Recently, twenty-one Union students and faculty ventured into the Adirondacks to go whitewater rafting on the Indian and Hudson Rivers.
According to Frank Rocco ‘17, Sorum House co-Chair, this trip “has been Sorum’s tradition for the past few years. I went last year and it was a great experience.” Co-sponsored with Messa House, the trip invited all Sorum and Messa members and “a friend” to undertake the challenge of whitewater rafting in spring.
The trip members met at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday to embark on a little over an hour drive to Wild Waters Outdoor Center in Warrensburg, New York. Upon arrival, everyone quickly undressed and changed into wetsuits, personal flotation devices, and helmets.
Supplied with paddles, Union students and faculty quickly learned the importance of covering the T-grip and how not to become a “lilydipper” when paddling.
After a forty-minute drive to the launching point, Union students and faculty met their guides and carried rafts to the water’s edge. Before setting off down the falls, rafters took a quick lesson in the calm vernal pool, tuning their ears to obey commands like “lean in!” or “two forward!” Laughing and enjoying the sunlight on this spring day, Union students learned how to turn the raft 360 degrees, how to tuck their feet into the gunwales, and, most of all, how to have a safe and fun time on the river. Guides and rafters formed a close, good-natured bond, both thrilled for the prospect of heading downriver.
The first section of the trip tackles the Indian River. Waves poured into the rafts as excited shrieks of laughter came from the rafters. With water slipping down their faces, Union students and faculty smiled broadly, enjoying the fury of the spring-swollen river.
Sealed in by walls of bedrock on either side of the riverbed, guides explained the history of the river. They described the “most dangerous job of the 1800s,” which was clearing the logjams caused by sending timber floating down the river to reunite with loggers farther downstream.
At the confluence of the Indian River and the Hudson, rafters surmounted the “Welcome to the Hudson” entrance rapids, eventually finding themselves at the Blue Ledges. Each raft in turn pulled up to the shore to serve lunch. Coolers, unpacked from the rafts, burst forth with soup, sandwiches, crackers and water for the hungry and thirsty rafters.
After lunch, the guides encouraged each member to switch up the order in the rafts so that those who wished could take a turn being face to face with the angry river. As the rafts bucked and dived with the waves, students and faculty excitedly anticipated which wave would swamp the boat, ecstatic at the prospect of getting drenched.
Tackling the OK and Gunsight rapids, rafters found themselves exhausted on the smoothest and final stretch of the Hudson River. At this point, only the guides steered, allowing the scene to take on a Venetian air as the other crew members lounged in the bottom of the raft.
Finally arriving on shore, rafters eagerly returned to the lodge and shed their water-soaked layers.
Before sitting down to a family-style meal of barbeque chicken, fresh bread, salad, and rice with vegetables, many Union students amused themselves by playing with the lodge’s resident goats, Beatrice and Charlie.
Crowding close to the lodge’s bonfire pit, Union students and faculty warmed chocolate chip cookies while swapping stories of their adventures on the river with those from other boats, in a style that Mark Twain would have appreciated.
Stephanie DiGiorgio ’17, Activities Chair for Messa House, fondly summed up the trip: “It was a really great bonding event, especially in working with people from Sorum council. Bringing the presence of the Minervas outside of Union was really cool.”Sorum and Messa hope to run the trip next year, holding true to Union’s place as a college of the edge of the Adirondacks, where the learning that takes place outside of the classroom yields some of the best natural lessons.