Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Crossing the Delaware

Goethe Girl kayaked a 12-mile stretch of the Delaware River this past Saturday. Here are a few pictures from that exciting day, which marked another milestone in my kayaking career. The day started at 5 a.m., with loading boats onto cars, then traveling north of Manhattan island (see map) to the part of the Delaware River that flows between Pennsylvania and New York.

The day was very warm, so warm that when we launched at 10 a.m. I decided not to wear my long dry pants. The river temperature was 55 degrees, pretty cold if you fall in, but by noon, when we stopped for lunch, the surrounding temperature was close to 90. Lunch tasted pretty good after two hours of paddling. The current was in our favor, but there were tricky rapids to watch out for, so you had to pay attention throughout; otherwise, you could find yourself knocked out of your kayak by one of the large rocks in the shallow parts of the river. The last mile of the trip we had a wind from the southwest against us. It was tough paddling, and I was surprised at how much muscle memory I still retained, since I had not been on a challenging paddle since late last fall.

Loading boats at 5 a.m.



And below is a painting of a truly important Delaware crossing, that of George Washington prior to the Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776. The hazardous winter crossing allowed Washington to lead the main body of the Continental Army across the river and engage in battle with the Hessian soldiers garrisoned in Trenton.  The victory of the Continental forces was important for the morale of the revolution. The painting is a famous one, by Emanuel Leutze (1816-1868).

It is always good to be reminded of historical events that took place where our feet are treading today. Indeed, as I traveled there with kayak friend Caroline, looking out over the valleys and mountains of this region, I thought about how 18th-century travelers, particularly from Goethe's time, must have looked upon the wild American territory. The wide spaces must have made quite an impression on people from urbanized, thickly populated Europe. And, then, there were those Hessian soldiers. Friedrich Schiller's father had been a recruiting agent, and it was no doubt the terrible details of men being sold to the English to fight in America that Schiller incorporated in his drama Kabale und Liebe (Intrigue and Love).

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