North River, New York

Will he float? A little boy becomes a man on the river wild.

North River, New York: White water rafting

I am not a rugged outdoorsman. Broing down in the wilderness with nothing but my citified wits and a crudely fashioned spear to protect me is not a situation I’m terribly comfortable with. But somehow I found myself driving up I-87N at midnight toward Mt. Gore in the Adirondacks for some whitewater rafting. In the spirit of Henry Clay, “the Great Compromiser,” I agreed to this trip on the condition that I didn’t have to sleep outdoors. Prior to departure, I’d had an amazingly detailed vision of being mauled by a bearcat or a mountain weasel or some equally ornery critter—and I consider such dreamlike revelations to be portentous.

I managed to pull into the Garnet Hill Lodge (13th Lake Rd, North River; 518-251-2444, garnet-hill.com. From $200 per night) at about 3am. Run by lovely Irish couple Joe and Mary Fahy, the year-round, charmingly rustic establishment was the perfect arbiter for introducing me to the wilderness. That is to say, it has a pool table, a big flat-screen TV, excellent food and a bar. For the slightly more adventurous, the lodge is ideally located near a beach at 13th Lake, where you can fish or take out a kayak for a paddle. The surroundings are hiking trail–centric, and you can rent mountain bikes at the hotel. Not to get all emotional, but the lodge’s back porch is the perfect place to watch the sun’s rays tipple over the mountains—and the night’s starry firmament is a mesmerizing reminder of what the evening sky is supposed to look like.

North River, New York: Garnet Hill Lodge

Courtesy of Garnet Hill Lodge

Thinking that I might find a hot mountain lady via some forced group interaction—a romance heightened by the threat of death at the yawning Hudson’s mouth—I registered for a Saturday morning whitewater rafting trip with Adirondack River Outfitters (North River General Store, Rte 28, North River; 800-525-7238). But I wasn’t placed in a boat full of busty, impressionable college girls. Predictably, I joined oars with a church youth group. Fortunately, their youthful exuberance overcame my crotchety, sleep-deprived state; and I ended up having a great time, really, despite myself.

Two things to be aware of: “summer teeth” and “raft ass.” Summer teeth occur when you get hit in the face with a paddle and “some are here, some are there” (a little river humor for you). Raft ass happens when you sit in the same position for 17 miles of river. Gary Staab, the Poseidon-like coproprietor of ARO, knows everything there is to know about rafting, and ensured that my landlubber carcass wasn’t dashed all over the rocks that pepper the waterway (be sure to tip your guide). After alighting onshore, the leaders fired up the grill and opened up the coolers—we raftsmen were hungry and tired.

Though dinner is included in the price at the Garnet Hill Lodge, North Creek, about a five-minute drive from North River, is a bastion of civilization. Trapper’s Tavern (Main St at Ski Bowl Rd, North Creek; 518-251-0827) has some large TVs and a nice pub menu. Casey’s North Restaurant and Tavern (3195 State Rte 28, North Creek; 518-251-5836) offers 15 beers on tap and the “Casey Angus Burger,” rated the best of its kind in the Adirondacks.

North River, New York: Garnet Hill Lodge

Courtesy of Garnet Hill Lodge

For those in search of life-vest-free activities, The Upper Hudson River Railroad (3 Railroad Pl, North Creek; 518-251-5334) takes passengers along the river for an elevated view of the surrounding countryside. Fishing enthusiasts will find plenty to be excited about too, as brown trout are all over the place. Hike down to the Hudson and scope out a secluded spot, or take a guided fishing trip with Beaver Brook Outfitters (Rte 28, Wevertown, NY; 888-454-8433).

Driving back to the city, I came to a few harsh realizations. One: I have no idea how to properly apply sunscreen. My day on the river left me as striped as a candy cane. Two: I have no outdoor survival skills. Without bodegas, I am nothing. All the same, the Adirondacks proved to be a great weekend getaway—even if I’m not yet man enough to brave the river without a guide. There might be cannibals and the like lurking in those woods. And, obviously, mountain weasels.

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