The dog days of summer may be upon us, but don’t let the heat and humidity stop you from enjoying the great outdoors here in the Valley. Looking for a low-key outing? Take a hike or a bike ride, or perhaps a sail on the Hudson. Need a little more excitement? How about tubing, rock climbing — or skydiving? No matter what thrill level you seek, these 10 invigorating excursions are guaranteed to get your heart racing
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There is arguably no better vantage point from which to enjoy the bucolic splendor of the Hudson Valley than the hull of a kayak. Although the canoe is more frequently evoked in popular culture (perhaps because the word canoe has so many rhymes), that open-hulled boat-for-two is better suited to the white-water currents of the Delaware River. In the Valley, the kayak is king.
“Canoes are made of wood,” explains Kris Seiz, the owner of Storm King Adventure Tours, a kayak outfitter in Cornwall-on-Hudson. “Kayaks are a plastic/fiberglass compound, lighter weight, easier to handle, and ride lower in the water. They’re like a torpedo compared to a canoe.”
Weighing only about 40 pounds, kayaks are easy to carry. If you find yourself in the shallows, or scraping the rocks below the water, all you have to do is get out of the kayak, lift it up, and move it to deeper water. “The great thing about kayaking is that you can kayak in a foot of water,” says Edie Schwimmer, who with her partner Lee Ferris operates Hudson Valley Kayak Tours, based in Rhinecliff. “There are a lot of great places to go where people feel confident because the water’s not deep.”
Ease is another factor. The kayak requires just two extra pieces of equipment: a paddle and a PFD, or personal flotation device. That’s it. “There’s a reason you see so many retired people with kayaks on their cars,” Seiz says. “You just pick them up and go.” Paddling is also simple. “It’s very, very easy to do,” Seiz says. Her outfit gives 15-minute tutorials before each outing, covering the basics.
“Everybody goes out,” she says. “We have newbies on every tour.”
Certain bodies of water demand a higher degree of difficulty. “It’s relatively easy to move the boat safely through the water,” Schwimmer says. “It’s not easy to cross the river.”
Schwimmer’s small operation focuses on the area’s ecology (she’ll take kayakers to places where eagles nest, for instance). A number of larger outfitters — Hudson Valley Outfitters in Cold Spring and Atlantic Kayak Tours in Saugerties, to name two — offer kayaking rentals, lessons, and tours. Storm King Tours has a summer program called KICKS — Kids in Colorful Kayaks — aimed at the 10-14 age group. Members in the Storm King kayak club rang in age from 15-82, Seiz says. Once the kids can swim well enough, it's fun for the whole family (although the “Full Moon Paddle” is more of a romantic run).
The Hudson River is among the best kayaking destinations in the Northeast — and the secret is getting out. “The river is very dynamic,” says kayak enthusiast Johnny Miller. “It’s tidal all the way to Troy.” He should know; he’s done the 10-day excursion from Albany to New York, and negotiated his craft around the city’s Downtown Boat House.
His favorite local spots: Foundry Cove in Cold Spring; the Highlands from Beacon to Peekskill (he recommends parking in Beacon, kayaking down the river, storing the boat at a Hudson River Valley Greenway storage rack, taking the train back to Beacon, and then driving to Peekskill to retrieve the kayak); near the stone bluff at West Point; and Bannerman’s Island. In addition to Bannerman’s, Seiz favors Moodna Creek Marsh and Plum Island. Schwimmer likes Tivoli Bays, particularly for beginners, as the barrier of the railroad trestle makes the water especially calm. But there are countless gorgeous vistas along the Hudson to explore — and nothing quite like a kayak.
“It’s an outdoorsy, environmentally friendly, ecologically correct recreation,” Seiz says.
Storm King Adventure Tours
Hudson Valley Outfitters
Atlantic Kayak Tours