Follow me and my friends on our adventures outside.

The Eastern Shore

I have been horribly slow at getting posts up from past trips.  I am working on getting caught up so I have a fresh memory to write new ones now that we have just come back from Scandinavia.  These images are from an amazing vacation we took in late June, to the Eastern Shore of Virginia, about as far down as you can go.  I am not going to give much narrative, but please enjoy the images and the small amount of words that go along with them.  We started our trip off with a fast visit to Chincoteage and Assateague, since we were driving right by on the way to our final destination.

Sloane on the giant chairs at the Chincoteague water front park.

Sloane hanging at Woody's Beach BBQ on Chincoteague.

Woody's is awesome because of three things : BBQ, Hammocks, and it's proximity to Assateague Island.  We rode our bikes from Chincoteague to Assateague, got some exercise and saved a few dollars.

Let the sunburn begin.  Sloane on the beach at Chincoteague.  

After a few hours in the sun we headed back to our car, and further down the shore to our vacation home.

Bedroom with a view.

The living area.

View from the bed area.

We rented a studio apartment for our vacation, but a really nice one.  It was situated directly on a creek, had its own dock and a deck with a view of sunset and sunrise.  Below the apartment used to be a boat house, but it was recently renovated to be an event space.  This place sits on a peninsula, so you are basically surrounded by water, it's amazing.

The deck view.

The front of the house from the water.

Sunset from the back of the house.

The "back" of the house.

From this home base we : ate, drank, kayaked, hiked, swam, saw lots of wildlife, watched the sun rise and set and generally had an amazing time.  Below are some images arranged in some sort of order. 

Food:

First nights dinner.

First nights dinner.

Grilled pizza for dinner.

My first take at oyster shucking in quite a while, I forgot the clean the shells.....

Oysters round 2.

I actually cleaned them this time.

Sunrise:

The morning view from the deck over glassy waters.  I still have no idea what this dock was for, but it made for a good photo subject.

I met some wonderful women who went rowing from our dock every morning - they invited me to come along one day, but I had plans of either sleeping in, or kayaking elsewhere in the mornings, so it never worked out.

The Cape Charles Rowing Club.

Sunrise in Oyster, VA on Cobb Mill Creek.  I went kayaking out of here to some barrier islands in Mockhorn Bay on this particular day.

A fleet of boats in the Oyster harbor, check out that pile of oyster shells in the background.

Wildlife:

Black Skimmers, flying over the glassy waters of Cherrystone inlet in the morning.

Black Skimmers, flying over the glassy waters of Cherrystone inlet in the morning.

A family of curious sea otters coming to check me out.

Sea Otters!

A Great Egret stalking breakfast in Mockhorn Bay.

A ginormous loggerhead turtle I was lucky enough to spot in Blackbeard's Creek, while eating my lunch from shore during a kayak trip.  I swear it's head was as big as mine.

A common tern in Mockhorn Wildlife Refuge

Another Black Skimmer doing its thing.  These birds are awesome.

A peregrine falcon protecting it's nesting box, on an old chimney foundation right near Mockhorn Wildlife Refuge.

Dead dinosaur, or horseshoe crab.

Sunsets:

Sunset from the banks of Cherrystone Inlet.

Sunset from the banks of Cherrystone Inlet.

Sunset from the deck.

Sunset on our last night, listening to Amazing Grace and toasting our lost friend, Captain George.

Randoms that have no place:

The decomissioned Cape Charles Lighthouse, which happens to be the second tallest in the US, right behind the Cape Hatteras Light.

Sloane's best Michael Jackson impersonation on our rainy day hike at Savage Neck Dunes, which are some of the highest points on the Eastern Shore.

Perfect hammock spot, under the deck.

Perfect hammock spot, under the deck.

He almost got away.  True story, I found this scene while kayaking, it was not set up.

At the beach in the town of Cape Charles.  Love the repurposed kayak.

Sloane showing me how to dive properly.  I'm more of a cannonball guy though.

Late night photo session:

Thunderstorms in the distance, clear skies above.

A skeleton tree near the house, on a late night kayak venture.

Stormy skies on the way back to Baltimore:

Bay Bridge.

An amazing storm to see from the Bay Bridge.

This is one of the best vacations we have taken together, I'm sure it will be topped soon - but we are definitely going back to this place.

Serious. Urban. Kayaking. Our circumnavigation of NYC.

We Beat Manhattan, all 31 miles of it.  It was hot, windy, smelly, humid, sometimes scary and very tiring. We paddled our kayaks the entire way around Manhattan Island, in a day.  My buddy Loren (who you may remember from the last post as getting his SUV seriously stuck in the mud) and I have been meaning to do this trip for a while now.  I honestly don't remember who came up with the idea, but I'm going to give it to him, since he is the NYC resident.      

Waking the fleet up early for our adventure.  The resurrected CRV loaded down.

Our adventure plans hadn't been working out recently, since I have been spending a lot of free time remodeling our recent home purchase.  I had a wedding to attend on the 12th, north of the city, so I got in touch with Loren, and he agreed we should try to make this adventure finally happen while I was in town.  The weather wasn't looking great, strong thunderstorms and high winds were forecast for the entire weekend, but I decided to bring along the boat anyway - with the hopes the weather would improve.  By saturday afternoon the chance of thunderstorms was down to 10%, but the temperatures were suppose to be in upper 90's, and the sun was going to be shining.  A brutal outlook for spending all day on the water (water you shouldn't swim in) without shade.

Cruising to our put in at Newtown Creek, from Brooklyn.  The highway was oddly quiet at 530 AM.

Sloane and I arrived in Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon, after having way to much fun at our friend's wedding, and sleeping less that 5 hours.  It was hot, like melt the deodorant in your bag hot.  We met up with a few good friends in the neighborhood, who like most folks in NYC, don't have central AC and were doing their best to stay cool.  We immediately went out for lunch, at a sushi place that was guaranteed to be cool, and the food was good too.  After lunch we headed to the park to sit under a tree and wish for a cool breeze that never really came.  After an amazing casual dinner at a local restaurant, Hugo & Sons, I said goodbye to our friends and Sloane (she took a train home the following day) and headed for Loren's place down the road. I had planned on going to bed early and getting a good nights sleep to rest up for the big trip. Instead I got to Loren's at 11, and stayed up until 12 planning and getting gear ready.

At the boat launch, just in time for sunrise.

After 4.5 hours of sleep, we were up and packing coolers for the long day ahead.  As with most of our adventures, the first stop was McDonald's to get some greasy breakfast sandwiches to start the day off right.  We then ran around to a few different gas stations looking for one that sold ice, which it turns out is a difficult thing to find in NYC.  We finally found bags of ice at the third store we visited, and we were off to the put in.  I didn't do much research on the put in, just that there was a small portage, water access, and that it was pretty much where we wanted to start our trip according to the Eldridge current chart - which you will want to study if you plan to do this trip.  Here is a link to another blog that I found incredibly helpful, having never paddled anywhere in the city before.  Here is a list of launches all around the city, read the descriptions carefully! 

At the boat "launch".  This was a gate, a straight drop into the seriously polluted water at least 4 feet down, and a pool ladder to help get in and out of your boat.  Not ideal, but at least we had water access.

The Empire State building from the water on Newtown Creek.

About to hit the East River.

We were loaded and on the water by 6:15 AM, a few minutes late, but given the lack of sleep we thought it was pretty good.  The most crucial goal of the day was to be a Hell Gate at slack tide.  This is a notoriously hard section of water to navigate on the East River, and I'm guessing damn near impossible to do against the current in a kayak.  The current reaches 4 knots here regularly.  With 3.5 miles to go from the landing, and slack tide at 7:30 AM, we were in a bit of a hurry to get there.  As we planned, the current was with us, moving north up the East River, toward Hell Gate.  It was a good feeling to know we had gotten the first piece of the puzzle correct.

Loren and the city, the UN is just to the left of him.

At the tip of Roosevelt Island, and the beginning of Hell Gate, so glassy.

We made it to Hell Gate right on time, and it was a smooth paddle over glassy waters - it couldn't have gone better, we didn't even have to deal with boat traffic, we had the river all to ourselves.  For a look at what the currents can do in this section when the tide is moving - check out this video - click ahead to 40 seconds in to see some sail boats getting tossed around.

Loren all smiles after a smooth ride through Hell Gate, Wards Island Pedestrian bridge is above him.

After we passed through Hell Gate, we were now in the Harlem River, the narrowest body of water we would paddle all day.  This part of the trip was nice and relaxing, aside from a few groups of jet skiers, there was no real boat traffic.  After passing by the Bronx and Yankee stadium, the surroundings opened up a bit and we were rewarded with trees, and the site of other boaters - we were starting to wonder if we would see anyone else paddling on this trip. The currents changed according to the charts, and we were slowly but surely being pushed towards the mighty Hudson River.

Keeping hydrated, about to pass under the RFK bridge in the Harlem River.

Demshitz in the Harlem river, near the Bronx? Those of you who are white water boaters will know this, for the rest this will make no sense at all.

Passing by Yankee Stadium.  Still a glassy ride.

Passing by Yankee Stadium.  Still a glassy ride.

A crew of folks learning to row on the Harlem River.  We must've passed at least 5 of these groups, all coming from the Peter J Sharp Boathouse.  It was good to see some other paddlers. One of those bridges is I-95.

Loren making the bend into Spuyten Duyvil Creek, at the Marble Hill station.

Loren making the bend into Spuyten Duyvil Creek, at the Marble Hill station.

At the very north end of the Harlem River is a really pretty area called Spuyten Duyvill Creek, which apparently translates to "spitting devil".  This creek empties into, or is fed by, the Hudson River, and the current gets a little dicey going through the narrow mouth of it.  It is also home to the sports complex for Columbia University, including their boathouse. 

Enjoying some shade near Columbia's boat house, on Spuyten Duyvil creek.  The big C is for Columbia University.

By 10 AM we had reached the entrance to the Hudson River.  The sun was getting high in the sky, and we were feeling the heat.  We decided to stop and eat lunch in a shaded cove before leaving the peaceful calm of Spuyten Duyvil, right beside the Amtrak.  The mud was thick, and it definitely had a smell about it, but it sure felt good to stand up after 12 miles of paddling and almost 4 hours of sitting.  We rested for half an hour or so, watched the Amtrak go speeding by and witnessed the bridge swing 90 degrees to allow two smaller boats to pass.  

Lunch at the mouth of Spuyten Duyvill Creek.

After a decent break, we loaded our gear up and climbed back into our boats for our journey down the much larger Hudson River.  The currents again lined up with our schedule and were pushing us swiftly down the Hudson to the Battery.  The water here was a lot less glassy and much more turbulent.  There is a ton of boat traffic in this waterway, and it gets more and more intense the closer you get to the Battery.  I decided that we needed more drinking water, so we made a quick pit stop at the marina at the north end of Manhattan.  I walked into the bar at the marina with my PFD and smelly shoes like it was normal, but apparently it is not.  The bartender was not very friendly, and informed me (after seriously judging what I was wearing) that they weren't open for another half an hour and he couldn't sell me water.  Luckily his co-worker was a bit more friendly, and decided he would help me out.  18 dollars later we had ourselves some ice cold bottled water, and I was much less worried we would get dehydrated.   After going through this water ordeal, I realized at the end of the marina was a kayak rental place, I'm sure this would have been a more friendly place to get some hydration.  

Approaching the George Washington Bridge, which carries I-95 over the Hudson River.

Looking back at the GW after passing under it.

Cruise ships are big. 

We reached the Intrepid museum at 1:30, this is pretty much directly across Manhattan from where we had started our trip, 7 hours ago.  We had paddled 21 miles at this point and were 2/3's of the way done.  Right above the cruise ship we pulled out on a small floating dock that was designated a kayak launch.  We hid in the tiny piece of shade under the ramp that went from the seawall down to the dock and ate a second lunch, amongst goose shit and used syringes - our first lunch spot was so much better.  Needless to say we didn't stay long at this particular spot, and were back on the water as soon as the sandwiches were gone.  The next 5.5 miles were the most hectic and nervous miles of the day.   

Loren passing the Chelsea Piers.

The water in this area was never calm, and I took very few photographs here, since I didn't feel stable enough to leave my camera out of the waterproof bag.  The wakes from large ferries, yachts, police cruisers and cruise ships would sneak up on us from half a mile away and crash over our decks.  We learned to time them, but when they are coming from all directions, it is hard to avoid.  We pretty much paddled along the edges of the piers, trying to stay out of the way of all the heavy traffic. 

Self portrait in the side of a mega yacht.

Approaching the battery.

Loren and lady liberty.

Directly after this shot, we headed around the last sheltered area on the Hudson, and quickly turned back around.  The wind was blowing hard and boat wakes were breaking over our decks every few seconds.  We headed back to the last cove we had passed, and discussed the best way to tackle this.  I put on my spray skirt and found out at the same time Loren had neglected to bring his.  We noticed that when we were close to the seawall of the battery, the waves would reverberate off the wall and back towards us, causing all sorts of turbulence - so we decided to stay further away from the wall, at least 100 yards. We discussed what we would do incase of a capsize, and that I would lead around the first bend.  

The plan was going well, and it seemed the wind had died down a bit.  Then Loren passed me, and began to pull away from me.  I continued on at my own pace, keeping a careful eye on all the boats in the harbor and which way they were heading.  The further away Loren got from me, the more dangerous our situation became.  If one of us were to capsize, it would take a considerable amount of time for the other to reach him.  Loren was not thinking this way, and just wanted to get across the battery and the East River to shore as fast as possible - which we both did without incident, thankfully.  He pulled into a small beach near Montague street, while my route took me further up the East River to a floating dock, closer to the Brooklyn Bridge Park.  I landed and called Loren to let him know where I was, and to yell at him for leaving me behind. He hopped back in his boat and paddled up to find me.  After a few angry exchanges about how dangerous what he did was, and him explaining that he had to go as fast as possible because he was worried about capsizing - we worked it out and were back to paddling the final 4 miles of our trip.  

Loren and the Brooklyn Bridge in the background.

Going under the Williamsburg Bridge.

Once we were in the East River, the wind and current were on our side, and they pushed us quickly back toward Newtown creek and our take out.  The boat traffic slowed considerably once we got passed the Brooklyn Bridge, and we were once again able to relax.

Graffiti at the mouth of Newtown creek.  This is how we both felt.

Loren using his umbrella as a sail heading to the landing.  We brought umbrellas along to provide shade, but by the time we wanted to use them, the water was way to turbulent to hold onto one and your paddle, so this was the only use they got.

As we made the turn into Newtown creek, we opened some semi-cold beers we had been saving all day and had a victory toast.  31 miles in 10 hours.  We arrived back at the landing at 4:45 and began the difficult process of getting our boats and gear from the water to the car.

Loren climbing the ladder at the "landing" on Newtown Creek.

Victory photo.

We got our gear loaded pretty quickly and headed back to Loren's place. All we wanted to do was go get food, but we smelled way to bad to be out in public, so opted for quick showers before eating.  We ended up at a bar in Loren's neighborhood that served Mexican food from the restaurant above it.  We sat at the bar, watching some serious storm clouds roll in - thankful they had held off - and devoured our food.  We were back at Loren's before the sun went down and I quickly fell asleep on the couch, feeling like I was till bobbing in the harbor when I closed my eyes.  It was a very uneventful evening and sleep was the top priority.  I was up early the next day to head back to Baltimore and was home by 11 AM to give all my gear a serious scrubbing from the polluted waters we had launched and landed in (not that our harbor is any cleaner)

This was a great trip, and it worked out incredibly well, despite having never paddled anywhere in NYC before.  The weather was semi-cooperative, aside from the oppressive heat and humidity, but at least we weren't chased off the water by lightning.  We are both unsure if we would do it again, but I would definitely like to hit the battery in the early morning hours if I did, to avoid a lot of the boat traffic there, and probably do it in reverse - paddling up the Hudson and back down the East River.  I highly recommend this trip to anyone who is a strong paddler and wants a very different view of NYC. 

Memorial Day in Rhody

This is another adventure that has been stuck in the pipes, I was finally able to get it out for you all to see.  At the end of May Sloane and I took a trip up to her home state of Rhode Island to visit with our family - and enjoy the first days of summer - New England style.

Leaving Point Judith on the Ferry to Block Island

We took a ferry from Point Judith to Block Island for the day, where we were all blessed with the first sunburns of summer.  We made sure to bring sunblock, just not to use it.  The temps were in the 70's, but it was incredibly windy, so no one really thought much about it, since we weren't hot.  We rented bikes for the morning and cruised around the tip of the island, bar hopping and sightseeing.  

The point of Block island as seen from the rear of the ferry.

Just before we opened the bar at Champlin's on Block Island.

Dark and stormy for brunch.

If you've never been to Block Island, I highly recommend it.  It is a super bike friendly place, and rentals are pretty affordable.  Right across the street from the ferry are at least 4 places to rent bikes and motor scooters from.  We stayed rather close to the main town, since we only rented bikes for half a day, but you could easily bike around the whole island in a day.

Sloane cruising down the road to Mohegan Bluffs.

The view from Mohegan Bluffs, worth the trek.

On top of Mohegan Bluffs

The South East lighthouse at Mohegan Bluffs

The road back to Shoreham, and the ferry.  The water here was incredibly blue and clear.

Some artsy boat wake from the boat ride back to mainland.

After visiting the bluffs, we all met up at a restaurant across from the ferry to get a late lunch and have a few drinks.  Thats when we all realized we forgot to apply sunblock.  Lesson learned, even if its cold enough to wear a jacket, if the sun is shining, you still need to block those UV rays.

Looking southwest down the Providence River.

We went to a BBQ Sunday night, hosted by someone Sloane and her brother went to high school with.  They had quite the spot, right on the river, and next to a beach.  The house felt like it was built on the water, I guess thats because it just about was.   

The back of the houses where the BBQ was.

The Barrington crew playing some corn hole

Fog rolling in from Narraganset Bay.

Brother and Sister

Whelans and McWhelans

The house at dusk.

The fog about to swallow the sunset

Corn hole, beer and a fire, right by the water - pretty perfect.

There were a lot of other highlights to this trip that just didn't get photographed.  Graveyard hikes with Brendan, seeing our friends from the days when we lived in Charleston - Kris, Jana, their two kiddos and Adam and Rebecca.  We had a great dinner out with them in Providence.  We also got to see Brad and Meg's new home they purchased recently, Laurie's new house right by the water, and of course Brendan made us a killer dinner the night before we headed back to reality.  More summer adventures coming soon. 

Stuck in the mud, CheatFest and Spring Crick 2016

Once again, I am really late posting images, but better late than never.  

First up - a return to spring crick in early April, for the annual gathering on the first day of trout fishing season in Pennsyltucky.  I did not spend a lot of time with my camera this trip - I was too busy hiking, eating and drinking most of the time - but here are a few choice shots from the weekend.  We had amazing weather yet again, so good, I am positive it will snow next year.  It was sunny, warm and dry in the Allegheny National Forest the entire weekend.  I think some people even caught fish - once again I didn't bother to bring my fishing gear.  

Palomino trout stand out at the fish hatchery on Pig's Ear Road.  Unfortunately none of these fellas were stocked in Spring Creek for opening day.

Firewood friday.  Tyler loves to use his chainsaw, and we love to burn wood.

Epic game of Bocce on the mountain.

The future rowdy kids of spring crick, working hard.

Who needs nature when you have video games.

There was a lot of this going on all weekend.

Build a huge fire, and stand way back.

Next up was an epic fail of a backpacking trip to the PineBarrens on the last weekend of April.  This one is going to have a lot of words, but it is a fantastic story if you have the time to read it.

Hiking along the BATONA (Back to Nature) trail in New Jersey Pine Barrens - this place is amazing.

Sloane and I decided last minute (2 days beforehand) that we would go backpacking for the weekend.  I assessed the weather (rain everywhere) and determined that instead of heading west to the App Trail like we had wanted to we would head north east to New Jersey to hike the Batona trail in Wharton State forest, this way we would at least have a day of sunshine before the rain came.  While packing Sloane's gear we noticed her rain jacket was no longer waterproof - so we would need to stop and buy a new one.  We set out Saturday morning for NJ - in two vehicles so we could leave one at the end of the trail.  Our first stop was REI somewhere along the way to buy a new rain coat, and the cheapest pocket knife they had - since I had left mine in my jeans at home - like an idiot.  We then grabbed some lunch, and a sweater for Sloane at LL Bean, since we had also left her fleece at home, and it was going to be in the 40's at night, with plenty of moisture to go along with it.  Not off to a great start.  

We arrived at the visitor center for Wharton state forest - around 2pm.  We registered for our campsites, recieved a brief warning about the rain that was heading this way, and left a vehicle in the parking lot, since this is where we would end up.  The plan was to hike 8 miles the first day, and to start hiking those 8 miles at 1pm.  We were already behind and weren't even at the trail head.  This place is flat, as in zero elevation gain or loss, so eight miles seemed quite doable to me.  We finally got on the trail around 3pm, with my expectation that we could hike 2 miles an hour and arrive at our campsite around 7pm.  About 3 miles into the hike, I noticed a mileage marker, and the math wasn't working out.  It seems I cant read a map anymore, and had us hiking 10 miles, instead of 8.  I kept this to myself for another mile, then when we reached mile four, and the halfway point - I had to let Sloane know the bad news.  Good thing I had a plan to save us.  I got on the phone (thankfully we had reception) with our good friend Loren, who had planned to meet us at the campsite that evening to bring us dinner, booze and then make us an awesome breakfast in the AM before we hit the trail.  This was all planned to be a surprise for Sloane, but it was pretty obvious she was going to kill me if we had to hike 6 more miles to camp, most likely in the dark.  Loren agreed to meet us where the trail intersects a fire road in the forest and save the day - Sloane was once again happy. 

Happier times, before I realized my map reading skills were now sub-par.  

Happier times, before I realized my map reading skills were now sub-par.  

To add insult to injury, Sloane's boots were killing her.  So we took a break and she put on the shoes she brought to wear at camp, to continue the hike.  We finally met up with Loren as the sun was sinking below the pines, around mile 6 of our hike.  He greeted us with cold beer and hugs all around.  After chatting briefly with some locals riding by on four-wheelers, who stopped to make sure were weren't stuck, we piled in Loren's SUV and headed back towards camp.  We were driving the back roads of the Pine Barrens - which are mostly loose sand with some large mud puddles mixed in.  If you happened to see a post earlier this year - we had already put Loren's vehicle through the wringer our here and it performed flawlessly. We had a general idea where we were heading, and we began following what we though was the road back to camp on my GPS.  Good news is it was the road back to camp, bad news is it had some serious "puddles" on the way.  Directly ahead of us was one such puddle - as Loren stepped on the accelerator, I blurted out we should probably check how deep it was before heading in.  Too late.  

Taking a break and changing footwear along the trail.

The front end of the CRV plowed into the puddle and then the back end, then the tires began to spin, and water began to come over the floor boards.  Loren and I quickly jumped out of the car to dry land, took off our shoes and most of our clothing, then jumped in the puddle to save the car before it sunk further into the mud. With Sloane now at the wheel, we pushed, pulled, and lifted the car with no luck. We tried shoving large pieces of trees under the tires to get traction, sitting on the hood, lifting the back end so the front tires had more traction - but nothing worked.  After about 20 minutes, we were wet, cold and defeated.  We dried off,  put our clothes back on, carefully unloaded the car, dropped a pin on my GPS, and began our sad hike to the campsite, which was about 2 miles away still.  Thankfully loren had already set up his gear, so he had free hands to carry the beer.  After another hour of hiking in dark, we could see campfires in the distance, and rest was close.  It was 10 o'clock, when we got to camp - and surprisingly we were all in good spirits.  I set up our tent while Loren built the fire.  We had our Mt house meals and Sloane decided she was ready for bed.  Loren and I stayed up until all the beer and firewood was gone, we made plans to make friends with the folks who had the largest truck at the campground in the morning, and turned in for the night just as the rain started.

One of the many bridges with rope railings on this section of the Batona trail. 

Sloane and I woke to the sound of rain heavily pounding the tent, after becoming more aware of my surroundings, I realized that the tent was leaking, and we were both pretty damp - stupid tents.  This tent has not been used in at least 5 years, since we usually use hammocks or a larger 3 person tent when car camping.  We both quickly agreed that this hike was over - it was suppose to rain for the next 36 hours, and our tent was certainly not able to keep up dry.  I got my self somewhat dressed, and climbed over the wet gear to open the rain fly.  Upon exiting the tent, into the pouring rain, I found that most everyone in the campsite had already packed up and hit the road, no one wanted to stick around and hang out with the foul weather.  There were two trucks left.  The folks I approached were packed up and ready to leave, I explained to them our situation and asked them if they could pull our car out, but they didn't have any sort of rope or chain, and neither did we.  So I asked them for a lift to my vehicle, so we would at least have transportation.  They agreed and in the mean time Loren got the other truck in the campsite to help tow him out of the puddle.  When I returned to our campsite with the car, Sloane was still in our wet tent and there was no sign of Loren.  We tried calling but no answer.   We began to pack up all of our wet gear and cooked up some hot oatmeal under Loren's hammock tarp.  After we had finished up, a white truck pulled up and Loren climbed out of the passenger side, soaked to the bone.  They had succeeded in moving the car, but didn't have a proper tow strap, so only moved it a few inches - on top of that the engine had seized up, presumably from getting water into it.

Two packs.  This is what you do - when you have greatly misjudged mileage and your partner is over hiking - to keep the peace.  I must've carried 70 plus pounds for 3/4 of a mile like this.

Loren put on some dry clothes and we made him some hot oatmeal to eat while we decided what to do next.  Sloane got on the phone and found a wrecking service that would come out and rescue the CRV from its watery resting place.  We then packed up Loren's wet gear and headed to town to get some cash for the tow truck driver.  We met up with the truck and its driver about an hour later, Loren jumped in and they headed back to the scene of the crime.  Meanwhile, Sloane and I drove south to pick up her vehicle from the visitor center.  Once we had her car we gave Loren a call to see how long he would be.  No answer - so we headed to a local bar to get a drink and some lunch - it was 1 o'clock already, and still raining.  We ordered some fried food and messaged Loren to call us when he was out and ready to go.  After about 45 minutes I finally got a text.  "The tow truck is stuck" - perfect!  After a few more messages we decided to settle up and head back into the woods to see what we could do.  We found loren standing under a pine tree near the road that led to his vehicle.  He informed us that they had gotten his car out, but the truck was too wide to get down the road and got lodged between a tree and the abandoned train track that he had been following.  We sat there for another hour waiting for the tow truck driver's son to show up to help figure the situation out.  Sloane headed back into town for some coffee and doughnuts to help lift the spirits.  

Loren enjoying some booze and a warm fire after getting the car stuck but before the shit really hit the fan.  So peaceful.

The second driver finally showed up around 4pm, Loren pointed him in the proper direction, since he didn't have room for anyone in the truck with him, and began the hike back to the cars.  I waited in my car for Sloane to come back, and hopefully the good news that the second tow truck has resolved the problem.   At 530 Loren texts me "this is bad..."can you guys come help push my car?"  Sloane and I put on our rain gear and headed back the mile or so to where we thought they were.  We came upon the second tow truck, parked with no one in it.  We could see the flashing lights of the first tow truck way down the road so we kept going to that one.  It was still stuck between the tree and the tracks, they had the winch hooked up to the track and were slowly pulling it out.  We met up with Loren and made a plan.  We had to push his car 1/2 mile down the tracks to the intersection of another sandy road - so that the tow truck could back out the way it had come in.  By the time we accomplished this, with Sloane driving and the help of a friendly Australian fellow who happend to be out hiking in rain, it was damn near dark once again.  We hiked back to the tow truck drivers, one of whom we now know was nick named Tuna and oddly enough were in pretty good spirits. Loren gave them all his cash and asked that when they had gotten the tow truck out that they pick his car up and take it to the local service station it was 745 pm now.  We then hiked back to our other vehicles, Sloane headed back to Baltimore, and I headed to Philly to drop Loren off at the train station - so he could get back to NYC for work on Monday morning.  As I drove back to Baltimore, I got a call from the wrecking service - they had gotten all the vehicles out of the woods, and Loren's car was on the way to the shop - finally some good news.  The best news came the following day, when Loren got a call from the shop and all they had to do to get his car running was pull the spark plugs and turn the engine over a few times - all the water came running out and it started right up after they put the plugs back in. He took a train down the following weekend to get his car back, and then drove it down to Baltimore to pick up his gear that we had to take back with us. 

Stuck in the mud.  Where we left Loren's car for the night..

Lessons learned : Double check that list of gear, otherwise you'll end up buying new sweaters and pocket knifes.  Look a little closer at the mileage on the map - and make sure your hiking partner does the same.  If your buddy wants to drive through a puddle in the middle of the woods, make him stop to see how deep it is.  15 year old tents aren't waterproof anymore.  Loren is getting a proper tow rope for Christmas this year.

This was a debacle of a trip, but one we won't soon forget, and it makes a hell of a story.  The Batona trail is incredibly beautiful and I hope to get back to hike the rest of it some day soon.

The final installment of this post is CheatFest, a kayaking festival held in the Cheat River Canyon in West By God Virginia.  It was my first time attending, and it did not  disappoint.  Fantastic food, music and vendors from all over, not to mention paddling for 3 straight days with some good friends.

Random hero running Big Splat Rapid, a class V on the Lower Big Sandy river in WV.

The rains that every kayaker wishes for came the week before, and pushed levels in the cheat canyon way up.  They also made it possible for the Lower Big Sandy to be runnable all weekend long.  We decided to forgo the Cheat River and paddled the LBS Friday, twice on Saturday, and once more for good measure on Sunday.  The same rains also transformed the festival grounds into quite the muddy mess - we were lucky enough to only have on and off rain during the weekend, and mixed in was plenty of sunshine as well.  I arrived late thursday evening, and a few of the rare trees in the campground occupied closely by a friendly stranger, after a brief conversation, and a promise that I would snore too loudly and we agreed that should set up my hammock right there - it was a great spot. 

Hammock time - When you only have two trees, but need three - substitute a VW with a roof rack.

The other folks I would paddle with were arriving in the morning, so I set about making friends with the rest of the neighbors - who happened to bring a legit circus tent - pictured above.  We drank plenty of beer and then some one who was semi-sober directed us how to raise it up.  It was a great place to take shelter for the intermittent downpours that occurred all weekend. 

Jim launching off the top of 18 foot Wonder Falls on the LBS, class IV.

Nate Blick cozied up in the bed of his truck.  I rudely woke him up shortly after this.

With three days of straight boating comes a few swims, including one by me.  And swims are followed by booty beers

Matt's booty beer

Cain's penance.

Scottros booty beer, the worst part is that isn't even his booty - its my brother's.

Dan Gore running Big Splat while ZVPC watches from the seal launch area.

Dan Gore running Big Splat while ZVPC watches from the seal launch area.

Ted taking a look back after running Wonder Falls.

Ted showing off his soccer skills while waiting for the shuttle to arrive.

From hammocks to room service, and everything in between.

I haven't posted anything for a while, so here is a dump of adventures from the past few months.

We had a great hang in the Pinebarrens recently.  Frank got to use his new hennessy hammock and 0 degree bag, Loren tested out his new underquilt, and I got to try out the aquaquest tarp that I modified to use with my hammock for foul weather, it now has doors.

Car camping at its finest.  Tables, hatchets, comfy chairs, tarps to make garages with and gourmet food.

We stayed at the Batona campground in Wharton State Forest, which turned out to be great spot for a quick weekend trip.  We took trip to the visitor center to register our sites on Saturday, and decided to tour the mansion that is part of the historic Batsto Village.  They don't allow photography on the interior, so all you get to see is the outside, and grey skies.

The viewing tower of Batsto Mansion.

Batsto Mansion.

When we arrived back at our campsite, we headed into the woods to cut some firewood.  After that we hauled enough wood to keep the fire going all night, we geared up for an 8 mile roundtrip hike to Apple Pie Hill, to try to catch sunset from the fire tower.  We headed out in a light rain that soon changed over to snow for the rest of our trip.

Loren and Frank crossing one of the many boardwalks on the Batona Trail.

Boardwalks and swamps.

Frank and Loren at the top of the fire tower. 

Don't look down.

Frank and Loren waiting on me - waiting on sunset.

Sunset from tower was pretty underwhelming. 

Ranger Frank on the way to Apple Pie Hill.

Patterns in a cedar log we split.

We got back to our campsite a little after dark, got our fire roaring and ate a late dinner.  We stayed up late enough to burn most of the wood we had collected, and turned in for a calm evening in our hammocks.  The temps hovered right around freezing all night, and we were all pretty comfortable.  The next day we had ourselves some egg sandwiches for breakfast, slowly took down camp, and let Loren talk us into taking his beastly CRV out for some off roading on the sandy roads.  This turned out to be way more fun than I had expected, and the CRV performed really well on the backroads.

The CRV tearing up the sugar sand while driving in circles.

You can make it, it's not that deep......

More mud puddles in the Pine Barrens.

We found this section of pines that were decorated for Christmas, and Frank got to work re-decorating with ornaments that had blown off.  

The Pine Barrens version of Christmas in March.

At the end of February, I took a quick weekend trip out to Southwest PA to hang out with the family.  We had just enough snow and cold to test out the new cross country skis at Laurel Hill State Park (where Jim works) on Saturday, and by the Sunday it was warm enough to enjoy a fire in the backyard.

Brenna enjoying the uphill section.

She fell out around a bend and immediately began doing snow angels.

Travelling in style.

Sunshiny hike on Sunday morning.

Last but not least, Sloane and I spent a glorious day and night in Cape Charles MD, this past weekend, at the Inn at Perry Cabin.  

Late afternoon view from the balcony off our suite.  There was a puddle on the railing from the morning rain.

Sunrise the following morning.  The puddle was now ice.

Our room had a Nespresso machine, and I drank like 4 of these things.  So good.

Room service is awesome, breakfast on the balcony, the sun was so warm.

Southern Fried Holidays

 Sloane and I packed the car and headed south for some sunshine and warm weather this holiday season (not that it wasn't warm up north).  First stop was our old home in Charleston, SC - I apologize to the folks we didn't see while in town - we wish we could have stayed longer and seen everyone.  We arrived in town on Saturday evening, before Christmas. On our way into Charleston we were able to swing by our friend's amazing new design studio and pop-up shop and surprise them.  They sell all kinds of incredibly designed things - check them out here.  It was pretty awesome to see what they have created, they have been talking about doing it for so long now.  Afterwards we headed to Folly Beach to set up our living quarters for the few days we were in town.  We are lucky enough to have a permanent place to stay with our good friend (and adopted Grandmother) Barb at her condo.  We visited for about an hour then headed back downtown to meet some friends for dinner.      

Morning (iphone) low-country view from Barb's balcony, through the bug screen.

The following morning we headed into West Ashley to have brunch with Sloane's Uncle who now lives in Summerville, and her mom who flew down for the holidays.  I had some good old biscuits and gravy at Ms Roses, visited for as long as I could then took the car to meet up with my adventure crew for our trip into the swamps.  I met Brad and Beth at their house in West Ashley, and helped load boats from Brad's Boat Rental - he has at least 7 kayaks - onto the car.  We met Mr Jeff at the Limehouse landing around 130, packed the boats with gear and were on the water by 2.  

"Adventure Clube Love's Desiree"  We didn't write this, and we have no idea who Desiree is.  The crew floating under the railroad bridge on the Wallace River.

As usual, I planned this trip around the tide, which was on its way in.  It pushed us gently into the bowels of Caw Caw swamp. The skies were clear, sun was plentiful and the temps were in the high 60's.

Sunshine and tidal paddling, the best of the low-country.

Brad in front of Carl's Cabana Bar - still not open for business....

With the sun getting low, we made a final push for the campsite.

We arrived at our campsite around 5, with just enough light left to get things set up.

Getting out is the hardest part, especially after a few beers.

We set up camp, got a fire going and Brad began his ritual dutch oven meal.

Brad and Beth finally got hammocks.

Mr Jeff still has a tent......

The crew working on dinner and fires.

We began to drink a bit more heavily once camp was set up, and harassed Brad for taking so long to cook us dinner while we did so.  The wait was worth it as usual, beef and bean chili, with cornbread baked on top, covered with melted cheese - so good.  After our meal we cleaned up hastily, and headed to the boats for a moonlight paddle.  We paddled around in the marsh for about half an hour, until we decided drinking beer around the fire was preferred.  So we got back on land, stoked the fire and did our best to lighten the load for the paddle out the following morning.  The temps that night only dipped to the high 40's - so we were all very comfortable.     

High tide in Caw Caw Swamp.

I woke the following morning to the sound of rain.  I quickly went back to sleep, and when I woke the next time, around 8, the rain had thankfully stopped.  I got up and took a few photos around our island, but it was gloomy and cloudy, so the light wasn't doing what I had hoped.  I returned to the camp and began packing up while every one woke up.  We were packed and on the water by 930, just in time to catch the falling tide on the way home.  Which would have been easy, but I decided we should paddle further inland once we got to the main river - since I hadn't been here for over a year.  So we turned against the tide and paddled against the current for about 20 minutes.  Once we reached the top of our loop, the tide was once again with us, and we mostly floated our way back to the boat landing.

One of the many tree "sculptures" in Caw Caw swamp.

We arrived back at the landing around noon, just before high tide.  We quickly packed all the gear away, loaded the boats and headed for the new Tattooed Moose on Johns Island.  I had placed a custom order for bacon from the Meathouse butcher shop that will soon be across the parking lot from the restaurant, and we decided we would eat there as well, cause it's delicious. 

13lbs of cured pork belly, from a sustainably raised, Greenville, SC happy pig.  You'll be seeing more of this later.  

I headed back to Barb's place to take a shower and prepare for the Telfer-Whelan christmas that was about to happen in Summerville that evening.  We all headed to Summerville around 530 Monday night for our gift exchange and a feast of pasta with some fantastic home made sauce, compliments of Sloane's Uncle.  Dessert was home made banana pudding, prepared by Barb's friend David, and it was amazing.  We exchanged gifts, drank heavily and turned in for the night (Sloane and I stayed in Summerville that night).  The following morning we went for brunch at a greasy spoon joint in downtown Summerville, and went to a few shops along the main drag.  Afterwards we packed up our things, and headed back to Barb's place on Folly.  We had dinner and drinks at the new beer works that night with more friends, said our sad goodbyes to downtown Charleston, and headed once again back to Folly Beach.  I was up early the next morning, to go hike out to the end of Folly and put my feet in the Atlantic before we left.  I found a scrubby old tree near a tidal pool and took some shots.  I was hoping the sun would come up, but of course we had planned to leave before sunrise, so I was in complete darkness and fog.   

Scrubby tree on the edge of ameica

We met Sloane's family one last time for breakfast before hitting the road down to see my family in Florida.  It was much warmer and sunnier in Florida, and although I am still sad my folks didn't purchase a home in Charleston for retirement, I think they made the right choice.  We got into town around 5 on Wednesday, just in time for dinner and drinks.

Sunset over the canal.

The following days were a mix of drinking, eating and celebrating.  My Brother, sister-in-law and nieces were there as well.  It was great to all be together for the first time in a few years at Christmas time.

Jimbo and I took a Christmas day paddle up Alligator Creek.

He found a school of baby snook to teach lessons to.

The full moon on Christmas, illuminating the sky behind the palms.

The day after Christmas was our annual bacon festival.  You've see the posts before so I'll keep it brief.  My Uncle and cousin came over from the Orlando area, and we had a good old time as usual - more kayaking, more drinking, and lots of bacon to eat.

Dad prepping and sampling the bacon.

While the old men tended the fire, the cousins went for a paddle and tried to find some more snook. 

Custom bacon cooking sticks, made from old golf club shafts.

The fire, ready to cook.

We waited until it was almost dark to start cooking, it was a little too warm with the sun out, to be sitting around a fire.  And since it was dark when we started, I didn't take very many pictures.

Bacon prepped for cooking.

Ready for the fire.

The cooking process.

The final result, I had to shoot this under and overhead light in the garage, so please don't judge.

This was by far the best tasting bacon I can remember, probably since the last time we ate a happy pig.  I think I may have gotten the family hooked on it too.

Happy hour at the canal, these palm trees are the perfect place for a hammock.

Brenna and Jim doing cannonballs. 

She has incredible core strength.

Everyone in my parents neighborhood decorates their yard by the canal, its a pretty awesome way to see christmas lights.

Our last few days in Florida were spent in the pool,  kayaking, and generally being lazy.  The Brother and his family left on Monday, and Sloane and I headed out of town Tuesday morning for Alabama, to see some long lost friends from Charleston.  When we got there, another 8.5 hour drive later, they informed us they are moving to DC in May, which is pretty awesome news.  We spent 2 quick days in Montgomery with them, again eating and drinking.  We rang in the new year with a delicious meal of slow cooked ribs, mac and cheese and a salad.  The next morning we were up early to start our voyage back home, all 12 hours of it.  It was rough, but we made it.  I hope everyone else out there had as good of a Holiday Season!

Paddling the Pine Barrens of New Jersey

Plans to spend my 33rd birthday on the water were thwarted by work this year, but I still managed to get out paddling with some good friends the days leading up to it.  The original idea was to paddle and camp at Assateague Island this time, but finding a third sea kayak for the group was proving to be a challenge.  Loren had suggested a trip in the pines earlier this fall, and I had been intrigued by the giant green spot on google maps in southern Jersey since I had moved north, so we decided to make the flat water rivers of the pine barrens our adventure.

Sunset at the Goshen Pond Camping area.

The Pine Barrens are located in Wharton State forest, in New Jersey.  All of us involved in this adventure were within a 2 hour drive or less, so it was pretty convenient.  I arrived Thursday evening, just in time to catch the sunset at the Goshen Pond campground - a car camping spot near the beginning of our adventure.  I struggled to find dry wood to get a fire burning, since it had rained the last 4 or 5 days here.  The rain had been great for the water levels, but bad for the camp fire situation.  I managed to get a fire burning, and devoted most of my time to keeping it going until Frank arrived later that evening with some dry wood from the grocery store.  Despite a forecast of rain and high winds, we had a very calm first night in the Pine Barrens.   

Frank's home away from home at Goshen Pond.

Stars and pines around the fire at Goshen Pond.

A brisk morning at Goshen Pond Campground

First light at Goshen Pond, after a calm evening in the pines.

Loren met us at the campsite around 10 that morning, so we had plenty of time to eat, get the gear packed up and meet the other resident of the campsite, Smitty.  He had spent a lot of time in this area, and shared his best Jersey Devil stories, click this link if you want to know more about this mythical creature.  We got all the boats and gear in/on Loren's CRV, since we were unsure if the VW could handle the sugar sand road to the put in.  After a bit of a detour to get our camping permits at the visitor center, we got to our put in around noon.  

Gear loaded and ready to go at the put in for the Batsto River.

I planned a pretty adventurous route on this trip, we would be starting on the Batsto River going downstream, portaging 1/2 mile to the Mullica river, and paddling upstream the rest of the way.  I called the local outfitter, and spoke with one of the owners about river levels, and my level of sanity for doing this route.  He confirmed it would be doable, but certainly not easy.  Check out the map here.  At the put in for the Batsto, the river was only about 15 feet wide, and less than a foot deep.  If we hadn't had rain the previous days, we probably wouldn't be going anywhere on this river.  The only USGS gauge in this area is on the Mullica, it was at .9 ft when we put on after the rains, previously it had been holding steadily at .6 ft.    We finally got on the river around 1 pm.

The first 2 miles of the Batsto River consisted of tight turns, thorn bushes and downed trees that had mostly been trimmed for boat traffic.

The tight turns, downed trees and overgrown banks made for slow going on our first day.

Loren navigating under an old train trestle on the first few miles of the Batsto.  

Last light shining through the pines on the upper Batsto River. 

We made it to camp just before sundown, it was a long 4 miles of paddling over, under and around downed trees.

A gloomy morning at the Lower Furnace campsite.

We were on the water at 930 on Saturday, with 6.5 miles to paddle downstream on the Batsto, a "short" portage to the Mullica River, and 2.5 miles to go upstream to the Mullica campsite.

Frank and Loren making their way down the Batsto, on the morning of our second day on the water.

Frank demonstrating how to limbo in a kayak on the Batsto.  There was so much of this....

The sun popped out for our last few miles on the Batsto.

Sunshine, pines, blue sky and open waters at the top of Batsto Lake - this was by far the easiest paddling of the trip, and we soaked it in.

Greasy haired selfie with Lorenzo.

Loren paddling up to our take out for the Batsto.

Lunch on the sandy banks of the Batsto, fueling up for our portage.

Frank and Loren doing the hard work.  We quickly decided this sucked, so I experimented with different ways of dragging the boats on the soft sandy roads, and came up with a good solution that made everyone happy, and reduced our effort to portage considerably.

Sled dragging, so much better than carrying these heavily loaded beasts.

After our 1/2 mile (more with the initial back and forth) we were at the banks of the Mullica river, to begin our upstream journey.  The portaging was by far the easiest part of the Mullica river....  We had 2.5 miles to go to our next campsite, and as we began paddling against the current, around the twists and turns, under and over trees, I realized I had greatly underestimated the difficulty of paddling upstream on this river.  It was brutal, I took zero pictures because we were too busy fighting our way around each turn and paddling upstream like spawning salmon.  After about 1.5 miles, I switched boats with Frank, so he could experience the joys of having a rudder for steering, and no keel line.  Big Blue was a nightmare to paddle upstream in this river, and I quickly understood Frank's frustration.  Around each bend, the keel line (which is great for keeping the boat straight, but horrible for tight turns) would catch the current and swiftly push the bow to the opposite bank, essentially making for a very frustrating game of pinball, and an incredibly worn out back.  Add in downed trees and beaver damns, and you can picture the nightmare for yourself.  We eventually made it to our campsite, with little light to spare.  We were drained, but set about the duties of finding firewood and setting up our shelters.  As darkness creeped in, we sat around the fire and boiled water for our MRE's.

Frank and Loren around the fire at the Mullica campsite.

It got cold on saturday night, we discovered ice on our boats around 830, so we stoked the fire, put on all the extra gear we could, and drank the small amount of booze we had saved from the previous 2 nights.  We all turned in around 1030, and for the most part we kept warm and slept well.  Frank's fancy watch informed us the outside temp was 27 when we went to sleep, so I am sure it dropped a few more degrees as the night wore on. When we got up the next morning there was frost on everything, it was a partial winter wonderland.

Loren's frosty boat.

Frost on the tarp.

Frank's frosty footwear.

Frosty pot, and hiking check list of course.

Thankfully the sun came out as we were getting moving, and began to thaw us and our gear.

Frank making some breakfast tea

Tea time.

Frank soaking up the first rays of sunshine at the Mullica campsite.

We had 6.5 more miles to paddle upstream, and after much discussion of paddling only a few miles, finding a roadside take out and hiking to the cars, we decided we were feeling up for the challenge.  We were on the water by 930, and began the journey upstream.

Frank chilling in a calm eddy on the Mullica river, we took advantage of these anytime we had the chance.

After about 2.5 miles of upstream, at least twenty-five 90 degree bends, and 2 small beaver dams, we stopped to eat our lunch.  I decided to get back in Big Blue for the rest of the trip, and give Frank a break - worst decision ever.  If you do this trip upstream, do not paddle a boat with a keel line, unless you want your back to explode into a knotted up mess from manhandling it around each bend.

One of the many small beaver dams on the Mullica that Loren was able to paddle his torpedo of a kayak over.  Frank and I portaged this one, and a few others.

With 3 miles to go, we encountered another series of beaver dams.  The first one we were all able to paddle furiously at and make it over, the second was a drag over for me and Frank, and Loren found an alternate water route around it.  Above the dams, there was a pond like marsh, which gave us some slow moving, less winding water to paddle.  The river remained like this for about a mile, then it was back to the winding narrows and strainers.  With two miles to go, spirits were high and we powered on.  We reached a makeshift landing called "washout 1" by the local outfitter.  It was here we thought we may get out and hike to the car, but I decided we had come this far, we were going to finish it.  A bad call on my part.  The last mile of this river had more turns, more obstacles and was way smaller than the last 17 miles we had paddled, in short it was a pain in the ass.  The river here is so small, I think it should be called a creek instead.  With plenty of cursing, mostly from me and my lack of control over Big Blue and the current, we struggled on and finally made it to the landing, mile 0 - where most sane folks would put in.

The crew at mile 0, after our 6.5 mile slog upstream.   We made it.

Once off the water, Loren and I took a short hike to my vehicle and drove that to retrieve his at our put in.  Frank stayed behind to watch the gear and start organizing it for the load out. We had everything loaded before sundown, and headed to the nearest diner to chow down on greasy hamburgers, fried foods and milkshakes with the early bird blue hairs (it was 5 oclock).  After our gluttonously satisfying meal, we said our good byes and climbed in our cars to return to our respective rat races in the cities we call home.  This trip was an adventure, which is, after all, what we were after, but I am pretty sure I won't be paddling the Mullica upstream very far again.

Fall

This past month I had the opportunity to travel all over the state of Maryland, and even PA. From the eastern shore of MD to the south west corner of Pennsylvania, I experienced the best that this amazingly short season has to offer, and of course I brought my camera with me so I could share it here.

The total lunar eclipse on september 27th, as seen from our bathroom window in Baltimore, MD.

My first taste of fall this year was on a drive from to my brother's house in Pennsylvania at Kooser State Park.  Sloane and I were on our way to meet our newest niece Amelia, and help celebrate her sisters second birthday with the family.  The sun was rising behind us as we drove west, and with stormy skies way off in the distance, the show was fantastic.  I first noticed some color as we approached the foothill mountains, near Hagerstown MD.  The colors became more vibrant as we headed north into Pennsylvania.  We pulled into to my brother's place just as it began to snow.  

Snow and fall colors in early october at Kooser Lake state park, PA

Kooser Lake's lone goose resident.

Snow through the pines at Kooser Lake.

Freshly fallen maple leaves.

PA wildflowers and snow.

Big ol' snowflakes and fall colors at Kooser Lake.

The foot bridge over Kooser Run, covered with freshly fallen leaves and a light dusting of snow.

I had an assignment for a client early in morning in Cumberland MD, so I decided to drive out the night before and camp at Rocky Gap State Park for the night, which was about 5 miles away from where I was needed in the AM.  This park has a huge camping area, 279 campsites and cabins.  It was almost completely empty, aside from a few RV's and travel trailers.  I had an entire loop to myself, and grabbed a spot down near the shore of lake Habeeb.  

Home sweet home for the evening.

Home sweet home for the evening.

Evening hike up Evitt's mountain trail to watch the sunset.

I had never been here before, but I read that there was a great view from the top of the ridge behind the campsite.  So I packed the some dinner and my camera and set out to find it.

I made it to what I thought would be the overlook to find it was actually another 1.2 miles up the mountain - and that someone at the park service forgot to spell check...   So I sucked it up and hiked the last mile quickly to get to my dinner spot before the sun went down.

Just before the overlook, I crossed the Mason Dixon line, and had surprisingly hiked to my home state of Pennsylvania.  

Fall colors in the valley below Evitt's mountain.

Dinner with a view.

Dusk at the Mason Dixon Line.

After I had eaten, I packed up the gear, turned on the flashlights, and headed back down the mountain. 3.5 miles in the dark takes some time, but it was worth it as always.  

I was up early the following morning to catch the sunrise from an overlook a few miles away, this one I was able to drive to.  Dan's Rock overlook is part of Dan's Mountain State Park and has an incredible view of the mountains in western Maryland.  

Sunrise from Dan's Rock Overlook

Unfortunately, since it is so accessible, this spot is also quite popular for cell towers, as well as jerks with spray paint....

Fall colors from Dan's Rock Overlook.

On my way back, I stopped at Green Ridge State Forest, to check out some camping spots and see the colors from an overlook on the Potomac river.

Overlooking the potomac river, this is part of the Paw Paw Bends area.

The following day I was in Cambridge, MD on the eastern shore to photograph another event.  I brought along the Folbot and was able to get a few hours of paddling in on some tidal water.  It was fantastic to be in a small, snaking estuary again.  It was very reminiscent of paddling around Charleston, although a bit colder.

Fall colors on the eastern shore of MD.

Almost low tide on the Transquaking River in eastern MD.

A man made channel on the Transquaking river, the water was really moving through here, the wrong way....

These two guys were on their way back from hunting water fowl, I wished I had a motor on my boat at this point, by the time I put my camera down, I had floated backwards at least 20 yards.

The last weekend in October, Sloane and I took a ride to northern Maryland to hike at Rocks State Park, and see some more fall colors. We stopped at Killgore falls, the second highest free falling waterfall in MD, which is only 17ft.  This park is very accessible, so of course there were lots of people, but I was able to get some shots with out any folks in them.  

View of Killgore falls from the bottom.

Killgore falls, on Falling Branch creek.

Afterwards we took a hike up a small mountain to an overlook that had a pretty spectacular view.

A great view from the top of Queen and King seat in Rocks State Park.

Summer ends, fall begins

Sloane and I took a trip to the Adirondacks at the beginning of September to attend an amazing wedding with some friends from Sloane's college.  Although we were too early for any fall colors and the sun hid from us most of the time, the Daks still offered up some incredible scenery.

Sunrise during our departure from Bmore and Maryland.

Fog and stars on Fourth Lake in the Adirondacks.

This amazing spot on Fourth Lake belongs to our gracious hosts, the Genovese's.  They were kind enough to let a bunch of us crash at their beautiful lake house, right down the road from the wedding venue.

Sunrise over Fourth Lake.

First light on Fourth Lake.

Fourth Lake from the summit of Rocky Mountain.

Hung over - yet motivated - wedding party at the top of Rocky Mountain on the morning of the wedding.

The bride and her maids, so many phones. 

The boat house at PAOWNYC's main house, the wedding ceremony was held on the first floor of this awesome lodge.

The main lodge at PAOWNYC, the wedding ceremony was held in the great room on the first floor, overlooking the lake.

Second best use for a kayak, beer cooler.

An incredible old wooden boat in one of PAOWNYC's boat houses

One of the many beautiful homes at the PAOWNYC compound.

Stormy skies over Fourth Lake on the afternoon of the wedding.

A communal canoe I found after a short hike into Sis lake, Inlet NY.

A peak of blue sky on Sis Lake, Inlet, NY.

I was lucky enough to paddle everyday we were up in the Adirondacks.  I got some paddle boarding in at the Genovese's camp on Friday when we arrived. On Saturday I demoed a sea kayak at an outfitter on Fourth Lake after our morning hike, paddled a kayak around the lakefront of PAOWNYC before the ceremony, and paddled the communal canoe after a hike into Sis Lake on Sunday before heading back south.  The following weekend I made my way to western Maryland to paddle the Upper Yough on Friday before heading to West By God Virginia for the East coasts biggest paddling party - Gauley Fest.

Long exposure of National Falls on the Upper Yough.

A shredder skirting the meat of the hole at National Falls on the Upper Yough. Dave, Zack and Gary wait for carnage.

An open boater above National Falls on the Upper Yough.

Post run beverages at the take out for the Upper Yough.

After an excellent run down the Upper Yough, Dave, Nate and I got on the road and drove 2.5 more hours south to the Gauley river, in Summersville, WV.  On Saturday the three of us made our way down the lower section at a snails pace, surfing all the goodness that is the lower Gualey and briefly paddling with lots of folks we know.

Setting shuttle for the lower Gauley river.

Lunch (sheetz!) at 5 boat hole, on the lower Gualey.

The massive boulder on river right of Koontz Flume.  I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere close when this sucker came off the cliffside.

Nate making movies.

Dave surfing 5 boat hole, about to get some company from my friend George.

Relaxing rock above Diagonal Ledges surf wave.

Diagonal Ledges wave.

Samatha eating the wave at Diagonal Ledges, Mike sitting back and enjoying the lack of water in his face.

Nate rocking the air keyboard to some doors on the way back to the put in.

Lost? follow those kayaks.

We had an excellent day on the lower Gualey, and after a long night of eating and drinking we were up early for a trip down the much more intense upper section.  It was my first time in a kayak, as well as Nate's - so we opted to leave the photography gear on dry land.  I'll have to wait until next year for some footage of Pillow and Iron ring rapids.  Thanks to the incredible river knowledge of Dan and Ethan Gore, both of us had great runs, with zero swims.  Dave was a different story, that fella owes a few booty beers.....  We were off the river and back to our cars by 3 ish, I stashed my wet soggy gear in the VW, said goodbye to the crew and started the 5.5 hour drive back to reality.

Paddling the Delaware River

The crew in search of a campsite on the first day on the water.  

Some friends joined me on a river trip in early August to paddle 34 miles of the Delaware River - it was a fantastic time, on a beautiful river.  Five of us met up on a Thursday evening at the Worthington State Forest campground, so we could get an early start Friday.  We decided on this river mostly because it was less than a four hour drive for everyone.  Adam and I drove together and were the first ones to the camp Thursday.  Frank arrived shortly after us, and helped us pick a site.  Most of the camping at Worthington is along the river which is nice, but it is also very uneven and hilly due to the fact it is in a gorge.  I have zero pictures of this place, since it was about dark when we arrived, and I was more concerned with stopping my stomach from grumbling at me.  We got a fire going, cooked some sausages and had a few beverages while we waited for the others to show up.  Our crew consisted of: Frank and Loren -two of my roomates from college, Frank's brother Adam - who you will remember from the 'dacks paddle last fall, Loren's (and now our) friend Dave a fellow RIT graduate, and my buddy Ian, who I lived next to my first year in Baltimore.  

Dave leads the way, Loren and his floaty relax

Loren's demonic rental.

We were up early on Friday to pack away our gear and eat some breakfast - bagels from NY city.  We met our shuttle driver at the take out - which was the actual Delaware Water Gap.  We loaded all of our food, boats, beverages, coolers, ice and other wonderful crap you can take on overnight paddle trips - and began the long drive up to our put in.  The drive took about 2 hours with traffic, a stop at a landing to let another crew off, a stop at the outfitter to get boats for Loren and Dave, and finally to our put in at Milford Beach.  We had lunch, I put together the Folbot, and we loaded gear.  We got on the water around 1, with sunny skies and a swift 1.5 mph current.

Hundreds of birds snatching insects above the fast water of the Delaware.

Dave and some tubers in the distance on day 1

Lorenzo

Our goal on day 1 was to paddle 12 miles - we ended up going 16.  Somehow we missed a group of 4 campsites that we planned to stay at, we did not feel like paddling upstream, so we pressed on to find the next group, which was 4 miles down stream. 

Dave searching for campsite markers.

The brothers paddling in unison.

Franks flying friend.

The relaxed paddling position.

Frank paddling ahead to our campsite, just around the bend.

We arrived at a site around 630 and were greeted by frat boys playing frisbee and bro-ing out in the water right next to the site.  With really no other option, other than 2 more miles of water, we made the decision to stay so we could set up camp before dark.  We realized quickly why this site was vacant - it was pretty much a field of poison ivy.  We put on long pants, made sure everyone knew what to look for and began setting up camp.  

Camp night one.  Dave (far left) forgot his tent poles, so he engineered the "ground hammock" 1.0. by tying a rope between the trees and then attaching the top of his tent to it.

Lucky for us the Bro's in the next campsite must have gotten too drunk before dinner to continue partying into the night (or they were considerate campers), either way we had peace and quiet after the sun went down.  I cooked up a dutch oven meal of white chicken chilli and we ate it with the soggy bread that I had forgot was in the cooler....  

The campsite at night.

Dinner around the fire.

A spot light illuminating the trees above our campsite.

The sun had gone down while we were eating, so we sat around our fire and drank our coolers full of beer.  After the food had been devoured, and plenty of beer drank, we noticed a spot light shining in the trees around our campsite.  It was a boat, lit up like the fourth of July, with lights shining into the water all over the sides of it.  We were all a bit curious what the hell this thing was doing in front of our campsite, so I wondered down to ask.  When I got to the river bank, I noticed a figure on the boat holding a compound bow, I asked what they were doing, and got the gruff reply of "carpin".  They were hunting carp with spot lights and archery gear, and they nailed one right in front of our site.  It was an interesting thing to witness.

The dead tree near our campsite.

Some milky way action along the river on the first night.

Camp set up, dinner and drinks in 15 seconds.

We were all pretty lazy the following morning, nursing some hangovers and not in any kind of a hurry - since we had paddled 4 extra miles the previous day.  As the fog lifted, we began the task of packing gear, while Loren and Dave cooked us up a breakfast of maple bacon and eggs - it was delicious as expected. 

Early morning fog over the forest of poison ivy and our campsite.

Loren making that delicious bacon.

Breakfast bowls.

Early morning sun on the river bank, covered with the beautiful, yet invasive, purple loosestrife plant.

We only had 6 miles to float to our next campsite, which we reserved ahead of time.  It turns out this was a good move, as there were about a thousand other boaters on the water that day, all racing to find a good campsite.  

After doing the dishes, we finished the load out and packed the boats up for our lazy river day. About a mile downstream at the Bushkill access we met up with our sixth member, Ian, who had to work Friday.  This worked out very well for us, because he resupplied us with ice and beer, and we were able to leave some our thawed out ice packs in his car to make room in the coolers.  We continued down stream for another mile or so till we found a decent spot for lunch, right at the beginning of wolpack bend - and the hoards of people that filled this beautiful gorge up.

This is how I paddled most of the trip, sitting up high on the cooler, switching between my kayak paddle and a canoe paddle.  It was a bit tipsy, but incredibly comfortable.  Photo courtesy of FJG.

I took zero pictures, it was high noon, and the gorge was a mass of floating objects - canoes, kayaks, tubes, and 50% of them were drunk people with thick long island accents.  Looking back it was quite the scene.  After another 4 miles of floating, fishing, and drinking our adult beverages, we arrived at our designated site, around 5 pm.  There are six sites available for reservation on the river, at a new camp area called Alosa, and all of them were reserved.  We had the last site in the group, which meant fewer neighbors.  We got out of our boats to explore the site, and were a bit disappointed in the solitude it provided.  There was a wide trail on the river side, and then a gravel road directly behind the site, complete with a handicapped porta potty (which no one had a problem with in the AM, when nature called repeatedly).  We held a quick meeting around the provided fire ring, and decided that it was best to stay here, given the amount of people we saw continue past us searching for spots to camp. The site was more like camping in a state park campground than a river campsite.  The NP rangers showed up before sundown to make sure everyone was in the proper spot and behaving appropriately. I was designated the group spokesperson, so I chatted them up for a few minutes, and they went along to the next site.

Late night photo session with Frank's camera.  Creepy dave in the background.

We had another great evening, and a huge fire to go along with it.  There was pre-cut firewood everywhere from when the park service had cleared space for the campsites - it was quite convenient.  I cooked up some chicken pot pie in the dutch oven, and a sara lee frozen apple pie.  We were suppose to have salad with dinner, but I misplaced the dressing, so we decided not to eat plain lettuce.  The salad dressing was found much later that night, along with the dessert from the previous evening stowed away with my dry gear.  Good thing we didn't have any curious visitors to our campsite the night before....  With the beer flow slowing down, we decided to head to bed, so we hung the bear bags by the river and turned in for the evening.

Campsite view from the porta john.  If you look closely you will notice ground hammock 2.0 in the far distance - this time with a legit tarp roof. (Patent Pending)

Loren and Dave preparing a pancake breakfast, complete with sausage, zero syrup and our very own handicap accessible throne in the background.

Finishing the dishes after our meal.

The breakfast cooks working on our short stacks of johnny cakes.

We were up early the next morning with plans of being on the water by 9.  We had 12 miles to paddle, and everyone had to drive home that day as well.  We made pretty good time packing up and getting breakfast ready.  

Early morning fog on the river.

The fog burning off.

Mega lens flare.

Self portrait

Breakfast was eaten, dishes were cleaned and boats were packed for the water by 930, not to shabby for a bunch of slightly hungover boaters.

The crew loading up for day 3.

Lorenzo gracefully putting on the river.

Our campsite neighbor, catching all the fish.

Ian the ice and beer bringer.

Our last day on the water was yet another beautiful sun filled day.  We were once again joined by hoards of other canoeists the first part of the day, and we quickly paddled past the large groups of tubers we encountered at each water access.  The lower section of the DWG is by far the most accessible and popular, we passed 2 public beaches which were both busting at the seams with beach goers.  Every landing we passed the river traffic became heavier, but the river is wide enough here that we were still able to find a little peace and solitude. 

Solitude on the water.

We fished and floated our way down the river until about 1, where we found our own private island for a lunch break, thankfully we had some shade as well.  After a quick shore lunch, we got back on the water for our last 4 miles of the river.  Once the piers of an old railroad bridge are in sight, the gap is right around the bend.  We picked our way through small rapids, avoiding swimmers and tubers and rounded the bend to see the water gap, and about 100 other people on shore.  This was our take out, and we began the process of loading boats and gear, this time into the cars.  We loaded everything, while Dave took Ian to his car at Bushkill Landing and everyone was on the road by 430ish.  We all had a great time, although next time we plan to pick a trip with a lot less people, and a lot more solitude. 

The take out at the water gap.  Quite a popular place.

All my crap and the water gap.

We took a vacation.

Sloane and I have not been on a vacation, where it is just the two of us, for 4 years.  It was way past time to treat ourselves.  We found out the evening before our departure that the property we had originally booked, in Cape Charles VA, was occupied by someone else - which was mostly our fault - it is a long story.  We scrambled on air b&b to find anything open for the next 5 days, and found a ski house in Canaan Valley WV.  A rapid unpacking of beach items, and repacking of hiking gear consumed our evening, and by noon on Saturday we were ready to head for the mountains.  We were lucky enough to find a nice place, with a hot tub and a community pool to make up for the lack of beach.

Sunrise view of Canaan Valley from the loft of our mt. house.

Relaxing in the hammocks, it was a bit toasty for the hot tub in the afternoons.

After a lot of online research, I found a few hikes that looked like winners.  The first of which was an evening hike to Table Rock - to watch the sunset - or so we thought.  We cooked up some dinner to bring along, put wine in the nalgene and brought our camp chairs for the show.  After an hour drive on dirt roads, and another hour hiking through thick rhododendron and mud puddles we arrived at our destination.

Sloane jumping one of numerous boggy mud holes on the trail.

Arriving at the overlook.

We hiked as quick as we could, and as soon as we got to the spot, I realized the internet had lied to me, and I should have done some more research.  The sun was setting behind us, in fact it was already behind all the trees.

The unspectacular evening show at Table Rock.

We broke out the chairs, wine and food and had a fantastic time, despite the lack of sunset.  And since we weren't waiting around for the perfect light, we were able to hike most of the way out with out flashlights.

The following day I decided we should go for a 12 mile hike in the Dolly Sods Wilderness.  As usual I was a bit over zealous, since we had another 1.5 hour drive on dirt mt. roads to get there.  We packed our lunch, grabbed water this time, and hit the road around 11.  There are two roads in the DSWA, and we can attest that one of them is pretty terrible to drive a Honda Fit on.  It was like playing a video game, dodging potholes and trying to keep the speedometer above 20, so we would arrive at a decent hour.  We made it to bear rocks trail by 1230, and began our journey by foot.

Dust rolling off the rear of the fit after our trek into the DSWA.

Lunch break on the hike

On our way back, hiking through a meadow filled with blueberry bushes.

Sloane crossing one of the boggy spots.

If you have never been to the Dolly Sods Wilderness, you should go - it is pretty amazing.  We hiked through dry rocky areas, hemlock forests, bogs, creeks and arrived at a boulder strewn plateau  with a 360 degree view of the area - all in less than 4 miles.  We decided not to continue with our hike as is was getting a little late to commit to 8 more miles, so we turned around and headed back the way we came.

180 degree view of Dolly Sods and the Canaan Valley

View from the rocky plateau we hiked to.

Sloane hiking to the top of the meadow, surrounded by blueberry bushes and ferns.

Our last full day in Canaan Valley, we took a morning drive to the much more accessible Blackwater Falls State Park.  Below the falls is the beginning of one of the more dangerous class V white water runs in WV.

Blackwater Falls.

The Blackwater river flowing through the canyon.

After our morning hikes - we decided to head back to the house for lunch then head to the pool to relax in the sun.  It started pouring, and did so for much of the afternoon.  We ate, drank and played cards - then we ate some more and sat in the hot tub.  It was a good day.

Our last day of vacation was the most epic.  I was up at 430 - determined to see a show at Table Rock.  I drove the hour on dirt roads and hiked 45 minutes in the dark, through a lot more mud than we had encountered previously - due to the rain the day before.  I was rewarded with one of the more memorable sunrises I have seen in a while.  The valley was filled with fog, and the sun was just about to crest over the mountain when I arrived.

Arriving back at Table Rock for sun rise.

The crater, where we sat for dinner a few nights ago, filled with rain water.  It made a great mirror.

The sun peaking over the mountains, while fog rolls through the valley.

The fog beginning to burn off.

The low layer of clouds and the mountain tops made for the perfect sunrise sandwich.

The show ended quickly, so I packed it up and headed back to wake up Sloane.

The show ended quickly, so I packed it up and headed back to wake up Sloane.

We were far from ready to end our vacation, so we took the long way home.  We stopped at another state park in WV called lost river for lunch, and decided to hike to the overlook they have - cranny crow overlook.  After a sweaty hour of steep switchbacks and avoiding horse shit (a popular horseback trail) - we were rewarded with a great view of the valley below, and zero people to share it with - just the way i like.

Sloane and I - hot sweaty and happy - at Cranny Crow overlook.

After a stop in historic Winchester to grub on some delicious Mexican food, and see the city - we realized we would be passing through Harper's Ferry.  So we went for another hike.  This was definitely the most brutal of the 3 vistas for the day.  Once you get to the top of the overlook trail, which is about 1 mile almost straight up, you descend halfway back down the mountain to the cliff below about another mile.  Knowing you have to walk uphill, to get back down sucks.  The view up here is well worth the hike, even if you have to share it with 30 people.

The Shenandoah (on the left) joins the Potomac.  The town of Harper's Ferry is right in the middle.

We ended our trip with this sweaty hike, and a smelly ride home - but it was a great day.  Our beach vacation turned mountain vacation was a great success.

Now that it's summer, here is what I did this spring.......

If you read the last post, you know the family was in Florida at the beginning of March.  Here is what was left out of the previous paddling post: bacon, swimming and fishing.  

It smelled so good.

The bacon crew.

Uncle David proudly displaying his masterpiece with the sunset.

We had the largest gathering of McCorkle's that I can remember - with the addition of the neighbors and the lovely Sloane, i think we had 16 people cooking bacon.  This was also the first time that we had to ration the bacon, the old man actually used a ruler to make sure everyone got the same amount.

Swimming is awesome.

Captain dad with a lady fish

Keeping the sun off of their faces.

Jimbo releasing a lady fish

The Jims doing what they do best

A magnifying glass on steroids.  My dad and the neighbor use this to burn stumps out of the ground.  It is the front element of an old projection TV, and it is the coolest toy.

In April I packed my gear and headed north to the Allegheny National forest in PA for our annual weekend of camping and general debauchery to celebrate the first day of trout fishing season.  It was unusually quiet this year, and the images I captured reflect that.  Where we would normally have 8-10 tents and 15 or more people camped at our site, we had 3 tents and my hammock - only 4 people including myself called our normal spot home this year.  All my rowdy friends have settled down......

Good morning fire at the site on the first day of trout - normally the pile of wood is four times this amount.

My corner of heaven.

Late night around the fire.  There were moments of rowdiness that included the neighbors, even with the skeleton crew.

Spring creek in all its glory on the dawn of trout season.

Frog eggs litter the puddles this time of year.

Star trails above the 3 camp sites.  To the left, in the pines is where our group stays.  The middle, across the creek is the old folks camp,  too many of our crew have resolved to staying there.....  To the right is the other young folks camp.

Early to bed on a saturday night. Passed out with boots on normally warrants getting messed with quite a bit - but since I was the only one up, i photographed him so the world will know his shame.

A portrait I made of a drill rig upstream from our campsite.  I suspect it was a fresh water well to provide water for the fracking that is occurring all over the hills in this area.

I spent a fair amount of time this spring paddling the rivers and creeks in MD, WV and PA.  Falling off of waterfalls in kayaks, surfing waves, avoiding trash in Baltimore harbor and making new friends.

Nate at wonder falls on the lower Big Sandy River in west virginia.

Zac seal launching after the portage around big splat rapid, one that has claimed a few lives in the past.

A light illuminates the paddlers on the play wave at the Stonycreek Rendezvous, in PA.

Andrew Froom night surfing the wave at the Stonycreek Rendezvous.

Andrew Froom night surfing the wave at the Stonycreek Rendezvous.

Adam Homberg getting vertical before a loop at the Stonycreek Rendezvous freestyle rodeo.

Seth Chapelle mid loop at the Stonycreek Rendezvous freestyle rodeo.

On Easter sunday, Sloane and I caught the sunrise in Baltimore harbor.  I was on a mission to get some good shots for a paddling publication, which worked out really well.  I also did a sunset paddle with my friend Ian on the same day, near the mouth of the Patapsco river. 

A full moon over the harbor at twilight and avoiding the trash at the city boat launch.

Ian determining if he should take on a project.

Sloane paddling past UA and a boat loaded with sugar of some sort at the dock of Domino.

When jerks litter in the Chesepeake Bay watershed, a lot of it ends up here.  The amount of trash in the sea grass here was sickening.

Sunset on the harbor through the archway of a bridge.

Sloane's folks came to town in April and we braved the millions of people at the cherry blossom festival in DC.  It was beautiful and epic to see the trees in full bloom, however this is the one and only time I will be attending - so. many. people.   We managed to have a good time aside from the crowds.

Most recently we took a trip to the Green Ridge state forest in western MD, we camped out and floated on the Potomac river in a section called the Paw Paw Bends.  It was most excellent.

These folks are the coolest.

Monica, Ian and Ovie.

We found a rope swing, Ian used it.

Proper PFD usage for a booze float.

Ovie, he spent more time trying to get out of the kayak than he did in it.

This ginormous black widow was on Ian's tote when I got it out of the car in the morning.  Super creepy. 

Queen of hearts.

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Folbot-ing with the family in Florida

I recently traveled south to my parent's winter escape on the Gulf Coast of Florida, and my friends at Folbot sent along a few boats for us to paddle, a 13' Yukon and a more nimble 10' Citibot.  Both were paddled extensively by me and my family. 

A test run to assemble the boats after arriving in Florida.  

A Citibot beauty shot.

The Adventure: My brother and I set out early the morning after arriving in Florida to explore some creeks North East of my parent's place.  We ended up at a small landing on Shell Creek, near the town of Cleveland, FL.  We assembled the boats quickly and were on the water as the sun began to make its way over the horizon.

Jim scanning for gators on Shell Creek.

This sign is a lie, there were zero alligators present in Shell Creek

First light on Shell Creek.

We began our paddle with light winds, and the temps in the low 70's.  It was a great start.  We paddled against an ebb tide, exploring inland towards a dam and a freshwater pond.  With Jim in the bigger Yukon, and myself in the Citibot.  Jim had plenty of room to stretch out and I found the Citibot to be surprisingly roomy for a 10' kayak, it had plenty of room for all of my photo gear.

Exploring one of  the many twisty off shoots of Shell Creek.

Exploring one of  the many twisty off shoots of Shell Creek.

Not only were alligators not present, neither were manatees.

We reached the end of Shell Creek after about 2 hours of paddling.  The wind had begun to pick up an hour after our launch, but we hadn't noticed it until we began our portage around the dam.  A mile of open water lay in front of us, and the wind was blowing steady at 13 mph with gusts up to 17.5 mph.  We discussed returning the way we came to avoid the wind altogether, but we still had a lot of exploring left to do, so we decided to press on.  

Snack time after the small portage.

Using the weatherflow wind meter to gauge how miserable this would be.

We survived the crossing, with my Citibot being blown around a bit more than the Yukon, as one would expect.  We were rewarded with a smaller, fresh water creek (now Myrtle Creek) and small stands of cypress trees.  It was nice to be able to get in the shade and out of the sun every once in a while, it was near 80 now and getting warmer.

Jim in Myrtle Creek

More of a swamp than a creek here.

We finished the day at Hathaway park around 1, with 8 miles under our belts.  We gave my pop a call to come pick us up and set about disassembling the boats.  We had everything packed up when our ride arrived, so we tossed the bags in the bed of the truck and headed home to enjoy the sunshine by the swimming pool.  This was the only scheduled trip of our vacation in Florida, but since we had kayaks for a week, and my parents live on the water, we of course took advantage and did a lot more paddling.  I was lucky enough to paddle everyday, and get some of my paddling calluses built back up for the spring season ahead.

Alligator Creek Cruise with Cratty: Wednesday morning my sister-in-law (Cratty) and I went out for a 4.5 mile cruise around the canals. She paddled the Citibot, and I took out  the Yukon this time. 

Cratty taking the Citibot out for a tour around Alligator Creek, behind my parent's place.

Paddling past the homes along Alligator Creek.

A restaurant on Alligator Creek, which unfortunately has a bad reputation.

Cruising.

A less inhabited section of Alligator Creek.

Citibot Goes to the Beach:  We took a road trip North, to Sarasota, to enjoy some sandy beaches and waves in the Gulf of Mexico. The whole family, all 7 of us, piled into our rented minivan. Along with all the normal beach crap, we were able to sneak kayak in the trunk as well.  

The Citibot frame and skin, ready to be finished off.

Finished product.

Jim waiting for some waves.

Jim and I took turns paddling past the break, this little guy performs pretty well in light waves - we were even able to surf a few in to shore.

Jim playing in the surf.

I took it one step further and put on the skirt so I could attempt a roll.  With a beam of 34", this is by far the widest boat I have ever tried to roll.  It was hard enough to flip it, let alone right it, but I fought hard and completed a roll on my first attempt.

Upper Reaches of Alligator Creek: On our last day in paradise, my brother and I got up early to explore more of Alligator Creek inland from the parent's house.  We were dropped off with the boats where highway 40 crosses the creek.  We put on and paddled up stream to a dam.  At that point we had already paddled 3 miles, and decided to head back.  We turned around and headed back down stream, against an incoming tide.  We paddled past where we had been dropped off and continued exploring new sections of the creek.  We eventually made it to the North Fork of Alligator Creek and were able to paddle with the tide all the way to my parents dock, a solid morning with 9 miles of water pushed.

Some blurry action on Alligator Creek

Jim checking into his flight for the next day as we float on Alligator Creek.

Jim checking into his flight for the next day as we float on Alligator Creek.

She's Going to Be a Kayaker:  Before we put the kayaks away one last time, Jim took Brenna - his 17 month old daughter - out on her first ride in a  touring kayak.  She seemed to enjoy it, and so did everyone else who was watching her from shore.  This kid loves the water.

Waving to the crowd assembled to watch her.

Happy to be paddling.

Learning a proper paddle stroke.

Demonstrating the safety functions of a whistle.

Whistles are awesome.

These boats logged quite a few miles in Florida, and performed well for the whole family.  We took them adventuring, leisurely paddled them in the canals and even fishing one afternoon, but didn't catch a thing - so no photos were taken.  After Brenna had her fill of paddling we packed both the boats up, put them back in the boxes they arrived in, slapped a FedEx label on them and sent them back to Charleston to await their next adventures.

Holidays in New England

Sloane and I spent Christmas and New Years with the Whelans and some friends from NYC and Beantown.  It was fantastic, we ate and drank plenty, had serious family time, and hiked - a lot.

Rowan at Gaspee point, in Warwick RI.  This dude has so much energy.  If you are a history buff click here.

The whole fam hiked to the top of this hill in Woodstock VT.  It wasn't much of an effort, but had a pretty good view.

Whelan men figuring out where we just hiked to.

Mt. Peg summit

This one was a bit more a work out.  A solo 6 miler up to the top of Moose Mountain in NH on the AT.

Moose Mt. Shelter on the AT.

The view from Moose Mt.

Hiking the Ottauquechee gorge in Quechee VT.

The top of the gorge

Small falls in the gorge.

The covered bridge over the Ottauquechee river.

The Whelan's ski shack

Brendan on his first AT hike.  I am pretty sure we spent more time looking for the blazes than actually hiking - it was quite the adventure.

The view was worth it.

Celebrating the end of a grueling 4.5 miles in ice crusted snow.

First of a 5 course chef Mateo new years meal.  It was all amazing. 

A visit to the raptor center in Quechee VT on New Years day, this is a barn owl, he was awesome.

Mateo taking pictures of America.

 At Simon Pearce.

Icy mist gathering on the roof of the bridge.

Ridiculous sunset in Quechee VT.

The same sunset in Woodstock VT.

December on Capers Island

If you live in Charleston, and have never been to Capers island, shame on you.  This place is amazing, and it is the only barrier island I know of you are legally allowed to camp on.  I led my old friends from Charleston on an overnight trip at the beginning of December, while I was back for the art exhibit I took part in.  

The crew prepping at the landing

A leisurely float to begin the day

We set off from the landing around 11, in time to catch a falling tide out to the island.  The sun was out, the wind was light and variable, and we had plenty of beer to drink - it was a fantastic start.  Since it was so nice, we decided to take the long way - that led us into a maze of muddy creeks and dead ends.  After about an hour of twisting an turning, we found our way out of the maze, crossed the intracoastal and headed for Capers inlet.

A lone oyster Catcher

Forrest's old school pacific water sports 'yak.  He was kind enough to let me paddle his extra, since I hadn't dragged a boat from Maryland.

Brad and Beth in the inlet, about to head into the surf.

We landed around three in the afternoon, on the front of Capers island.  We headed for my favorite spot on the island to set up camp, but soon realized we wouldn't be staying there.  The tide was extremely high this weekend, due to a full moon, and it wasn't hard to tell that at high tide we wouldn't have much real estate.  We ate some grub, grabbed some fresh beers, and set about finding a new spot.  We decided to head for higher ground, and ended up in a spot in the trees - not ideal but better than getting our gear washed away while we slept.

Setting up camp.

Sunset

We set up camp, got a fire burning, and walked down to the end of the island to meet our late arriving friend.  He had his pup with him and didn't want to attempt a surf landing, so we helped carry his gear over to the campsite.  With everyone at camp, we relaxed and drank while Brad prepared a famous dutch oven dinner.  This guy can make a mean dutch oven meal.

Sunset and my favorite tree

B-rad being B-rad

Turkey pot pie.  Yum.

When camping on Capers, don't underestimate the local wildlife.  The raccoons are incredibly bold, and they live up to the stories of them being thieves.  I was reminded of this first hand on this particular evening.   When I was finished setting up my hammock, I carelessly tossed a dry bag underneath of it until I would need it later that night.  This dry bag had my glasses and toiletries, along with an apple and granola bars for breakfast, that I had forgotten about.  When it was time to turn in, I began a search for said dry bag - it was not where I had thought I left it.  After numerous trips back and forth from kayak to camp site, I saw the eyes of a raccoon glowing in the distance when my headlamp scanned the horizon.  I hurried over to where I had seen it, and there was a granola wrapper.  Further into the swampy woods, I saw another set of eyes - so I set out towards them - another granola wrapper.  These jerks had stolen my bag and the contents and dragged it into the woods for safe eating.  As I stomped through the dwarf palmettos and swampy surroundings, following the trail of trash and raccoon eyes, it became clear I wasn't going to locate my items tonight.  I retreated back to the hammock, and to my surprise stumbled upon my torn up dry bag on the way back, toiletries in tact (but no breakfast)!  I sat down by the fire to remove my contacts and put my glasses on, and I discovered three ticks crawling on my pants.  In my carless chasing of raccoons, I had dislodged a large number of ticks from the dwarf palmettos, eager to have a free meal.  With everyone asleep by now, I decided I couldn't sleep until I thoroughly checked my self for the little buggers.  I stripped down to my underoos, checking every piece of clothing meticulously - I found about 30 of these little bastards on me.  I retired to the hammock for a good nights sleep, but I had a strange feeling of ticks crawling on me all night...... 

Dusk at the campsite.

My fight with the raccoons was not over.  I awoke a few hours into my sleep to the sound of rattling beer cans.  We had forgotten to put the trash bag in one of the kayaks - rookie mistake.  I pointed my light in the direction of the noise, and there they were.  Two raccoons, one on the others back, reaching up and removing delicious garbage from our hung trash bag.  I got out of my hammock, chased them away and gathered what I could of the mess they made.  I stowed it securely in a dry hatch went back to the hammock.  I swear these raccoons were taunting me, running underneath of my hammock as I tried to fall back asleep.  It was a rough night. 

Late night camp shot.

We were up early the next day, everyone saying the same thing - the raccoons had kept them from sleeping very well.  We packed it up, and were ready to paddle by 830.  Brad, Beth Anthony and his dog carried their boats and gear to the inlet, to avoid the surf launch.  Forrest and I decided it would be fun, as long as we didn't roll, to launch into the surf.  We both made it safely past the break and headed for the inlet.  The tide was rushing out, and it was a brutal paddle back to the intracoastal.  Once we crossed into the small creeks, the current wasn't nearly as strong and we made quick time back to the landing.  With every one tired and ready for some real breakfast, we packed it all into the vehicles quickly and said farewell, another successful and memorable outing to Capers island was over.  Thanks for reading, and Merry Christmas!

Now Showing

I recently took part in a group art exhibit at Jericho Arts in Charleston, SC.  I printed and framed four of my favorite images from my personal series - Painted with Light.  If you are in Charleston and missed the opening for "Our Landscapes", don't worry - you can still go check it out.  Here is link for the address.  The gallery is open M-F 9-5 and by appointment.  All the work is available for purchase.  

a cold, but incredible, 32nd birthday

Last weekend, I managed to persuade my good buddy Frank into joining me for an overnight paddle on the eastern shore of Maryland.  It just so happened to be my birthday, and also one of the coldest bits of weather we have seen this year so far.  We met late friday night at Janes Island State Park, in Crisfield MD.  I reserved a site at the mainland campground, so could get an early start the next day.  I pulled in around 1030 that evening, and promptly built a raging fire to try and keep warm - the temp was 28 with a wind chill of 19 - it was cold, really really cold.  As I set up camp and waited for Frank to arrive, I burnt through almost all of the wood I had brought along trying to stay warm.  Frank arrived around 1130 and we immediately scavenged for more wood to keep the fire going.  This was going to be a long night.  After discussing the trip and burning the rest of the wood - we turned in.  That night we put the rating system of sleeping bags to the test, both of us having 20 degree bags were more than a little uncomfortable - but we managed to get some sleep by layering up.  

Camp - night one

A great reason to set up your tarp, even if it isn't going to rain, bird dookie.

Morning fire to warm up.

We were both up early the next day to get warm by the fire once again, luckily the wind had died down during the early morning and it was not as bitterly cold.  After a few hours of fire sitting, tea drinking, tearing down camp and packing gear - we were ready - for a warm breakfast.  We headed to the local golden arches in Crisfield and had our selves a caloric feast of breakfast sandwiches and hash browns.  

A quick photo op on the way back from breakfast.  German engineering in full effect.

After tracking down the park ranger and securing our permit for the backcountry, we headed to the landing at the park and began the process of loading our gear.  I helped Frank assemble his boat, a Cooper on loan from the nice folks at Folbot in Charleston, SC.

A boat in a bag.

 Assembly of this 16.5 foot touring boat takes about 20 minutes with some practice, and I have a fair amount of experience so we got it together quickly. 

Frank sliding the built frame into the skin of the boat.

The Cooper weighs a mere 39lbs and can handle a payload of 275lbs - so it is great for multi-day trips.  You can fit a ton of gear inside of this beast - and it is a very fast boat, even loaded down.

All of Frank's gear ready to be loaded. 

The gear stuffed into the boat : 2 person tent, 20degree mummy bag, extra layers for emergency and sleeping, water, a full size coleman lantern (for heat - no fires in the backcountry) sleeping pad, tripod and camera, boots for dry land, rain gear and food.

Our general feeling of being cold led to a very slow pace on this morning, and we were finally ready to head out at noon.  We set out for our 5.5 mile paddle to the south end of Jane's Island State Park, under sunny skies and a graciously calm wind.  Rather than take the direct route, we decided to take a few small creeks that wind their way through the island - which would prove to be very scenic and greatly reduce the amount of wind we encountered.

Frank maneuvering one of the small creeks in the interior of Jane's Island.

The Cooper slicing through the calm waters of a creek.

We ate lunch aboard the boats while we drifted slowly towards our destination, thanks to a north wind directly at our backs.  Beef jerky, triscuits and laughing cow cheese, a staple of our adventures, filled our grumbling stomachs.  Afterwards, we got back to pushing water, with the wind at our backs and the sun in our faces.  The temp maxed out at 45 Saturday, but combination of sun, layers and paddling kept us incredibly comfortable.

Frank paddles the Cooper onward.

I landed at our destination first so I could get a different POV on the days paddling.

Some pretty killer fall colors hanging on to Long Point island, our final destination.

Un-packing the Cooper at Long Point.

Frank soaking up the sunshine amongst all our gear, you would be surprised how much crap you can fit inside these boats when packed properly.

We found this antique trash exactly like this on one of the camping platforms, I had to take a shot, it was too perfect.  We carried all this home, along with a lot of other trash we cleaned up as well.

We arrived at the Long point campsite around 330 in the afternoon, and had plenty of time to unpack, get camp set and enjoy some sunshine before the cold set back in for the evening.  Wooden platforms are provided on the island to place tents and gear on, to minimize impact.  We set our gear up, and enjoyed the sunset. 

Frank setting up his house, I of course slept in my hammock.

Frank breathing fire

Gear everywhere.

After the sun went down, the temps dropped rapidly - and we huddled around our make shift fire - a coleman lantern burning full bore. The lantern put off enough warmth to take the edge off as we prepared our delicious MRE's.  Some people think we are nuts, but we both love those things, which is good if you camp in the backcountry as much as we do.  Maybe its because we are always starving when we eat them, but man - dehydrated beef stroganoff in a bag is to die for after a long day of hiking or paddling.  We prepared for another cold night, although not nearly as chilly as Friday, by boiling water and placing it in Nalgenes in the foot boxes of our sleeping bags and putting on pretty much everything we had brought clothing wise.  We both slept much better this night, I was up to watch the sunrise on dawn of my 32nd year on earth, which was pretty cool.

Sunrise over the Chesapeake and a Folbot Cooper.

After a breakfast of BlueBerry muffins and precooked bacon warmed over the camp stove, we torn down camp, set about cleaning up trash around the island, and packed our gear once again.

Frank on litter patrol, what we couldn't bring back, we piled neatly and told the park about, so they could come collect it.

A special trash find, B-day balloon for my 32nd year on this planet.

Packing up the gear.

The Cooper is not only fast, it also has plenty of room for other people's trash on the deck, secured by bungees. 

Before heading back to the landing, we took a field trip to the south of our campsite, to visit an island that had an enormous old chimney on it.  We found out later that it was part of a fish packing plant built in 1871.

The stack on old house cove.

Frank contemplating life, or something....

Sand shrooms, I had never seen such a thing.

We headed back for the landing around 10, after our excursion to old house cove.  The sun mostly disappeared behind the clouds for our trip back, but the wind was from the south, so we had that to our advantage.  We chose a different route back through the marshes, which reminded me of paddling in Charleston - where my 'yaking addiction began.  We arrived at the landing around 1230 where we met the ranger once again - who was eager to hear how our trip went.  He was convinced we were insane for going out on such a cold weekend.  We let him know about the trash we couldn't bring back, and discussed all the gear we had used to keep warm, his days in the Coast Guard, and some history of the area.  We unloaded all our gear, broke down the Folbot and were on the road by 2.  It was a great trip, and I am very grateful to have spent another birthday on the water with a good friend.

Who needs roof racks to ugly up your fancy BMW when your 16.5 foot kayak fits in the trunk?

 

 

This adventure was brought to you by Folbot.

bacon, birthdays and boating

most of the mccorkle clan gathered at kooser state park recently to celebrate the first birthday of my niece, brenna mae.  since we were all together we decided to do our famous hungarian family tradition of sutni szalonna  (click this link to find out more). basically we cook slab bacon over a fire and eat it for dinner.  if it sounds amazing, that is because it is - and it most likely kicks the ass of your family traditions.  

fistfuls of cake - brenna mae digging into her b-day cake  

pictures best describe this tradition, so i will let them do the explaining. try not to drool on your keyboard.

14 pounds of deliciousness 

prepping the bacon while max keeps an eye out

hot coals are a must for cooking bacon over a fire

the ingredients for the feast

slow roasting the pig over the coals

we don't waste the grease, it goes directly onto rye bread

the final product - bacon, sweet onion and rye toast. delicious.

try to convince me your family tradition is better than this.  the morning of baconfest, my bro and i hiked up to a fire tower that his park had recently acquired and repaired.  he has keys to all kinds of cool things, and this is one of them.  it was windy, cold and unfortunately super over cast, but i still managed to get a decent shot.  

view from the fire tower

random insert - cucumber falls in ohiopyle state park, during a late october trip to the lower youghiogheny river for some white water action.

back in baltimore, i finally had the chance to paddle the patapsco river some more.  this time we put in on the backwater or the harbor and paddled up stream, past homeless camps and under a larger number of highway overpasses.  it is pretty incredible how close you can be to the city, but still be so isolated.  i went with my buddy riley, and he brought along his pup popper the chihuahua. we paddled upstream until the water was too shallow to continue.

urban paddling - riley and popper in the back harbor

water front property 

895 overpass

scaring the birds

popper and riley

this calvert seemed like it had no end

of course we had to go in, but didn't have the chance to go very far - we were worried the pup would get antsy and take a swim in the dark 

the patapsco has a lot more for us to explore, especially the calvert we started into.  we will definitely be back to see how far it goes, probably with out a dog next time - and definitely shorter boats, so we can turn around and not have to paddle out backwards.

paddling the wayyyy upstate, new york

i recently spent five days and four nights in the adirondacks with one of my old housemates frank and his brother adam - aka "the gills".  frank has been on a few multi-day paddle trips with me in the past, but this was adam's first adventure with us.  actually, it was his first adventure in quite some time.  he was a little unaware of what he was getting in to.  i planned this trip before i knew adam was coming, and didn't take into account the fact that we would be paddling with some one who was not versed in multi-day water trips.  frank assured me adam could handle it, so we went ahead with the plan - a 32 mile, 3 day, 2 night paddle from flood wood pond to tupper lake, in the st regis canoe area with an overnight hike at the end.

the route

sunset over follensby clear pond, a pond i passed on my way to meet the gills on night one

we met on floodwood rd, in santa clara ny on sunday evening.  we grabbed an amazing roadside campsite, overlooking middle pond.  we lived it up with cheddar brats, chili cheddar brats, doritos and lots of beer to keep us warm - the temps were down into the mid 30's that evening. 

the gills house for the next 4 nights

 we were up early the next day, before the sun was over the trees.  we had a small breakfast, packed up camp and organized gear for the journey ahead.  

sunrise and my bed for 4 nights - toasty warm and super comfy - sleeping on the ground is bogus

early morning at middle pond, we had to build a fire to warm up

after the outfitter opened, which was right down the dirt road, we secured the 18' kevlar beast that the gills would be paddling.  we unloaded all of our gear and left adam to watch over it while we ran shuttle down to tupper lake.  we got back to the put in around 1130, we decided to get our lunch on before hitting the water, so we could power through until the first campsite.  we were finally on the water by 1230pm and paddled directly into a southern wind, at 10-15mph.  this would be the norm for most of the trip.  

the gills learning to paddle their ship as a team.  in the stream that connects floodwood and little square pond

the gills on fish creek, this is where we encountered the first rain of the trip, but not the last...

the sun came out, and brought back our southerly wind that impeded our process here on little square pond - floodwood mountain rises in the background.

after we made it through the wind on little square pond, and adam recovered his hat that blew off his head, we made our way through a channel and into fish creek bay.  this bay leads into the massive (for the area) upper saranac lake, which we had to paddle to the south end of.  it was 4 o'clock, and we decided to make a try for the bottom of the lake, 6 miles away.  the wind again picked up and battered our spirits pretty fast - after about a half mile of brutal paddling into 20mph winds, i called an audible and we headed north for buck island to set up camp for the night.

light painting fun - frank keeping warm by the fire at camp the first night of paddling.  buck island on upper saranac lake

frank shooting some night skies

our view from buck island campsite, there are some pretty massive houses on this lake

the rain held off for us until around midnight, then it let loose and didn't stop until 7 in the morning.  we were fortunate that the temps were only down into the 40's that night.  as we climbed from our sleeping quarters, the rain let up just long enough to pack it all up and get on the water fast.  we had a big day ahead of us, with 15 plus miles to cover, 6 of them on the windy open waters of upper saranac lake and 1.1 miles carrying all our gear and boats.

the gills pulling into the leeward side of deer island on upper saranac, after a windy, rainy mile of open water.  if it looks miserable, that's because it was.

the rain that we just paddled through, on the narrows section of upper sarnac lake

the rain pestered us the rest of our way down saranac lake, but was nice enough to stop once we reached the end, and it was time to portage.  we stuffed all we could into as few bags as possible, made make shift straps with webbing and rope and carried our gear and boats in sections.  it took us about an hour and half to complete the portage, and we were quite happy once it was over.  we ate lunch before loading the gear back in the boats, and the weather cleared out while we ate.  

the brothers gill portaging their gear and boat

the portage marker at stony creek ponds, where we put back on the water

spirits were much higher on stony creek ponds, where for a few minutes the wind was calm and the sun was out

gill teamwork on the water

the gills on stony creek ponds, right before the wind once again found us

the gills in stony creek, about to enter into the raquette river

with the winds calmer and sun in our faces, we decided to push some water to make as much ground as possible, so that we had 10 miles or less the following day.  we paddled until the sun was just about gone, after a solid 10 hours of paddling/portaging we had made it about 16 miles, a good day.  again the rain held off on us for the most part until we went to bed that night.

frank prepping breakfast on day 3 of our epic paddle. the rain began just before we were able to load the boats

morning on the raquette river, right before the rain set in for the day

we made good time on the river our last day, covering 8 rainy miles before ten thirty.  as we approached tupper lake and our take out, the wind once again picked up, and was blowing from the south, directly into our faces.  we struggled the final mile and half against this wind, in the open waters at the north end of the lake.  with nothing to shelter us from the wind, we powered through and finally arrived at our take out around noon.  the highlight of the day was the gills almost having a yard sale, 100 feet from the landing.  as they turned their giant craft towards the landing and perpendicular to the wind, the wind caught the broadside of the boat and almost capsized them, some how they managed to right it and made it in safetly.

almost swam here

unloading the gear at the landing after a brutally windy paddle

their 18' boat was enormous, especially on the vdub

we had plans of leaving adam at the take out with all the gear while frank and i returned the boat and picked up his car at the outfitter. the landing was cold and the wind was blowing 20mph so we decided to cram everything into my little car and make the drive just once, adam was pretty stoked on that.  so in went a folding kayak, gear for 3 people for 3 days and 3 full grown men - it was a bit uncomfortable, but we made it back to the outfitter in one piece and saved about an hour of driving.  we asked the folks at the outfitter where to spend our last night in the 'daks - and they suggested moose pond, so we headed that direction.  after an amazing late lunch in the town of saranac lake, we headed to moose pond.  The sun was in and out during our drive over, with some pretty dramatic skies to the east - it was beautiful.  we traded dry bags for backpacks, loaded our scaled down camp gear and hiked in about a quarter of a mile to an amazing campsite with a great view to the east of moose pond and mckenzie mountain.

view from the last campsite - moose pond

frank and i taking in the view

the moon rise over moose pond

another view of the moon rise - light pollution from lake placid is reflected in the clouds

hot tea with a view on a cold morning.  i pick the best spots to wake up....

the adventure crew at moose pond, adam thought the hatchet would make it more manly - i think it worked

although parts of this trip were agreeably miserable, it was an amazing experience for me.  to be in the mountains this time of year and experience fall in the 'daks was incredible.  thanks to the gills for the company - frank was his usual good natured self and adventure buddy, and adam did fantastic for having been thrown head first into such an epic multi-day trip. aside from some brotherly bickering over how to paddle a canoe straight, and the usual "we have to go how far today?!" they were great companions and made sure i didn't get eaten by a bear all alone.  i will definitely be doing a trip like this in the adirondacks again in the near future.

woodstock for kayakers

i attended gualey fest in summersville, wv for the first time a few weekends ago.  it was all i had anticipated and more, a 3 day weekend of paddling bliss, interrupted only by eating, drinking, live music, hammocking and more drinking.  i met my brother and a bunch of other folks late thursday night at the festival grounds - which is a large park on the edge of town.  we were early enough that we found some premium ground at the very edge of the park that included some trees worthy of hanging the hammock.  i was under the impression that we would be in the middle of field and tenting it, so i was super stoked to find a good place to hang.

early morning at our little slice of heaven, wv.  this was just our small corner of the grounds, there were at least 2000 more campers scattered behind the lens

the parking lot on the eve of the fest - so many boats.....

if you are looking for a used boat, this is the place to shop

my cozy bunk for the 3 night stay

dish glove dave's subaru on a foggy night - the festival is raging beyond the barn under the stadium lights

we paddled the lower section of the gualey river all 3 days in our play boats.  this is the less intense section of the water with a few class IV+ rapids, but it is still has some killer undercuts, huge wave trains, sticky holes and awesome surf waves.  next year we should be ready to be led down the upper section in our creek boats.

jimmy getting on the wave at diagonal ledges.  this wave is amazing, and you can surf it eternally.

dish glove dave at ledges

eric surfing 5 boat hole

nate surfing 5 boat hole

koontz flume - the first class IV+ rapid on the lower - 5 boat hole is at the far left.  trust me, this rapid is huge when you are paddling a 5 foot kayak into it.

dave surfing 5 boat hole

gear strewn about during lunch

nate appeasing the river gods with a booty beer, after a few swims - he had a much better second day. 

jimmy's (orange boat) go pro footage of him and me surfing the wave at diagonal ledges