This is the second in a four-part series on one woman's journey to find The Hudson River Greenway, and what she learned during her solo paddle on the river. Part one described the launch from Kingston. Check back for part three.
Day two: Esopus to Wappinger Creek (19.8 miles)
I spent 29 years being 'not a morning person.' I'm now a convert.
4:45am: The water is glass. A goose honks. A lunar hangnail fades into a yellow sky. A striper jumps. 7am: Trembling ribbons of light undulate on the bank, leaping downriver like a school of bait fish. Two bald eagles fly from a low cliff, squawking at me. (Okay, I'm no bird expert, but I looked them up in my guide book and I'm 95 percent sure they were bald eagles.) 8am: An aircraft's contrail hovers low in the sky, a rainbow inside it. 11am: I pull onto a tiny beach just south of the Mid-Hudson Bridge to pass the time while the river inhales.
If ever you can't shake the feeling that life is flying you by, kayak 20 miles in a day. By dusk, my eyeballs feel desiccated behind my sunglasses. I engage the abs and hustle across the shipping channel to the eastern shore, where my guide book tells me of a provisional campsite up Wappinger Creek. After a Metro North train clatters by, I ask a fisherman whether there's any such thing. "Nada," he says.
He's right. There is no camping allowed here anymore. But where the creek ends there is a hiking trail, the Wappinger Greenway, blazed with markers. It will do. "Nada" is better than civilization, in my opinion. The woods offer firewood and a peaceful place to sleep.
At 2 a.m., I'm not sure how much I like nada anymore. A dog-like prowler – coyote? wolf? Monte-Python-esque rabbit? – is out and about, doubtless on the hunt for flesh.
I crank my hand-crank radio, hoping the noise will scare him off. I scroll through static until I get a clear voice. "In the city that never sleeps, they're getting even less sleep than usual," it says. "Osama Bin Laden is dead." Huh. Those revelers are only 60 miles away. They seem much farther.
Becca Tucker, a Bedford native and graduate of Fox Lane High School and Yale University, edits a new green living magazine called dirt, covering the fertile Hudson Valley region. She is the daughter of Main Street Connect CEO Carll Tucker.