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.