Journal of Darren McGinnis - Outdoor Adventurer
July 2003 August
Arrival in Mexico
Oswego, NY to New York
City, NY - Sept. 29th to Oct. 19th
Oswego River, Erie Canal, and Hudson Riverl of
Darren McGinnis - Outdoor Adventurer
I can not emphasize enough how happy I was to be off Lake Ontario. The wind
and waves were severe all but two of the twelve days I spent on it. The
Oswego River was a much welcomed body of water. Even despite traveling
against the flow, it is narrow, calm, and flat water. The river is lock and
dammed to the point that the current is negligible anyway. The first day, I
stopped for the night in Minetto, NY. As I was scoping out camping in a
small riverside park, the park's caretaker Carl came along to close up the
public bathrooms for the night. Carl was great and asked if I was going to
spend the night. I was relieved to get the ok because the park is right on
the road and there are houses and businesses all along the other side of the
busy road. I would not exactly be squatting very discretely here. Carl
joined me in looking for the best spot to put my tent. We had to consider
that it was currently pouring rain, windy, cold, and all the park trees were
huge, dead, and falling down. Not a good combination. While considering this
Carl suggested that I could sleep in the public bathroom if I wanted. They
are secure, heated, dry, and freshly cleaned he added. The idea seemed
absurd right off but I had to admit that heated and dry peeked my interest.
Carl took me for a tour and he was right, they were spotless. There was
showers and plenty of floor space a great distance from any toilet. I took
that a step further and chose the female bathroom as well. Anyway, it was a
first for me but a therma-rest on the floor and roof overhead never seems
like a bad thing to me anymore.
The following night, I camped in a park in Pheonix, NY. The only interesting
thing there was a homeless dude who came up to befriend me, and my gear. He
was admiring my sleeping bag like I admire a Lexus so I slept with one eye
open that night.
The following morning I started to head east on The Erie Canal a short ways
out of Pheonix. I made my way to Oneida Lake from there and stopped off at
Bouy's Restaurant. The Simpson, Saleski, and Jones families whom I had spent
the night with on Lake Ontario as mentioned in my last journal, had told me
to call them once I had gotten to Bouy's as they all live in the area,
(Syracuse area). I did not want to tackle Lake Oneida anyway so stopped
and called. Mark Simpson told me he would come and pick me up in about and
hour. After grabbing a bite, I was chatting on the payphone in the lobby
with my friend Nancy from Thunder Bay. First Ron arrived at Bouy's and as he
passed me in the lobby, he said hi to Yoda and I. Five minutes later Steve
arrived and the same. Then Jeff stopped in followed by Mark and I have said
hi to all of them by name. At this point Nancy asks, "how long have you been
there?" "I just got here" I replied. "And you know the last four people to
walk in this restaurant by name?" "Yup I say"
From there, we went to Mark and Julie Simpson's home in Cleveland, NY. Like
out at camp, I was welcomed like family by all of these people and their
friends. It was lucky for me as well because from this point, the weather
turned bad for five days and I was able to weather it out with the Simpsons.
I spent the first two days brewing beer with Mark. That Saturday, the whole
family got together with about another twenty friends and we took a borrowed
school bus on a New York State Finger Lakes wine tasting tour. There seems
to be a theme here that appealed to me. I also went wild mushroom picking
with their friend Roy. We picked two giant mushrooms the size of basketballs
and they were delicious. We also had a birthday party for their daughter
Gracie which was lots of people and fun as well. While I was there, Oneida
Lake was so vicious, that a bass boat overturned and then the firemen
overturned their kodiak while trying to rescue the fishermen. Mark told me
that he did not think I should paddled the lake and that he would drive me
to the eastern side and let me carry on with the canal from there. I had to
agree with him because I had been dreading the twenty-one mile lake that
gets bombarded by lake effect weather from Lake Ontario.
From Oneida Lake, I made my way east to Albany, NY. and my start on The
Hudson River. Along the way I met and spent time with several sail boaters
and yachters. As well, I passed through almost thirty more locks. At least
New York state does not charge paddlers for using the locks or for camping
on their properties either. The canal was quite nice and the leaves had
begun to get colorful as well.
Finally, on October 10th I arrived at Albany and The Hudson River, my last
stretch of about 200 miles. I could taste it. I asked the lockmaster at the
federal lock which is the last lock heading south to NYC from here if I had
to take the tide into account now. He told me that there is a five foot tide
here that goes in and out at 6 hour cycles. He also told me that I was at
high tide now. I was told I would have to paddle when the tide was receding
because incoming would be too hard to paddle against. It was 3:30pm so I did
the math. I could follow the tide out until 9:30pm now, sleep until 3:30am
and go again etc, etc. I was too tired now to go that far though so I made
camp in a park. I set my alarm for 10pm and went to sleep. I wanted to get
up to see how far out the tide goes so I keep in mind for future shore
camping. I was surprised to see that the water had receded about 40 feet. I
figured that the tide would creep back in for the next 6 hours so I went
back to sleep. I got up at 2am again but was surprised to see that the water
was still out where it was. I got away by 2:30am and the tide was coming in
quick at this point. It was no problem to paddle against though so away I
went. It was warm out and a full moon also so it was perfect for night
paddling. A dense fog hit around 4am and at 5am I came to a boat launch and
park with an extremely bright street light in Bethlehem, NY. I decided to
sleep again since I wasn't concerned about paddling against the tide
anymore. The following day was beautiful, sunny, and 80 degrees. I had not
enjoyed the sun in a while. I spent the day there watching and chatting with
boaters who were lined up to use the ramp. I decided I would go at high tide
that day which did not arrive until 6:30pm. This threw my calculations out
but was clearly visible by my more scientific "stick on ramp water level
comparison system, S.O.R.W.L.C.S." I paddled for a few hours but never
really worried about the tide for the rest of the way.
The following days I stayed in Coeymanns, Catskill, the riverbank, Kingston
two nights, Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, and Stony Point. Points of interest were
a T.V. projected on a giant oil silo at The Point Bar and Grill in Catskill.
Great way to watch the world series. All the boats and yachts can watch the
T.V. while out on the Hudson River. I spent two days in Kingston because
there was a wind advisory, (70 mph gusts). The Hideaway Marina were kind
enough to give me sanctuary so I was not affected. I visited the Bannerman
Island Arsenal. Real cool ruins of a castle built in 1908. I have since read
on the Internet that it is tick and snake infested. I did not see any snakes
but did have to pick a huge grape shaped tick off Yoda when we got paddling
again. We also passed West Point Military Training Facility. It is really
something to behold as well. It is a giant, fortified castle built into the
side of a mountain. I don't know if Black Hawk Helicopters always protect it
or if it was just because of a football game going on there but it was cool
when a chopper came swooping down to river level to check me out as I
passed. From there, I paddled through a freeway of yachts, one had a
helicopter and two Suburbans all matching paint on the deck. I pulled out
for the last time just before the Tappan Zee Bridge.
I reluctantly decided to end my journey at this point. I was getting
numerous warnings not to venture into the Upper Bay of New York. There is
horrendous boat traffic. The tidal currents are dangerous. And there could
be problems finding spots to put a tent. On top of these things, I had made
arrangement to get picked up and to stay with Brent and Tammy Turk. Brent is
an old friend of mine from Thunder Bay who now lives in Rochelle Park, NJ.
It was more convenient to get picked up now rather than further not to
mention on a Sunday which it was. To top things off, the weather was not
co-operating and it was cold, windy, and rainy of coarse. I had pretty much
had enough I'm not afraid to add
Anyway, the following weekend, Brent & Tammy drove me down to the Statue of
Liberty and we took some pictures with Yoda and the kayak. When I looked out
over Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Jersey City, and Bayonne, I knew
that I had made the right decision about not paddling there without knowing
exactly where I was going to stop.
I had also been in negotiations with a producer and talent coordinator for
the Late Show with David Letterman. I figured they would be interested in
the fact that I had paddled from Paul Shaffer's home town of Thunder Bay to
come see the show, (a fib). I thought it would be cool to end the trip by
getting introduced in the audience as the crazy dude who had paddled here
2500 miles from T.Bay. Paul's assistant informed us that they were not
interested in acknowledging me publicly but they would try to get me a
ticket to see the taping.
Anyway, I'm disappointed but what can you do. It did not help my
anticlimactic wave of depression I seem to get when finished my trips. Last
year, I figured it was due to my non-completion that I felt so down. I have
the same sinking feelings of anxiety again this year though. For almost five
months I focused on finishing and now that I have, it just seems like a blur
that had no point. I know it is purely psychological but it is interestingly
disconcerting. When I was enroute, all I thought was why everyone would not
want to try something similar. Now, all I think is why would anyone want to
be cold, hungry, tired, and lonely for half a year...what is the point?
Sure, I'm thinner and have a few more muscles but there are many easier ways
to accomplish that. I suppose this is the value of journals. I need to
reflect more, remember all the people, all the sights. Writing about my
trips might provide me with the desired result. My lack of satisfaction with
anything is really troublesome.
From NYC, my plan is to go to Mexico for a bit. I have not decided how I
will get there yet. I'm torn between cycling or just jumping on a plane or
bus. I would rather cycle but am concerned about the weather for the next
couple of weeks until I can get south enough. Thankfully Brent and Tammy are
generous enough to have invited me to stay as long as I need to figure it
out. I also have to figure out what to do about my kayak and gear. If I do
start cycling, I suppose I will pass along anything of interest to you all.
I will also journal my cycling trip back to Thunder Bay from Mexico this
spring as well.
Thanks again to all who helped me. When I publish my book, I will
acknowledge everyone for their help and support there...I promise!! I would
like to thank Bruce Hyer and staff at Wildwaters in Thunder Bay for
supplying me with the kayak, gear, advice, and website access.
Until then, cheers, d.
Darren the Kayaker & Yoda the Pug.
1-380 Shuniah St.
Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada P7A 3A6