“Twenty years ago, fresh out of college, I was too poor to afford the most expensive name gear. I did have a great back pack (Lowe Alpine Contour), but a cheap tent, Walmart ground pad, and low end hiking clothes, etc. Several times on the trail, I would meet people and outfitters who would judge me on my apparel/gear. It was like the trail had become a country club and I was not welcome or good enough to be a member. I feel now, the same way I felt then. If you love the outdoors, hiking and camping, then you belong.”
It’s not Martin Luther King. It’s not Ghandi. But my goodness did this dude put it perfectly. To provide some context, people have been incessantly bitching about the movie Wild and the resultant flood of backpackers. This guy was fed up with the elitism from a portion of the hiking community. Continue reading To be a human in the wild→
This is an epic video that my friend Scott put together of some of his adventures this past year, including beautiful footage of our thru-hike of the JMT and some free-diving down in the Florida Keys. Enjoy!
Nothing in my life has ever sparked such overwhelming fear as sitting alone on a beach in the early, early morning, long before sunrise with intentions of paddling a kayak across an enormous body of water to a foreign island. There was lightning on the horizon, too distant and sparse to be a sure no go, but not clear enough to make me feel confident to paddle out. The wind was blowing from the north and would launch me down to Cay Sal on an open ocean kayaking voyage in under 12 hours. I would arrive there before dusk and set up camp on the uninhabited island in the Gulf of Mexico. I could see the tall palms swaying high overhead behind me and knew the wind coming from the other side of the island was strong. Within the first mile of paddling the wind would catch me and launch me faster and faster from the island until eventually I would not be able to paddle back. It was a commitment that gave me chills.
My boat glided up onto the beach as I popped open my spray skirt. The dense smell of sweat and urine assaulted my nostrils. I slipped out of the boat and fell into the water, tried to stand, and contented myself with wading. I waded in the water for minutes, looking up on the island at the campers. Occasionally one would walk by and give me a look of total confusion, but the refugee Cubans arriving moments before distracted them from my arrival, at least long enough for me to learn how to walk again. Continue reading Key West to Tortugas, Part 3→
I was on the east side of the Marquesas so I had a few miles before I even reached open water. I paddled through the center of the circle of islands all the way to the west side where I saw three boats anchored in the lee of the island. In the flats I could see a couple fins swaying to-and-fro. I knew what they were but paddled up to get a closer look. A very large 7-8 foot nurse shark was sifting through the murk to find crustaceans. I startled him as he startled me and I continued on my trip. I soon was out into open water and felt the gusts pick up on my back. It would be a tailwind ride the entire way, making for a questionable return in the coming days.
Here is a video showing what it was like out there on my last attempt. Might try again tomorrow or the next day with the wind dropping and the weather clearing. May has been absolutely hellish weather so I gave it a shot and this is what happened. It was incredibly fun, just not conducive to the first paddle from The United States to The Bahamas.
“The worst part of an expedition was over when the preparation was finished.” -Robert Falcon Scott, The Worst Journey in the World.
It’s showtime. Shoving off from Key West at around 4 AM tomorrow. Follow me through live tracking on my Spot Shared Page. I am looking to paddle a kayak from The United States to The Bahamas. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. I get overwhelmed at times about the proposition. But I know it will be a blast, an adventure full of suffering and wonder, absolute awe and absolute agony. To see the world from the vantage that I do is a privilege and one that I won’t walk away from easily.
Looks like I’ll have NNW winds starting at 10 knots and rising to 20 knots by the end of the day. Slight risk of thunderstorms early. Seas 2-4 feet and building to 6-9 feet by the night. Big, big waves. Should make for a fast and exciting ride to Cay Sal Bank.
Big, big waves out in the Atlantic right now. Not conducive for fast kayaking, which I certainly need in order to make a 90 mile open water crossing. I went out today for 2.5 hours in a force 5-6 and got had an absolute blast. Towering, towering waves. Fun going downwind, brutal coming back. Once again the boat handles great but the limiting factor is going to be my endurance in such brutal conditions. I’ve been checking the weather every few hours just hoping I’ll get favorable conditions soon. It looks like we’re getting east winds for the next four days until it lines up perfectly with 10 knots coming from the northwest on Thursday. It doesn’t get much better than that but I wouldn’t mind doing without the isolated t-storm warning. Strong chance of dealing with a squall along the way. Should make for some exciting times- deploy sea anchor and outriggers and hang tight till the weather calms down. Continue reading Force 5-6→
Trying to put this whole trip together for a perfect run is seeming absolutely impossible. I am going to need to settle in some way, but in just what way I am unsure. The reason this trip is so tricky, and part of the reason it is so appealing is that a oceanic river, the gulf stream, runs directly through the middle of it. Currents from the Atlantic pump into the Gulf of Mexico, pump around for a bit and then swoop south and race by the keys on their way by and up the coast of the United States. At its fastest this current moves at four knots, a speed that is felt by all vessels, big and small. My trip is especially tricky with a small target and only human power and a little bit of wind.
I landed on the Man o’ War covered Smathers Beach on the south end of Key West at around eleven in the morning. I jumped out of my kayak in front of dozens of tourists trying to tan their wintery white skin. My face was coated with zinc oxide, my eyes sunken in from lack of sleep, my clothes wet and smelly. I sat on the beach in the warm sand for a moment reflecting on what I had just done. I had paddled a kayak the same distance it would be to paddle to The Bahamas. The absurd goal, an unfathomable distance, didn’t seem so crazy anymore. The only difference, no bugs to fend off, no unpredictable currents, just open water and solitude. Continue reading Middle Keys to Key West→