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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The stretch of the Esopus Creek between Shandaken and Mount Tremper in northwest Ulster County is uniquely suited to tubing. For one thing, the topography makes for rides that are fast enough to be exciting, but slow enough to be benign. For another, the flow of the creek is relatively constant. This is because the current, mostly a result of discharge from the aqueduct at Schoharie Creek, is carefully regulated by the City of New York and the Department of Environmental Protection. The latter, in an effort to ensure a safe environment for fish, maintains a water temperature that does not exceed 70 degrees.
“More than that and the oxygen level drops, and the fish suffer,” explains Harry Jameson. And he should know. Not only is he an erstwhile engineer with the U.S. Navy, he is also the owner of the Town Tinker Tube Rental, one of two such establishments in Phoenicia. “The average temperature is 60 degrees.”
The Town Tinker — so-called because Jameson’s original plan was to open a fix-it shop (the tube rental was supposed to be temporary) — has been in business for 31 years. F-S Tube Rental, owned by former sporting goods proprietor Richie (“The Tube King”) Bedner, has been in town even longer, since 1975.
The Town Tinker offers two courses. The beginner course starts right in Phoenicia and heads upstream (unlike most creeks, the Esopus runs north); the expert course, which features more intense rapids, begins north of town and ends in Phoenicia. Cabs shuttle tubers to and from the various starting and stopping points. Each course is two-and-a-half miles long and takes about two hours to complete.
The tubing season begins on Memorial Day, although the water can be cold until the summer begins in earnest (Jameson recommends renting a wet suit). While there are a variety of pricing options at each establishment, both offer tube rental and transportation for less than $20.
One weekend per month there are “water release days,” when the discharge from the creek is intensified from 30 to 90 percent capacity, adding an additional inch or two to the water level. This is when the rapids are the most rapid — and when the lines for tube rentals are the longest.
Because tubes are flotation devices that toddlers use in swimming pools, there is a perception that tubing is easy. This is not always the case — or not on the Esopus, anyway. The tubes themselves are big tire-like things, most equipped with wooden seats (highly recommended if you don’t want to bruise your behind on the rocks). The rapids can be intense, even on the beginner course, and the tube can be difficult to negotiate. Which is all part of the fun.
“It’s not something people are used to doing,” says Jameson, who enjoys watching customers try it for the first time. “It’s like watching people jump out of an airplane.”
Town Tinker Tube Rental
10 Bridge St., Phoenicia 845-688-5553
F-S Tube & Raft Rental
11 Church St., Phoenicia 845-688-7633, 1-866-4FS-TUBE