Flash: A Journal Entry from the Hudson


Dawn at the mouth of the Roe Jan. Been some time since I’ve been up and observant this time of day. 

Was hoping it’d still be mostly dark as we got on the water. 

But the hiding sun is still bright. And time is always short. Jen arrived just when I did at the club.

Clear. Not cold. Tide still incoming, I think. Soon to switch. Paddling along our hometown. 

Germantown takes a while to get past. Henkels and McCoy truck along the railroad. More parked at Anchorage. Waved to Jen’s family up on the hill. Remembered that my grandfather took photos, and they’re in an album somewhere, when that house was moved. Whole town came out to watch.

Tide slackening, I think. Increasing wind, due-north. Some splashing. Stopped at Joan Davidson’s jut of land in Clermont. Wondered why corn cribs are shaped the way they are. 

Back on the water. Graceland playing. Crossed over to the western shore at some point. Tide strongly outgoing now. Lunch on the water. 

Went into the Esopus Creek. How’d we miss the mouth of it last year? Right by the lighthouse. Don’t know, but we made it in this time. Saugerties—little houses along the water. Boat for sale. Could live in a boat like that. 

Bridge approaching. For another couple hours. Always slow down and look up at the underside when you go under a bridge.

Break at the little park where I slept a night two years ago. Or three years ago. The trips are starting to blend.

Forgot about the woman with the line in the water when we got back in. Went into her line a bit. Monofilament’s invisible when the sun’s out. A million apologies.

Saw a white swan and saw two more the next day. Never saw them on the Hudson before.

Paddled into the Rondout Creek. Sunken barges. Rusted crane. Slippery wood, barely submerged. Ten or more vessels retired in this area.

Couple more hours of daylight. Jen stayed in the Roundout for her pick-up. I went back into the river. Wind switching between blowing north and blowing west. Late September. Summer’s not over till we all agree it’s over.

Arrived at Esopus Meadows Preserve. Pulled up onto the gravel shore. 

Watched the eastern response to the sunset. 

Laid my sleeping bag out underneath a small pavilion. Started to drizzle. Moved my bed to the center of the pavilion. 

Fell asleep early.

Up just before dawn. Propane one-burner gave trouble. 

After years of fidelity. 

Got it to work. Coffee and oatmeal. 

Thankful for coffee and oatmeal. 

Tom joined me. Put in a mile or less upriver and got to me shortly after sunrise.

Wind was already blowing, but at our backs.

You should never think about making good time, or you’re setting yourself up for—. 

I forgot my poncho and wore cotton. Have I learned nothing over the years?  

Brothers catching up on water. 

Water’s pretty rough. But we’re coasting downriver. Tide and wind.

Sixteen or seventeen wild turkeys taking a drink at the waves splashing onto gravel.

Talked about globalization and the election.

Under the two bridges in Poughkeepsie. Stuck to the western side most of the day. 

Water calmed and we crossed toward the Chelsea Yacht Club. 

Imagine the annual dues there.

Afternoon sun. Few more hours to Denning’s Point. 

Made it there. Gathered wood. 

Gonna be Forty-one degrees.

Took a walk around the trails of Denning’s Point and then to a park on the Fishkill Creek. 

Made dinner. Dark by around 8. Music playing across the river in Newburgh. Saturday night. 

Borrowed Tom’s light and took the two-mile walk into Beacon for a candy bar.

Built a fire when I got back and fed it for a while. Put on a second sweatshirt. Laid my sleeping bag out a few feet from the fire. Drifted off.

Two or three in the morning: woke up as two guys barreled down the path, talking loudly. Once they were ten feet or so from us, one said,  “Oh, shit!—Somebody’s here already.”

Fire was gone by then.

Drifted back to sleep. Woke up cold once or twice, but dipped my head inside the sleeping bag.

Tom woke me up around 6:30. Fishkill Creek Bay was gentle.  

Coffee, then we paddled back north to the Long Dock Park in Beacon. 

Rena picked us up there. 

Fifty-two miles on the river over two days.

Longed for more.


The title of this new regular column, “Flash,” is short for “Flash of life: a chronicle of efforts to slow life down.” William Shannon runs the website hudsonriverzeitgeist.com. His writing has appeared in The New York Times and The Boston Globe. His book 'Hudson River Zeitgeist: Interviews from 2015,' is available at the Solaris Gift Shop at 360 Warren Street in Hudson and through hrzeitgeist.com.