Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Micro-Adventure: James River float

“But just as the river is always at the door, so is the world always outside. And it is in the world that we have to live.” 

― Lian Hearn

I'm not one to be pigeon holed into terminology, I often find myself avoiding hip words like "selfie" if only for the sake of not bowing to a perceived trend. 

That being said, some time ago I read about the idea of the "Micro-Adventure" from Alastair Humphreys, a true adventurer, Author, and motivational speaker. 

As described by Humphreys, Micro-Adventures are local, inexpensive journeys that get you outdoors on a smaller scale, but can have a profound affect on you just the same. 

With Ash being one week removed from being medically cleared from having our daughter, we decided to do a James River float. (If Ash is anything, she is not one to sit around).

I have found that as parents we collectively make an art of "what if'ing" things to death. The logistics of any endeavor often stifle the creativity of the adventure before it has a chance to get started.

So one of the very first hurdles to any outing is actually going...It really is that simple, because if you look for excuses you will most certainly find them.  

 The Adventure:

After 6 years of contemplation I finally pulled the trigger on a Jackson Coosa HD fishing Kayak.  (Review to follow) with the hopes of reigniting one a passion that had fallen by the wayside over the past 2 years.    

The canoe/kayak launch at Powhatan State Park
 A reoccurring question with any river float is "how long will it take"? I recently spoke with a gentlemen who got stuck on the South Anna River and had to navigate it at night with a head lamp because they misjudged the length of the trip.  The reason being that several factors go into a river float; river levels, where you are on the river, the flow, and how much time you spend exploring all go into the overall time of the trip.  I would add an extra hour to your itinerary just to be sure.   

The float from Powhatan State Park   to the Maidens ramp is roughly 5 miles. We cruised at around 1.6 miles an hour, paddling, floating, fishing, relaxing and stopping on a rock for lunch .  The water level was around 4.2 Feet, and was almost exclusively flat with a single ripple of "rapids" that were a non-issue. We put in around 9:30 and pulled up to Maidens around 2:30.  You could probably knock 2 hours off of that if you were in a rush...but then it kind of defeats the point.  I saw some gorgeous fish but fishing was "light" to say the least.

Powhatan State Park to Maidens (Rt #624)
Ash on her SUP 6 weeks after giving birth.
The water was an almost emerald clear and the bottom shifted from long stretches of sand with pockets of embedded shells to undulating rock formations and flowing river grass.

The "Coosa HD" in it's element
The float was our first real "date" since having our daughter and it was a welcome break from the chosen obligations of parenthood. It also reaffirmed our affinity for being outside together enjoying the environment, and each other's company.

Our constant companion thunderstorms, chasing us down the river.   

As a side note; fitness & healthy living are a bi-product of  "Micro-adventures". We are not professional athletes with disposable incomes, we are average folks who embrace the spirit of adventure,and chose to live a healthy life style.

Ultimately, it is always about choice.


Monday, April 6, 2015

From the Pacific to the Pirate Coast.

“Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates.”

Ash and I had just returned from Costa Rica with a renewed sense of adventure that we wanted to keep stoked. So keeping in step with the idea of "just going" Ash secured a last minute reservation on the Portsmouth Island Ferry, and we were off once again. 

For me, this trip was born from the idea that I could potentially surf both oceans in the same year. 

For me "surfing" is a relative term, it is certainly the hardest thing I have tired to do, and while I have been "surfing" for years I pretty much suck.

So the concept of surfing for me has always been about surrounding myself in the elements more so than the act of surfing itself. I feel that I have a personal relationship with the sea because of those experiences (both good & bad)  
Another aspect of the trip was that it was our second beach camping excursion with our son, who was now 18 months old. 

On that note,don't let anyone every try and convince you that this idea is impossible. In a time where kids are inundated with electronic gadgets we as parents are the driving force in building their foundation and love for the outdoors. Kids respond to nature, they embrace it, so feed off of their wonder. It will make you a better person and parent.  

This trip came with a special kind of souvenir, in the first hour of setting up camp I managed to slice my wrist open cutting off a zip tie. Being tired, and not paying attention has its consequences. If you plan on going remote, be it beach camping, backpacking or mountain biking, carry a first aid kit. This would have been a "trip-killer" without it.  

"There will be blood" 
"recovering" from the injury 
Consistently amazed by this woman
Coast to coast in 3 weeks.
Loving life, a new generation of pirates
After countless trips to the island, we remain awe struck by its effect. Turning the adventure into a family experience only adds to the story. This place, with all of it's bugs, sudden storms, and endless sunrises & sunsets has captivated us for going on 6 years. 

Stars, Christmas lights & craft beer
Sunset at the camp
follow their sense of wonder
Trust me when I say that I wasn't completely convinced on the idea of children,and the trade off has been having them at a much later age. But know this, I wouldn't trade it for the world, and what we give them is what they get. 

Realize and embrace the profound affect  of wonder in both you and your kids, it doesn't go away, we just turn our backs on it over time, my son has reinvigorated me, and restored my sense of wonder and adventure.

So here is to living the "Peter Pan" lifestyle, whenever it may be.   

These things that matter most...

Sunday, March 29, 2015

"Wander Lust" Costa Rica

Ash and I got married in a cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we served barbecue for dinner and drank craft beer with friends and family around a fire ring to celebrate our new life together. The majority of our adventures have followed a similarly rustic path with beach camping & back packing being our primary escapes. For us, renting a cabin was a luxury.  So the idea of a vacation in Costa Rica was far removed from our normal way of thinking. 

Costa Rica was in many ways the honeymoon we never took. So 7 years later we committed to make it happen. I want to avoid boring you with the endless details of planning  the trip, but I will say this.

If you talk too much about it, you will never do it.

The money will always work itself out in the end.

You can't cover every variable, so commit to it, and just go...

The ride into Tamarindo
Tamarindo is one of the more "tourist" oriented areas of Costa Rica but early on in the planning Ash found a "boutique" hotel that we became enamored with.  
Hotel Capit'an Suizo  is located toward the southern end of Tamarindo just outside the outskirts of the town. We flew into Liberia and took a short (50 minute) taxi into town from the airport.

Hotel Entrance

Standard room

The Pool (looking towards the ocean)
just outside the pool area (looking north towards town)
We went into this trip with the thought process of unplugging, with no itinerary, no trips planned, and no tours. When we were hungry we walked into town, when we were thirsty we strolled down the beach to the numerous watering holes between the hotel & village. 

The locals (most of which did not actually live in Tamarindo) were incredibly warm and accommodating. What struck me the most about the ones we had the pleasure to talk with was their intrinsic love for their environment. The hotel was centered around the environment and was set up to immerse the traveler in natural beauty.  As one of the staff put it, "The wind & waves are our music, you just have to listen"...

Howler monkey in the canopy on the hotel grounds

As far as food goes, Costa Rica is not known for it's "foodie culture", or craft beer scene. That being said, we had some fantastic fish tacos with Nogui's having the best offerings (and view) and we were able to find craft beer at the Volcano Brewing Company     

The view from Nogui's overlooking Tamarindo Bay
Encounters are a big part of the travel experience, and there were three in particular that struck me during the trip. Costa Rica has a robust surf culture and we happened to be in Tamarindo for the 50th anniversary of 'The Endless Summer" which is arguably the greatest surf film of all time. Bruce Brown even narrated an event at the Langosta Beach Club 
Endless Summer celebration at Langosta Beach Club

The World Cup was also going on during our stay and it was quite the experience watching the locals (who are ravenous soccer fans) celebrate the Cup. 

One night Ash and I struck up a conversation with a fit younger couple that were staying at the hotel. The guy, a robust soft spoken fella, talked about living in Coronado and "visiting" VA. Beach. It wasn't long thereafter that I was buying him rounds at the bar. Good luck in your endeavors Jake, you like you're brothers are an exceptional few and I was glad to have met you. 

While Costa Rica in itself would certainly be on the "bucket list" another life event became possible in almost an accidental way. As the summer progressed we committed to going back to our old haunt Portsmouth Island, and within two weeks time I had "surfed" both coasts. (but that's another post entirely). 

Surfing the Pacific Ocean

Ash relaxing
Sunset on the Pacific Coast
Obviously it is impossible to capture all of the moments in a blog post, and there were countless events that touched both of us during our visit. As a side note we left our son at home with the grandparents, (think honeymoon) but it would have been perfectly reasonable to bring him along as we saw numerous families with children during our stay. 

While life goes on, wanderlust doesn't go away, and adventure will most certainly continue if you cultivate it. One of the biggest decisions we made during our trip wasn't about traveling at all... 

In a few months our family will grow again with the addition of a baby girl, and the adventure will begin....again.

But that's another post entirely...


Thursday, December 4, 2014


“May you grow up to be righteous, may you grow up to be true. May you always know the truth and see the lights surrounding you. May you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong. May you stay forever young.”

~Bob Dylan
Keep on Keeping on...