftspeople there, and we saw items carved from bone, tools to do flint-knapping, a guy throwing a hatchet (into a target, not anyone’s neck, thank goodness), jewelry, more arrows and arrowheads, some weaving, some leatherwork, and the atl-atl demonstration. What else…. Honey, some pottery, and one booth full of books on geology of all over the country. This was the place for rock enthusiasts.  Finally, there was a “mountain man encampment” of lean-to tents, wrought iron tools, and fire pits. Some folks were in period costume to go along with their mountain man camp. But all in all, we were a little puzzled by it all—somehow, none of this spoke to us. We marveled at how one person's passion can just leave another person completely disinterested. I am sure for the folks who were there with their booths and demonstrations, they were looking forward to this gathering all year.

We headed down the mountain to the rafting building so we’d have some time for lunch before our kayak excursion down the Genesee River Gorge in the park. We had lunch at the small restaurant nearby—we almost never do this, but I had a sudden craving for a well-done snack bar style hamburger, LOL!  And then we just relaxed until it was time to meet the other kayakers. There were about 30 of us, plus 3-4 guides. We got flotation vests (hard to imagine needing one, since the river was VERY low) and a little safety lecture, before heading down the road to the put-in point.

We each had our own kayak—inflatables like ours, but smaller than the one Joe and I own, and we were sitting higher up on it. As soon as we started downstream, we immediately hit a small rapids area. At least half the group promptly got stuck on the rocks.  I discovered that the real difficulty with the exercise was not about paddling through the rapids—it was having so many people in a group doing it at the same time. More than once I would be getting up speed to shoot through, only to have the person in front of me get stuck. I would bang into him/her, and end up either just log-jammed there, or stuck on my own rock as a result. The other danger was the reverse—I would hang up on a rock, and while I was spinning myself off it, someone would slam into me and drive me back up on it. Most of the time when I got stuck, it was because of a collision with another kayak.

The river had numerous rapids, separated by quiet areas where those who were through would wait for the folks who were stuck. It was both a lot of fun and very funny at the same time. Although one time I was not amused a bit—I was just getting off a rock (I wasn’t really stuck there, just spinning free) when someone came up behind me, yelled “Oh no, I’m going to tip you over!” and then proceeded to do pretty much just that. She shoved me onto my side and shot past me. I hung there for almost a minute, maybe longer, with the river (which was actually quite fast at that point, because another stream had joined the main river) flowing OVER me, through my kayak, and me hanging there trying to right the kayak and NOT to fall out of it. I did see one guy flip over—the river was too fast for him to stand up safely, even though it is not very deep.  I whooshed past him and didn’t see how he got back in.  As a result of the number of rocky spots and the relative shallowness of the water, Joey suggested that what we were doing was essentially “horizontal bouldering” rather than actual kayaking.  It did seem that we spent an inordinate amount of time on top of rocks rather than on the water!

We stopped at a halfway point for some juice and cookies. Joe was already really tired—he’d gotten stuck at one point and instead of rocking himself free, he’d been trying to paddle with the water to get going again. Doing it that way is great, if you don’t exhaust yourself trying. We had a nice rest, and then went on.  About 20 minutes later we stopped again to look at a beautiful waterfall coming into the river from Wolf Creek. The fall was quite large and high, and is only visible from the river gorge, not from any overlooks. (Unfortunately I didn’t have a waterproof camera, so I took no photos during the trip. But fortunately the day before, we’d seen a kayak group go past us while we were up on an overlook. I took a lot of photos, thinking that it would show us what we looked like and illustrate this blog!)  There is a pool at the bottom, as well as a deep hole which several people jumped into.  Definitely a big bonus for the kayaking, to see something that beautiful. 

When we left the waterfall, we immediately hit a large rapids area (fed by Wolf Creek added to the Genesee) and that was pretty intense. At the bottom though, I turned around (I did a lot of that, not always on purpose!) and looked back, as per the guide’s recommendation. The view of the gorge walls with the late afternoon light on them just at the bend in the river there was simply gorgeous.

After that we floated pretty quietly beneath the walls for another 10-15 minutes, just resting and looking at the scenery. It was simply wonderful.  We finally reached the take-out point and a bus took us back to the office, where we shed our vests and stumbled, soaking wet and totally exhausted, into the RV. We had paddled for 5 miles down the river, pretty much non-stop for 3 hours and having to paddle almost the entire time (the current was not fast enough to just let us float, except of course at the rapids, where “just floating” was not an option.) We were chilled from the wet clothes (although the river itself was not very cold at all) and Joe and I were too tired to move…. We just crashed (although we did make some tea to heat ourselves up, too.) The RV was quite warm when we got in, which was much appreciated.  It was at least an hour before we felt able to drag ourselves up and drive to the RV campground where we were planning to spend the night. We stayed at a very pretty family campground, quite full of children on bikes, karaoke near the office, and lots of people and RVs everywhere, but we did not care. We knew we would have NO TROUBLE sleeping!

Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013

Guess who is still tired from kayaking? We spent the first half of the day at the campground, just relaxing and letting our wet clothes from the kayak trip dry in the sunshine. Around 2pm or so we finally packed up and drove 32 miles to Darien Lake State Park, which is where we are now. The campground is about half full and pretty nice, although not as wooded as Letchworth was. It is on much flatter ground—in fact the scenery getting here was rolling farmland. But the good news is, we have 4G cellular again, so I can catch up with my blogging. Tomorrow our plans are to go up toward the Niagara Falls area, although we are not planning to go to see the falls (not a good area for an RV—too much congestion!) We have a couple of other things planned instead, which we are looking forward to.

1 comment:

chutes said...

You describe this so well. I was panting during the kayak trip.