Friday, November 11, 2011

Kayacking in the Snow

We’ve had some interesting weather here in the Northeast lately.  Hurricane Irene did a number on the streams and rivers this summer, flooding them to levels that hadn’t been seen in a century or more.  Then in October, a freak snow storm dropped over a foot of snow and brought down many trees and power lines because their leaves hadn’t fallen yet.  It left hundreds of thousands of people without electricity or heat for several days.

Now in November, it feels like we are back to summer again. The temperatures are back up in the 70’s and the nights are comfortable.  It’s a perfect time to combine two of my favorite things: boating and beer.  Nothing’s better than enjoying a good beer by the water.  If it happens to be a great craft beer sipped from a kayak on a lake, then we’re talking about one of the top five days of my year.

That’s what I had the other day up at Harriman State Park: a couple of hours of bliss taking in the beauty of Nature along with a tasty Pale Ale from BerkshireBrewing Co.  Brian, our “man in the field”, was up in Mass last week and was able to secure a couple of growlers of fine New England ales. 
So with snow still lingering on my porch, I fill a steel Nalgene bottle with beer and load the kayak on the roof of my car.  On the ride up the Palisades Parkway, I notice lots of downed tree limbs but it doesn’t take away from the foliage which is in its full splendor.  As I unload my gear at one of the Seven Lakes, a man passing by with skis over his shoulder says, “It’s not every day you see people kayaking AND skiing!”

I step into the water to push off the shore and a brisk chill shoots up my leg.  This would not be a good day to involuntarily take a swim.  The water is smooth as glass and reflects the reds, greens and golds.  Though the air is comfortably warm, the lack of wildlife in and around the lake reminds me that winter is not far off.  A lone turtle plunks off a rock into the water.  A month ago he would have been accompanied by dozens of other sun bathers.  Now he is getting ready to spend the next 5 months hibernating underwater.
I paddle out to the middle of the lake to take it all in and have my first sip of the ale.  The citrus scent is not completely obscured by the metallic smell of the bottle. The taste is crisp with just a slight bitter bite that combines well with the grapefruit notes.  I’ve been drinking a lot of pumpkin beers lately so this ale is a nice departure from all that sweetness. 

I look around and notice snow still on the ground in the shady ravines between mountains.  The trees up here don’t seem quite as damaged as the ones back home.  There are lots of limbs on the ground but it’s hard to tell if they fell last week or last year.  I guess, to the forest, the recent storm was not a big deal.  From a trees perspective, this storm will just go down in the books as one of hundreds that it had to endure.   The rocks up here have been around for billions of years. They’ve seen ice ages come and go so an early snow isn’t that memorable.  But to me, in my short life span, a chance to kayak in the snow doesn’t come around every day.


  1. Tom, This is Silvermine Lake. It's great for fishing or kayaking. And it's got the only open bathroom in the park this time of year!