I have wanted to go tubing down the Esopus Creek ever since I was a pimply teenager. Now that I’m a pimply adult with my own car and a husband to drag along with me, I can finally say that I’ve done it!
On Friday, we headed over to the Town Tinker to rent our tubes and hit the water. We got a nice little speech about tips for tubing the Esopus. It was about 45 seconds long and most of it was spent parked on the bridge pointing out where we would need to exit the creek in order to return the tubes and gear. About five minutes later, we were dumped out at the creek and I think I may have heard the driver laughing evilly under his breath as the tires squealed out of the area.
Ignoring what had surely only been my imagination, we got into the water! Yippee! I was all set for a leisurely float down the creek where we would take pictures and chat about intellectual issues. If only I’d brought my camera, goddamn it! Oh well, I’d have to take pictures with my feeble human memory instead.
I got into my tube and was quickly whisked into the current. Billy got into his tube and quickly got stuck on a rock. The distance between us kept increasing and increasing until we could barely hear each other shouting at the top of our lungs. So, I did what seemed a perfectly reasonable thing to do and I tried to get out of my tube and wait for him.
You guys, the Esopus Creek does not fuck around. I obviously did not respect the creek, because I got out of my tube and the creek knocked me down. And in my surprise and haste to grab my tube, I dropped our car key. Into the rushing flood of water that was knocking me over. And just like that, only two minutes after the bus driver left us for dead, the car key was gone.
At this point, I’m holding onto my tube with one hand and a tree branch with another and my arms are being stretched out like rubber bands by the river current. Billy is still stuck on a rock. So I decide the only logical thing to do is to try to get to calmer water where I can wait for Billy and cry.
Billy finally made it over and reassured me that there was nothing to worry about because he still had his car key! Yes! I asked him where it was and he said it was in the (locked) car. I figured at this point, though, that it didn’t matter where the car key was because our only objective now was to get the hell out of this creek and have a strong drink. And that meant another 2 1/2 miles of tubing.
So we climbed back into our tubes and let the current take us away.
About 10 minutes later, Billy’s tube got flipped over by rocks and strong current, and when I turned around to try to help him out, I saw it. Our car key! Seriously! Right there, floating next to Billy’s butt! I managed to paddle my tube over there and grab the key and I was so happy, people. I think I cried more after finding the car key than I did when I lost it.
We continued bumping and bustling our way down the creek, which wasn’t as fun as it sounds. We both kept getting stuck on rocks because the water level was so low, and because I weigh a lot less than Billy, he got a lot more hung up than I did. So I kept having to paddle my way over into quiet sections to try to stop and wait for him. Otherwise I probably would have finished tubing later that afternoon, and he’d probably still be there, stuck on a rock.
There was one rapid relatively early on that I just wasn’t expecting to be as strong as it was (you’ll see this is a recurring theme), and it knocked me right out of my tube and under the water. I think I took a nice big deep breath of water, not realizing I was underneath it, which understandably made it difficult for me to breathe air. Making my way back above water, I realized, with one hand holding onto my tube for dear life, that the force of the water had not only knocked the wind out of me, but it had also dislodged both my contact lenses. To give an idea of what it’s like for me without my contacts, I’d need to be about three inches away from someone to identify him, which I would still have to do by smell.
I managed to crawl over to the bank (thank god there was actually a bank here, and not just a bunch of tree branches that I would have had to hold onto) so I could catch my breath and try to find my contacts, which thankfully were still in my eyes somewhere and not in the creek. I managed to slide them back into place, and slowly my heartbeat began to fall back into the realm of “moderately terrified.”
After a while, we hit a stretch of calm water. Sensing this was too easy, I looked over at Billy and noticed his wedding ring was missing. I asked whether he’d had the foresight to take it off before we got in the water. You know the answer, don’t you? Some fish in the Esopus Creek is wearing an awfully nice wedding ring right now.
[Aside: Actually, now that I think about it, that’s probably what started the whole idea for The Lord of the Rings, isn’t it? I think it must be.]
By now, we were both destroyed. Emotionally, physically. We just wanted to get back to our campsite, drink a case of beer, and pretend this day had never happened. But we still hadn’t even come upon the first landmark we were told about! We were doomed.
We trudged on, continuing to get thrown and tossed around on our little tubes, and FINALLY, there it was. Our landmark, the first bridge.
I made it through without much incident. Billy was not quite so lucky. He plowed directly into a downed tree with such force that the tree itself was knocked loose and dragged into the next zip code before Billy could even look up. Billy’s tube went out from under him and as he tried to grab it, he slipped on a rock. The tube went one way, he another, and he belly-surfed over the rocks all the way to the bridge. And I’m sitting there in my tube, holding onto my tree branch thinking, OK. Car keys, wedding rings, and pride I am all ok with losing. But we will NOT lose my husband’s tube!
It was pretty heroic, really. I rescued the tube with triumphant valiance! And I only cracked two kneecaps in the process.
After passing somewhat uneventfully by a quaint little hand-painted wooden sign that simply said, “Danger Area,” with a cute little skull and crossbones underneath it, we finally saw it. Our bridge. The one that signaled the end. We started paddling to get downstream faster until… we stopped. We were about 200 yards away from the finish, and the creek at this point had dried up to about 3 inches deep. The Esopus won. We had to walk back, defeated.
People: All I can say is, beer never tasted so good.