Hudson River Expeditions ready to paddle
By Michael Turton
Local residents and visitors to Cold Spring who don’t own their own kayak will once again be able to explore the Hudson River, Constitution Marsh and other area waters. Hudson River Expeditions, based at 14 Market St., opens for business May 22, just prior to the start of Memorial Day weekend. The new enterprise will feature kayak and canoe rentals, instruction and tours, filling a void created last fall when Hudson Valley Outfitters went out of business.
Thirty-eight-year-old Brian Grahn and his wife Maki Parsons are the owner-operators of Cold Spring’s latest new business. Grahn said they had been discussing the idea of running their own kayak center when the closing of Hudson Valley Outfitters presented a golden opportunity. “We jumped right in,” he said, adding with a laugh, “… into the deep end.”
Grahn, who grew up in Rockland County, worked as an instructor and guide at Hudson Valley Outfitters after the couple moved to Cold Spring seven years ago. He’ll handle the on-the-water side of the start-up business.
“I’ll be working behind the scenes,” Parsons said, adding that she is not a guide-level kayaker yet but hopes to be within a year.
Choosing Cold Spring as the home for their water-based business wasn’t difficult according to Grahn. “It’s right in the heart of the Hudson River,” he said. “And the Hudson Highlands region is the most magnificent section of the river — it’s known as a paddlers’ destination.” Parsons said that their appreciation for the area began as visitors. “When we moved to Hastings Brian brought me up here to go hiking. You can’t help but fall in love with Cold Spring,” she said.
Service-oriented, creative tours
“We’re primarily a service-oriented company,” Grahn explained. “We offer rental of kayaks, canoes and standup paddleboards.” There is also a sales component. “We’ll feature retail items specific to water-related activities — paddles, personal flotation devices, safety accessories — basically whatever you’ll need on your boat.” Other sale items will include such things as sunscreen, bug repellent and bottled water. Parsons said the Market Street shop will also feature branded T-shirts and hats with additional clothing items down the road.
In addition to rentals and paddling instruction, the company will offer tours ranging from two hours in duration to overnight excursions. One of the overnight paddles will feature Bannerman Island as the destination. While nothing is scheduled yet, Grahn said that overnights on Constitution Island are also in the works. Day outings include Constitution Marsh, West Point and a “Hudson Highlands Spectacle Tour” which will see participants paddle one way from Cold Spring downstream to Mine Dock Park located just north of Bear Mountain Bridge on the west bank of the Hudson. Transportation back to Cold Spring will be provided.
Twilight tours, kayak yoga tours to Bannerman Island led by Lauri Nemetz, who also teaches at SUNY Pace University, and standup paddleboard yoga tours led by Melia Marzolloof Skybaby Yoga will also be part of the product mix.
Do you take this paddler….
Private events and custom-designed tours will be a significant part of Hudson River Expeditions’ business, Grahn said. Kayaking will even factor into weddings held in the area. In one scheduled event, wedding guests will paddle on Friday, with nuptials taking place on Saturday. In another, guests will kayak in the morning before attending the afternoon wedding. Grahn said wedding kayak tours might range from 10 to 40 paddlers. Company outings will also be offered. “One New York City company is closing on a Friday and their employees will spend the day paddling here,” he said. High School groups and seasonal camps will also be able to book custom tours.
Kayaking has “really blown up” in popularity over the past 25 years, more so than canoeing, Grahn said. But the rising star way for getting out on the water these days is standup paddleboarding. “It’s the hottest of the three types of paddling and it’s really growing in popularity,” Grahn said. “It appeals to a younger audience — and it’s excellent core exercise.”
Depending on water temperatures and weather, Grahn estimates that Hudson River Expeditions will operate through the end of October. They will be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays although private events and custom tours can be booked then. The supporting cast includes eight employees — two land staff and six instructor/guides.
Hudson River Expeditions is a member of the American Canoe Association, which provides education related to all aspects of paddling including safety and instruction.