- Outdoor Blog

Ride in and out of Boulder’s beer scene

Posted: 06 Sep 2014 04:00 AM PDT

Boulder, Colorado: Land of Beer

Boulder, Colorado: Land of Beer

Boulder, Colorado, has a well-deserved reputation as a town for ultra-athletes: runners, cyclists, triathletes, and climbers. But it’s also home to a bunch of really good breweries, so it’s almost as well know for its beer. And, in true Boulder fashion, you can hit almost all of the breweries by bike, getting in a bit of a workout in the process. Here’s how to do it.

The lineup at Avery’s tap room. Photo by Avery

Avery Brewery

Avery, which has been housed in a nondescript warehouse behind a carwash since the mid-1990s, makes some beers you might be familiar with, such as Ellie’s Brown, and some that are more unusual, such as the seasonal Maharaja. The beer is good, and strong, and the brewery hosts events, including weekly fun runs and bike rides, so there’s always something going on. It’s right off the Boulder Creek Path, which means that access is easy. It’s also a good starting point for your two-wheeled brewery tour, because it’s the farthest east.

Doesn’t get much more Colorado than that. Photo by Upslope


Upslope might be the quintessential Boulder brewery. They brew beer in cans, because they know that makes it easier to pack in and out of the backcountry, and they say their beers, like their signature pale ale, are perfect for sipping at trail heads and takeouts. We agree, and like the brown ale for the aforementioned activities, too. They’ve opened a new taproom on the east side, near Avery.

Boulder Beer

If you’re coming back downtown from the eastern breweries you’re going to bike right past Boulder Beer, which brews hoppy Hazed and Infused, and sessionable Singletrack Copper Ale. The oldest brewery in Boulder has live music a few nights a week, and their creek side patio is prime for summer and fall drinking.

Hippies welcome. Photo by Mountain Sun

Mountain Sun

Mountain Sun is a throwback to Boulder’s real hippie days. They don’t take credit cards, everyone who works there is a little disorganized, and there’s a lot of tie-dye and tempeh in the house. (The tempeh reuben is actually really good.) Despite the disarray, they make some damn good beers, such as the award winning Colorado Kind Ale. If you come to town in February, it’s stout month, which means they brew a huge variety of dark beers that range from weird and random to really delicious.


One of Boulder’s newest breweries is gaining accolades for their beer and for their business practices. Brewmaster Chris Asher is making all-organic beers, such as the Green Bullet IPA. His brewery and tap room is on the north side of town, so make sure you’ve saved your legs for a bit of a pedal. It’s uphill on the way there, but it’ll be an easy ride home.

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Blind athletes to kayak 277 miles of Grand Canyon

Posted: 05 Sep 2014 04:02 PM PDT

Erik Weihenmayer

Erik Weihenmayer attempts a river crossing with a guide. Photo by Rick Zaninno

Erik Weihenmayer, 45, hasn’t been able to see since he was 13 years old. But the renowned athlete has shown the world that to live a “no barriers” life you have to go by feel. The athlete has crafted an expedition to prove this once again; on Sunday he and Lonnie Bedwell—who Weihenmayer credits as an inspiration, as Bedwell became the first blind athlete to paddle the Grand Canyon last year—start the No Barriers Grand Canyon Expedition, a 277-mile kayak journey along the Colorado River from Lees Ferry to Pearce Ferry. Weihenmayer also secured a sponsorship from Nature Valley to help fund the expedition.

“The Grand Canyon is this huge, iconic river—the most historic in U.S., if not the world. There are 20-foot waves sometimes and powerful rapids. We might get flipped 50 times on this three-week trip. I can survive that, but would like to come out the other side flourishing,” says Weihenmayer, who, while training for the expedition, met Navy veteran Bedwell, whose Grand Canyon paddle consisted of 226 miles.

“We’re not saying to go out and do extreme sports, but you can still live that no-barriers life,” says Weihenmayer, who has climbed the Seven Summits (the highest mountains on each of the seven continents) and is the only blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest, for which he made the cover of Time magazine. “People have all kinds of challenges—that’s everyone in the world. Even for everyday people who want to stretch and reach, this gives them a little jump start.”

Erik Weihenmayer

Talk about no barriers: Erik Weihenmayer is the only blind person to ever summit Mount Everest. Photo by Luis Benitez

Weihenmayer has been kayaking for six years, since friend and Grand Canyon expedition organizer Rob Raker, who Weihenmayer affectionately refers to as “Papa Duck,” taught him how to roll his kayak, the first lesson in self-arresting on the water. Ironically, the initial lesson took place during a family raft trip in the Grand Canyon.

Many say kayaking requires responding quickly to more stimuli than any other sport, and after years of training, Weihenmayer agrees. Remove one of those senses—eyesight—and it’s an almost unimaginable activity, which is why there are only a few blind athletes to ever attempt it. “For a blind person to survive if not flourish in that environment is so challenging,” says Weihenmayer, who, as a mountaineer by training, is already out of his element in the chaos of the water. “It sounds crazy, but I have been climbing for such a long time that that’s my comfort zone. I can plod up an ice face. Mountains are slow and methodical. Kayaking is like you are sliding in an avalanche down the mountain. It’s fast and furious—almost like a fourth dimension. I’m trying to figure out what’s under my boat, what I’m hearing and feeling.”

Erik Weihenmayer

Erik Weihenmayer practices some of his kayak skills while training for the No Barriers Grand Canyon Expedition. Photo by Rob Raker

Weihenmayer says much of that feeling is now instinctual, having learned the patterns of the water over years of river training. “There are eddies that go in opposition; lines that flip you; holes that are like washing machines; huge waves that come at all directions; and whirlpools that suck you down,” he says. Three guides will help Erik navigate: a lead kayaker picking the best “line” to paddle through; a guide behind Erik calling commands—small left, charge, hold your line, hard right—via Bluetooth radio; and the “hail Mary” boater in the back who scans the whole scene for potential hazards.

Bedwell has his own approach. “He’s insane, in a good way. He taught himself to roll in a pond on his farm in Indiana. His style is different from mine. He doesn’t use a radio, so his guides are screaming ‘on-me, on-me,’ and then another guide is giving ‘micro directions.’ He loses his guide, gets flipped, and rolls right back up,” says Weihenmayer. “He has amazing fortitude, and it’s great having a kindred spirit out there. The message is you do these things for the personal journey. We do it in different ways, but there’s the piece that Lonnie and I can share about no barriers.”

To overcome real obstacles, in the midst of a wild ride, Weihenmayer says he’ll do as he learned climbing in the Himalayas—still the mind. “The roar of rapids and the anxiety knowing you are going into absolute chaos—it’s hard on the nervous system,” Weihenmayer says. “But you respond instinctually and you try to stay loose and learn to interpret fear, because sometimes it can be sabotage.”

In the quieter moments of the Grand Canyon—the thunder and boom thousands of feet down in the narrow, remote canyon and the feel of fossils in the rocks—Weihenmayer believes the metaphorical journey will solidify. “Last time I was in the Grand Canyon, we were listening to the frogs. It was like a symphony. Nature, like rapids, has an energy that humans connect to.”

Follow the No Barriers Grand Canyon Expedition journey and pick your own challenge to pledge to live with “no barriers” at

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Mushroom-shaped sea creatures are a mystery

Posted: 05 Sep 2014 03:34 PM PDT

Sea creatures that look like mushrooms, discovered in 1986, are finally named but don't belong to any existing animal group. Photo credit: Public Library of Science/ PLOS ONE

Sea creatures that look like mushrooms, discovered in 1986, are finally named but don’t belong to any existing animal group. Credit for photos: Public Library of Science/ PLOS ONE

Sea creatures shaped like a mushroom and dredged up from the depths off Australia in 1986 have finally been named, but scientists are at a loss to classify them under any existing animal group.

They do resemble a few long-extinct species, however, and might be a contender for one of the earliest branches of the animal family tree, National Geographic reported.

The animals no more than an inch long were described and named for the first time in the scientific journal PLOS ONE on Wednesday.

journal.pone.0102976.g001If the sea creatures named Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides are found to be descendants of early animals, they could “completely reshape the tree of life, and even our understanding of how animals evolved, how neurosystems evolved, how different tissues evolved,” Leonid Moroz, a neurobiologist at the University of Florida’s Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience told National Geographic. “It can rewrite whole textbooks in zoology.”

Biologist Jean Just discovered the sea creatures in samples of Australian seabed in 1,300 and 3,280 feet, but none have been found since. Neither has anything remotely similar been recorded or recollected.

“It’s still amazing that no one has come back and said at least, ‘I’ve seen things like this,’ even if they haven’t published it,” Just, who is retired from the Natural History Museum of Denmark, told National Geographic. “That’s exciting.”

The Slate website offers video that helps tell the story:

While no living animals resemble the sea creatures, three fossils do. Albumares, Anfesta, and Rugoconites are lifeforms thought to have vanished more than 540 million years ago at the end of the Ediacaran period just before the Cambrian explosion of rapid animal evolution, according to National Geographic.

National Geographic continues:

There is a chance that Dendrogramma are Ediacaran descendants, potentially making these animals the first to survive to modern times in recognizable form.

“If this is true,” says study co-author Reinhardt Kristensen, an invertebrate zoologist at the University of Copenhagen, “then we have discovered animals which we’d expect to be extinct around 500 million years ago.”

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Rare photo taken of flying seabird with egg belly

Posted: 05 Sep 2014 01:20 PM PDT

mascarene petrel

This Mascarene petrel, a seabird, is thought to be the first bird photographed in flight with an obvious egg protrusion. Photo by Hadoram Shirihai/Tubenoses project

An elusive and critically endangered seabird spotted in flight near Réunion Island was photographed in what was an incredible and first-time sighting.

A female Mascarene petrel displayed an obvious protrusion in the belly where it was carrying an egg, an extremely rare sight that excited researchers.

“This is thought to be the first record of any bird photographed in flight with an obvious egg inside the body,” BirdLife International announced Thursday.

Hadoram Shirihai photographed the egg-protruding seabird as part of an expedition to Réunion Island, a French island east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean and the only place in the world the Mascarene petrel exists.

Mascarene-Petrel-sunset initial sighting

The initial sighting of the Mascarene petrel, a seabird, came at sunset. Hadoram Shirihai/Tubenoses project.

“Against the background of a pinkish-orange sunset, with Réunion Island in the distance, I spotted a petrel through my camera’s viewfinder,” Shirihai said. “Almost immediately I saw the outline of an egg, a huge bump at its belly.  I called out to the other expedition members—‘she has an egg; she has an egg.’

“She flew close to the boat, which gave me the unique chance to photograph her just before the sun set. It was a magical moment, and to think that in less than an hour she would probably lay her egg and contribute to the future survival of this threatened species.”

The Mascarene petrel is one the world’s least-known seabirds. The search for this elusive seabird is described in the latest Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club, which reported that 33 Mascarene petrels were observed and 12 of them were photographed.

The sighting of the egg-protruding flying seabird is said to have given new insight into the timing of the breeding season of the seabird, which will help future searches for its breeding grounds on Réunion Island.

“This exciting discovery provides important information on a very poorly known and globally threatened seabird,” Roger Safford of BirdLife International said. “The finders are to be congratulated on their dedication. Their discovery was no accident, combing meticulous planning and research.”

The expedition report said that the Mascarene petrel is classified as critically endangered by BirdLife International on the IUCN Red List because it is assumed to have an extremely small breeding population and to be undergoing a continuing decline owing to predation and light-induced mortality.

“With some estimates of only a few dozen breeding pairs of Mascarene petrel our at-sea records suggest there are more individuals than thought, and that unknown colonies somewhere on the island have ensured the future of this species, at least for now,” author Vincent Bretagnolle said.

Meaning there is still hope for this critically endangered seabird.

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Shrimp-like creature is quite the catch

Posted: 05 Sep 2014 10:08 AM PDT

Shrimp-like creature

Shrimp-like creature caught off Florida creates quite a buzz; photo by Steve Bargeron

A Florida angler has reeled in a mysterious creature that looks to be a cross between a lobster and shrimp, and photos of this odd-looking crustacean, dangling from a fishing line, have captivated the Internet audience.

Steve Bargeron snapped the photos after watching another fisherman reel the 18-inch critter out of the water. Both had been fishing from a dock in Fort Pierce.

Shrimp-like creature

Another view of what’s believed to be a large mantis shrimp; photo by Steve Bargeron

Bargeron sent the images to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which on Thursday posted them on its Facebook page. By Friday morning the post had been shared nearly 3,000 times, and received hundreds of comments.

“That’s exactly why I don’t go into the ocean,” one person wrote.

The FWC did not identify the critter, but based on its appearance and Bargeron’s description—when it was pulled out of the water it was violently snapping its tail—the agency believes it’s “some type of mantis shrimp.”

If that’s true, the fisherman who caught the shrimp was smart to have grabbed it by its back, like one might grab a lobster, and fortunate not to have been injured.

The mantis shrimp is in a class of its own in terms of power. Within its shell are hinged arm-like claws, with fist-like clubs at their ends. They lash out with the speed of a .22-caliber bullet—the fastest punch in the world—and literally smash the shells of prey.

The claws can shatter clam shells, crack open crab shells, and even deliver a knockout blow to an octopus. (See accompanying video.)

In 2001, a 4-inch mantis shrimp, as an unnoticed stowaway, made it into an exhibit at California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium. The shrimp wreaked so much havoc that it became the subject of more than 200 newspaper articles. The carnage this mighty beast unleashed was covered nationally on TV.

The “killer shrimp” remained elusive and pulverized sea snails, hermit crabs, barnacles, and other critters that were on display. Their remains littered the bottom of display tanks.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium blog noted: “The claws are made of material so hard it can deliver 50,000 blows between molts—without breaking. It’s being studied by scientists as a model for crafting super-strong body armor for soldiers. And it moves its claws so fast that they turn water into plasma and sound into light.”

The mantis shrimp possesses remarkably sensitive vision—it can see in both infrared and ultraviolet spectra, and uses 16 receptor cones, versus just three for humans.

On Friday, the FWC had not responded to an inquiry asking if the critter had been positively identified as a mantis shrimp, or what type it might be, but that was the consensus among those commenting about the critter.

Reads a comment from Jason Wike: “Pretty sure this is a mantis shrimp, and at this size it could break your arm with a strike.”

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Richard Bronson’s son rescued on Matterhorn

Posted: 04 Sep 2014 04:54 PM PDT

Sam Bronson, middle, was barely able to lift his head for a photo at the top of the Matterhorn. Noah Devereux and Stephen Shanly are in far better shape. Photo from the Virgin Strive Challenge Facebook page

Sam Bronson, middle, was barely able to lift his head for a photo at the top of the Matterhorn. Noah Devereux and Stephen Shanly are in far better shape. Photo from the Virgin Strive Challenge Facebook page

The son of billionaire adventurer Richard Branson was overcome with acute altitude sickness atop the summit of the famed Matterhorn on Wednesday and was airlifted to safety while his helpless father looked on from a helicopter.

After running, rowing, cycling and hiking from London to the bottom of the Matterhorn as part of the Virgin Strive Challenge, Sam Branson began getting ill just before reaching the summit of the iconic 14,692-foot mountain peak bordering Switzerland and Italy.

sam not moving

Sam Bronson was overcome by acute altitude sickness atop the Matterhorn. Photo from Virgin Strive Challenge Facebook page

“For Sam, things were going quickly downhill [after summiting],” Richard Branson wrote on his blog. “Altitude sickness gets worse as you try to fight through it–so by the time Sam completed the Challenge and reached the summit, he hardly knew where he was. He had a blinding headache and could only briefly look up and take in the open blue sky. Having seen the Matterhorn dominating the view for weeks, he wondered briefly where it had gone!”

Kenton Cool of Dream Guides determined it was too dangerous to try to descend with Sam, so he called in a rescue helicopter.

“Sam was finally taken off the mountain, hanging outside of the helicopter, which was as terrifying as the altitude sickness,” Richard Bronson wrote. “I watched all of the drama unfold and felt totally helpless.”

Sam and Cool talked about the circumstances and the rescue in this video released Thursday by the Strive Challenge:

“I don’t really know what to say right now,” Sam said in the video. “I feel really mixed emotions and also no emotions whatsoever at the same time. I went up the Matterhorn feeling strong and progressively started to get weaker and weaker.

“But the team managed to push me farther and farther up, and I managed to eventually reach the summit. I don’t even know what the view was because I was convulsively crying and hacking. I think the altitude [sickness] hit a certain stage with me where Kenton was really worried about me going down.”


Richard Branson created the Virgin Strive Challenge that finished atop the Matterhorn, where his son was in need of a rescue. Photo from the Virgin Strive Challenge Facebook page

Sam said he was more scared about getting winched off the mountain by a helicopter than summiting the Matterhorn.

The Virgin Strive Challenge 2014 involved a team of 10 people whose goal was to reach the summit of the Matterhorn from London “entirely on their own steam” while raising money to help young people in the U.K. develop life skills needed to reach their potential.

They ran, rowed, cycled, hiked and climbed more than 620 miles with climbing the Matterhorn being the crowning achievement. But it was difficult for Sam to enjoy the moment.

son in yellow jacket crunched down virgin STRIVE challenge fb page

Richard Branson’s son, Sam, is in the yellow jacket at right from where he was rescued. Photo from the Virgin Strive Challenge Facebook page

“I don’t feel a massive sense of achievement,” Sam said. “I feel really happy that I pushed myself to the summit, but I think I’m so physically and mentally exhausted right now I’m just a bit blah.”

It was easy to determine how Richard Bronson felt. Like any other concerned parent, he felt very relieved.

“Having experienced eight helicopter rescues myself, it clearly runs in the family,” Richard Bronson said. “I joked with Sam that I hoped this would be a one off and not the first of eight for him too! Our appreciation for the rescue services resulted in Virgin sponsoring the London helicopter rescue service for many years.”

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Kayak fishing record set with 1,247-pound shark

Posted: 04 Sep 2014 01:23 PM PDT

Kayak fishing record: Angler Joel Abrahamsson battles an estimated 1,247-pound Greenland shark. Photo from Joel Kayakangler Facebook page

Kayak fishing record: Angler Joel Abrahamsson battles an estimated 1,247-pound Greenland shark. Photo from Joel Kayakangler Facebook page

A kayak fisherman from Sweden shattered the kayak fishing record for heaviest catch by reeling in a Greenland shark weighing an estimated 1,247 pounds, according to Kayak Fish Magazine. The fish, estimated to be 200 years old, was released alive and healthy after the 90-minute battle.

Joel Abrahamsson was fishing less than a mile off Andörja Island, Norway, in 1,600 feet of water when he caught what is considered an unofficial record since kayak fishing records are loosely kept and estimated weights are often used.

The previous unofficial record was a 400-pound salmon shark caught and released in Alaska in 2008. The heaviest kayak-caught fish to make it to a certified scale was a 225-pound blue marlin caught by Andy Cho in Hawaii.

The following one-minute video of Abrahamsson’s kayak fishing record was posted at, but the full video will eventually be published on YouTube.

The estimated weight of the Greenland shark caught by Abrahamsson was determined by a formula using its length of 13.2 feet and girth of 6.6 feet, taken by marine scientists from Havfiskeinstitut Norge that accompanied the kayak fisherman in a separate boat.

“My catch was a part of a research program to study the sharks,” Abrahamsson told Kayak Fish Magazine. “It has been prohibited to fish for 40 years commercially, but it is allowed with a rod.

“There are only about 10 to 15 Greenland sharks being caught every year in all of Scandinavia, so it is a rare species.”

An estimated 1,247-pound Greenland shark, an unofficial kayak fishing record, as seen from underwater camera in photo from video

An estimated 1,247-pound Greenland shark, an unofficial kayak fishing record, as seen from underwater camera in photo from video

Abrahamsson was fishing a 1,600-foot hole known for having the world’s biggest population of Greenland sharks. Fishing for them is a challenge, and fishing from a kayak makes it all the more challenging.

Abrahamsson told Kayak Fish Magazine that it takes 25 minutes to drop a bait down to avoid tangling the line. Then it takes 20 minutes to wind up the rig to check the bait, and this is done every two to three hours.

Kayak fishing record Greenland shark is measured by scientists. Photo is a screen grab from the video

Kayak fishing record Greenland shark is measured by scientists. Photo is a screen grab from the video

“The fish is not a spectacular fighter, but it is a fish that constantly tugs its head down and keeps slowly pulling, making it impossible to ever stop winding,” he said. “So I put the reel in low gear and just grind the fish upwards.

“The fight was just [grueling] and extremely heavy. A few times it got a bit gnarly. I was scared of going over.”

The shark researchers and Abrahamsson agreed beforehand that reeling the Greenland shark up to the leader would be considered a catch. At that point, the boat crew took over.

“We had a time limit of under five minutes to get it back unharmed being such a unique fish, so I was not allowed to handle it or secure it to my kayak,” he told Kayak Fish Magazine.

Shark research measure the kayak fishing record Greenland shark. Photo from Joel Kayakangler Facebook page

Shark researchers measure the kayak fishing record Greenland shark. Photo from Joel Kayakangler Facebook page

It is interesting to note that the Greenland shark is thought to be the longest-living vertebrate on the planet, hence the age estimate put on this shark.

So, what’s next for Abrahamsson? His dream is to catch a 225-pound Atlantic halibut from a kayak.

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7 transparent animals found in nature

Posted: 03 Sep 2014 04:27 PM PDT

Transparent animals: A Fleishmann's glass frog. Photo by Thomas Marent/ARDEA/Caters News

Transparent animals: A Fleishmann’s glass frog, also known as a northern glass frog, is a small tree frog native to the cloud forests of Central and South America. Photo by Thomas Marent/Ardea/Caters News

In the animal kingdom, camouflage is an important trait for blending in to the surrounding habitat in order to hide from predators. For some, that means having bodies that are see-through.

Transparent animals featuring glass-like skin are found all over the world, from frogs to fish to butterflies, with most generally using their translucent skin as a means to avoid becoming prey.

Sea creatures that don’t have teeth, toxins, or the ability to speed away from predators will have some degree of invisibility, according to Sönke Johnsen, a scientist and writer for Scientific American quoted by MailOnline.

The amount of light that is able to pass through their bodies ranges from 20 to 90 percent, the MailOnline reported.

“Transparency is usually found in pelagic animals,” Caters News Agency reported. “The main advantage of being see-through in the open water is that it provides camouflage at all depths and from all angles.”

All transparent creatures generally make for extraordinary images. Caters collected a sampling taken by photographers from around the world.

The above Fleischmann’s glass frog is especially intriguing since the majority of its vital organs are clearly visible through its translucent skin. Scientists have found no clear explanation for the evolution of its ventral transparency, however.

Here’s a look at other transparent animals:

Transparent animals: A glass wing butterfly. Photo by Hans Dossenbach/Ardea/Caters News

Transparent animals: A glasswinged butterfly. Photo by Hans Dossenbach/Ardea/Caters News

Glasswinged butterfly is found resting on a leaf in Ecuador. Unlike other butterflies, the glasswinged butterfly lacks colored scales, so the tissue between the veins of its wings look like glass.

Fun fact: These butterflies are known as espejitos in Spanish, meaning “mirrors.”

Transparent animals: An elegant hydromedusa jellyfish. Photo by Ken Lucas/Ardea/Caters News

Transparent animals: A hydromedusa jellyfish. Photo by Ken Lucas/Ardea/Caters News

The hydromedusan jellyfish has a body that is almost entirely transparent and is capable of swimming fast by propelling itself with pulsed jets of water.

Fun fact: Best keep your distance since the hydromedusan jellyfish can sting.

Transparent animals: A thornback skate. Photo by Ken Lucas/Ardea/Caters News

Transparent animals: A big skate, Image 1. Photo by Ken Lucas/Ardea/Caters News

Transparent animals: A thornback skate, Image 2. Photo by Ken Lucas/Ardea/Caters News

Transparent animals: A big skate, Image 2. Photo by Ken Lucas/Ardea/Caters News

The Raja Binoculata or big skate are found from shallow inshore waters to the depths up to 1,900 feet. This one was spotted in San Pedro Bay, California.

Fun fact: The largest skate in North American waters was reportedly 7.9 feet long.

Transparent animals: A glass fish. Photo by Jean Michel Labat/Ardea/Caters News

Transparent animals: A glass fish. Photo by Jean Michel Labat/Ardea/Caters News

Glass fish are native to South Asia and travel in schools since they only grow to about 3 inches in length.

Fun Fact: Glass fish are popular aquarium fish because of their transparency.

Transparent animals: A white shrimp. Photo by Ken Lucas/Ardea/Caters News

Transparent animals: A white shrimp. Photo by Ken Lucas/Ardea/Caters News

White shrimp grow upwards to 7.8 inches. Their antennae may be three times the length of their bodies.

Fun fact: The white shrimp is one of three species of penaeid shrimp commercially harvested in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

Transparent animals: A paper nautilus. Photo by Valerie Taylor/Ardea/Caters News

Transparent animals: A paper nautilus. Photo by Valerie Taylor/Ardea/Caters News

The paper nautilus is a cephalopod also known as Argonaut and lives in pelagic habitats of the subtropics and tropics.

Fun fact: the paper nautilus shell is special among mollusks in that it is only built by the female to protect her eggs.

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Rare wahoo catch could be a first

Posted: 03 Sep 2014 03:47 PM PDT


Eric Kim poses with 50-pound wahoo; photo by Amy Elliott/Balboa Angling Club

Of all the rare sightings and catches during this warm-water summer off Southern California, there’s only one “first” that we’re aware of, and it involves the catch of a 50-pound wahoo last Saturday about 10 miles off Orange County.

Eric Kim was on a tuna-fishing trip with friends aboard the private sportfisher Joker and trolling a large Rapala lure when the wahoo (ono) struck.

“I just thought it was a lone dorado or tuna, but then I felt the weight and thought this is actually a better fish,” Kim told Phil Friedman of PFO Radio. “I got it to color and we couldn’t believe it. It was a freaking wahoo.”

This has been the best summer fishing season off Southern California in decades, thanks to an abundance of yellowfin tuna and dorado (mahi-mahi) that has added a Mexican flavor to the local fishing experience.


The catch of a 50-pound wahoo off Southern California was no joke; photo by Amy Elliott/Balboa Angling Club

Those fish are far more common in Mexican waters, but appear off Southern California during warm-water events such as an El Niño.

Surface temperatures offshore range from about 72 to 76 degrees, well above normal. This has allowed exotic species of fish, and even some marine mammal species, to venture much farther north than their typical range.

But wahoo, which are found regularly in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez and off southern Baja California, simply do not migrate this far north.

Milton Love, a UC Santa Barbara scientist and author of “Certainly More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast,” said Wednesday that Kim’s wahoo is believed to be the first genuine catch of a wahoo in the Eastern Pacific north of the U.S.-Mexico border.

“I have been waiting for an official U.S. record for years,” Love stated via email, adding that previously, the farthest northern catch was 130 miles south of the border.

Love is not counting a wahoo caught inside Los Angeles Harbor in the winter of 2010. That probably involved a fish that was brought into the harbor via boat or ship, because there’s little chance that a species that resides in tropical and sub-tropical seas could swum so far north at that time of year.

Wahoo, believed to be the world’s fastest fish, are extremely popular for their fight and the high quality of their flesh.

Kim was fishing with Capt. George Garrett, Ted Royal, and Zach Murtaugh. The wahoo, which measured 60 inches and had a girth of 22 inches, was weighed and photographed by Amy Elliott at the Balboa Angling Club scale in Newport Beach.

“They were amazed,” Elliott said. “It was Zach’s birthday and they were all having a ball catching dorado and tuna. They could not catch enough fish; it was one after another.”

Said Kim of seeing the wahoo come over the rail: “We were all tripping out. It took two nice runs. We got it to color and then my buddies, Zach and Ted … as soon as they put the gaff in it, it was all smiles, man. All smiles.”

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Walter the lab will stop at nothing for a dip

Posted: 03 Sep 2014 01:22 PM PDT


Walter the lab about to enjoy a dip; video screen grab

It’s no secret that Labradors love the water, and all one has to do is watch Walter in action to realize how much this rings true.

The accompanying footage, captured by a camera fastened to Walter’s back with a new dog-compatible harness, shows that this pooch will stop at nothing, once he is unleashed, to reach the sea and leap in for a refreshing dip.

A long flight of stairs … no problem. Trees, hedgerows, more stairs, rocky fields … Walter the lab is unfazed, and laser-focused.

Finally, all that stands before Walter and the sea is a group of sunbathers. Walter will not deviate his course; he charges directly through the people and leaves all fours and lands with a splash.

A just reward, to be sure.

The footage was captured on the coast of Siracusa, Italy, and the video has understandably gone viral.

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Would you jump off this building for fun?

Posted: 03 Sep 2014 12:55 PM PDT

Miami's newest thrill could be a free-fall experience from the top of this futuristic downtown high-rise; photo courtesy of SkyRise.

Miami’s newest thrill could be a free-fall experience from the top of this futuristic downtown high-rise, SkyRise. Photo courtesy of SkyRise

It turns out Miami has an adventurous side after all. The city of string bikinis and late-night clubs recently approved the downtown construction of the state’s tallest building, dubbed “SkyRise,” and with it a BASE-jump-inspired attraction. That’s right, the building, which most closely resembles a bobby pin, will rise 1,000 feet above downtown and feature the SkyRise Drop—a free-fall experience from the top of the tower, according to Outside Online.

“[It] can be described as BASE jumping using a sophisticated, bungee-like safety system where jumpers are attached to a high-speed, controlled-descent wire,” said a SkyRise brochure.

The skyscraper will also house a nightclub, ballroom, a movie theater complete with a motion simulator, and SkyPlunge—an amusement-based ride that mimics bungee jumping. But the real draw will remain the SkyRise Drop, one of the first commercial BASE jumping experiences out there.

BASE jumping refers to participants jumping off of fixed structures while using a parachute to break their fall. Jumpers usually launch from bridges, antennas, and cliffs, but buildings are also an objective—albeit a much stickier objective when it comes to legality. BASE participants are busted every year launching from iconic structures like the Freedom Tower in New York and the CN Tower in Toronto.

While Miami’s BASE-jump mimicking SkyRise drop won’t technically be classified as a BASE jump, it’s doubtful adrenaline junkies will complain, and SkyRise’s developer, Jeff Berkowitz, is adamant on offering the most cutting edge entertainment options in the city.

“Miami is a world-class city. And I think an iconic downtown will firmly cement Miami on a global stage,” the mogul, who has put up $30 million of his own to fund the estimated $430 million project, told USA Today. “It’s going to be Miami’s Eiffel Tower.”

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Bucket bear rescued by volunteer group

Posted: 03 Sep 2014 11:06 AM PDT

Bucket bear wandered the neighborhood for more than a month before volunteers cut away the unwanted appendage. Photo from Save the Bucket Bear Facebook page

Bucket bear wandered the neighborhood for more than a month before volunteers cut away the unwanted appendage. Photo from Save the Bucket Bear Facebook page

A bear observed with a bucket on its head wandering around the Perry Township, Clarion County, Pennsylvania, for more than a month has finally been rescued, thanks to a group of neighborhood volunteers who corralled the animal on Monday and cut away the unwanted appendage.

Krissy Elder and her friends drew attention to the so-called bucket bear Sunday night by creating a Save the Bucket Bear Facebook page after she visited her father, who lives in the area the bear was wandering

“I watched the bear bounce its head off the fence,” Elder told “It just couldn’t see. That poor bear couldn’t see where it was going.”

Dean Hornberger of Sligo, Pennsylvania, and his girlfriend Samantha Eigenbrod saw the Facebook post and immediately made plans to recruit volunteers and make a rescue attempt the next day. Eigenbrod recorded the rescue on her cellphone. MailOnline offered the best compilation of the video (it starts after 30 seconds):

As you can see, Hornberger first attempted to pull off the bucket-like fixture known as a maxi, an air bag that provides cushioning between a tractor and its trailer. Unsuccessful, the volunteer animal rescue group managed to tackle the bear and pin it down in “the biggest mud hole in the area,” according to Hornberger.

“We all sort of dog-piled on top of the bear to get it down,” Hornberger told

Using a hacksaw, Hornberger cut through the metal ring around the bear’s neck and enough of the plastic so the “bucket” could be pried open enough for the bear to pull its head out, which it did, and then took off running into the woods.

Hornberger said the bear was able to eat and get some water through a small opening in the maxi, explaining how it survived since there had been reports about the bucket bear as far back as July 4.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission had received several calls about the bucket bear over the past month and a half. Each time officials responded the bear was long gone, and attempts to trap the animal failed.

Instead, it took a group of volunteers to tackle the issue.

Follow David Strege on Facebook 

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Massive alligators bagged in Mississippi

Posted: 03 Sep 2014 10:06 AM PDT

Gator copy

Hunters pose with 792-pound alligator; photo via MDWFP

Alligator-hunting season began last Friday in Mississippi and already the state record has been broken twice.

The new record taped out at 13 feet, 5 inches, and weighed 792 pounds.

“He was a giant!” Brian Montgomery, one of three hunters who helped bag the massive gator on Tuesday, told NBC News. (See photo.)

One of those with Montgomery was Scott Berry, who was part of a hunting party that was first to set a new record on Saturday, when it subdued a 756-pound alligator.

“When we saw this one, we knew it was a big one, but we knew it wasn’t the big one that we were looking for,” Berry told WAPT News, in reference to the 756-pounder. “But we knew this one couldn’t be passed up.”

Montgomery, 38, was participating in his first alligator hunt and said the massive gator bit a hole in the hunters’ 16-foot aluminum boat as they were attempting to snare the beast after it had been hooked and hauled close to the boat.

After several tense moments, it was subdued, and towed ashore.

Mississippi’s hunting season, designed to control the alligator population in certain parts of the state, will last 10 days and involves 920 hunters who were granted permits.

It will not be surprising, MDWFP spokesman Ricky Flynt said, if the record is broken for a third time before the hunt concludes, as gators throughout the South have been putting on lots of weight.

“I will not be surprised if they get one that exceeds 1,000 pounds and is 14 feet or longer,” Flynt, the alligator program coordinator for MDWFP, told NBC News.

During a recent hunt in Alabama, an alligator weighing 1,011.5 pounds and measuring 15 feet, 9 inches, was harvested by Mandy Stokes and other members of her hunting party.

That was recently determined to be a new world record.

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The case for keeping secret places secret

Posted: 03 Sep 2014 06:00 AM PDT

The case for keeping secret places a secret

Should secret places like this one be kept secret? Photo by Brandon Scherzberg

I started drafting this article as a travel guide—until I remembered an unsettlingly relevant email that found its way into my inbox a while ago. “I loved your piece on Swissco in Colorado, but I kind of wish that you’d kept it a secret. Now it’s going to get crowded!”

I’m flattered, email friend, but I doubt more than a handful of people who read my travel guide was inspired to actually trek all the way out to the reservoir and go bouldering (if you were, let me warn you: my trip there ended with me running like a mad woman through a hail storm, dunking my new boots in a creek in the process, and shivering like crazy the whole ride home). Besides, there’s a wealth of information about the spot online already. I just added to it.

Still, I understand your concern. Because there’s something special about frequenting secret places only a few people know about. A hidden towpath, a hard-to-find climbing paradise, a revered highlining spot—half the reason they’re so idyllic is because they’re isolated.  Share their guarded coordinates and you could turn someone else on to the joy you experience there. But you also run the risk of letting the proverbial cat out of the bag.

Case in point: A bubbling hot spring outside of Mammoth in California. A few years ago, my friend spent an evening chatting up a local until they reached that unspoken tipping point of friendship were secret spots come out (there may have been beer involved). “You’ve gotta go soak in the hot spring up the road—only people in town know about it. No tourists.” Truth be told, my friends enjoyed a night getting prune-y under the stars without a set of headlights in sight.

Fast-forward to earlier this year—the hot springs are packed. Cars line a newly made parking lot, and there’s hardly room for a single butt cheek in the water. Looks like our friend got chummy more frequently than we’d bargained for.

With so many of us armed with a GPS and a quick Internet search at our fingertips, it’s a rapidly shrinking world. I’m all about spreading the wealth, but in the name of my own sanity and those stolen moments off the grid, I’m keeping a few secrets. Buy me a beer and maybe we’ll talk.

Follow Johnie Gall on Twitter.

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An outdoor lover’s guide to Montreal

Posted: 03 Sep 2014 05:00 AM PDT


Montreal may be known for its European flavor and exquisite culinary fare, but it’s also a paradise for those who love playing in the outdoors. Photo courtesy Shutterstock

Montreal is most known for its European flair, delicious food, and big festivals. What many travelers don’t know is that Montreal is also a hot spot for some of the best outdoor activities of any city around the world. Meet your inner urban adventurer in Montreal with these activities.

Photo courtesy meunierd/

A crowd celebrates Canada Day on Montreal’s Old Port, whose boardwalk sees walkers, cyclists, and skaters every day. Photo courtesy meunierd/

Visit the Old Port
This is the No. 1 stop every traveler must check out in Montreal. The port was used as early as 1611 by fur traders up until 1976, when everything was moved to the present-day Port of Montreal. After a period of abandonment, the Old Port was transformed in the 1990s into an historic and outdoor center in Montreal. Six million visitors per year enjoy walking, biking, and skating along the mile-and-a-half St. Lawrence riverfront as well as hitting up the urban sand beach.


Flower-covered Beetle in the greenhouse of Jardin botanique de Montreal; photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

See the wildlife and gardens at the Montreal Biodome
You can easily make a weekend out of visiting just this one stop in Montreal. The Montreal Biodome recreates four of the world’s most exotic ecosystems: a tropical rainforest, a Laurentian maple forest, the Sub-Antarctic islands and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and Labrador Coast. Complete with their own climates, these displays of flora and fauna are beautiful and educational. The Biodome is close to the Insectarium and Planetarium as well as the Montreal Botanical Garden. Like the Biodome, the Botanical Garden has many sections, including a Japanese garden, aboriginal garden, English garden, and a Chinese garden.

Ride bikes
Like most big cities, Montreal’s best mode of transportation is by bike. Montreal’s citizens are obsessed with the sport and make it their main form of commute. What makes Montreal special is that it was the first urban center in the world to receive National Geographic’s “Geotourism” accreditation—a type of tourism that supports or improves a place’s geographical character such as its environment, heritage, or culture.

Montreal offers 400 Bixi stops, which are places to rent the city’s bikes for the day. Hit a Bixi bike stop, grab a bike, and from there ride about nine miles to the Lachine Canal, a formerly industrialized part of town that has since been renovated into a cool green zone.

When riding your bike, just be extra cautious of cars, as Montrealers are notoriously oblivious of (and even aggressive toward) pedestrians and cyclists.


Cyclists enjoy the view from the top of Mount Royal in Montreal; photo courtesy Pete Spiro/

Take a hike
Montreal features several city parks with trails and paths to explore, the best among them hands down being the 400-acre Mount Royal. You can hike to the highest point (767 feet), which is officially called Belvédère Kondiaronk, and look down over the city.


Surfing the Habitat 67 Wave in Montreal; photo courtesy Marc-André Desrosiers/Wikimedia Commons

Don’t let the geography of this metropolis throw you off. Montreal has a standing wave created by fast currents over underwater boulders that makes for some of the best surf sessions anywhere on the East Coast. Named after the curious 67 housing building complex in downtown Montreal, the Habitat 67 wave rises up to six feet during most of the year on the mighty St. Lawrence River. Just grab your surf or SUP board or kayak and hang ten. Remember to lock your car, especially if you have American license plates.

Get there: Fly into the international Aéroports de Montréal or drive north on I-87 in New York until it turns in to Autoroute 15 once you cross the border.

Stay there: To add historic flair to your visit, stay in the Château de L’argoat Hôtel at the corner of the Plateau Mont-Royal and the Latin Quarter near the picturesque St. Denis Street in the heart of Montreal. For the more budget minded, the Hôtel de Paris is also located in the Plateau Mont-Royal for convenience.

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Lions are no match for feisty marsh mongoose

Posted: 02 Sep 2014 04:32 PM PDT

Marsh mongoose scares away a pride of lions. Photo is a screen grab from the video

Marsh mongoose scares away a pride of lions. Photo is a screen grab from the video

A marsh mongoose weighs about 12 pounds, tops. An African lioness weighs around 300 pounds. So when four female lions surround one marsh mongoose in the Masaai Mara National Park in Kenya, Africa, you would think that the marsh mongoose is significantly overmatched and is about to become the lions’ snack. But in this case, you’d be wrong. So much for the tale of the tape. Watch:

Lions are apex predators known to track down speedy animals like wildebeest, zebra, and antelope. But as you can see, they had difficulty with this marsh mongoose, which actually had one lion backing up, like a boxer backing an opponent into the corner. The outnumbered mongoose also managed to nip another lion in the nose.

Amusingly, the kings of the jungle were left with tails between their legs.

Photographer Jerome Guillaumot of France shot the stunning footage in 2011 but released it to the public Tuesday for the first time via Barcroft TV.

Definitely chalk one up for the underdog—or marsh mongoose, as it were.

Follow David Strege on Facebook 

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Levison Wood finishes ‘Walking the Nile’ quest

Posted: 02 Sep 2014 01:54 PM PDT

Levison Wood reached Rosetta, Egypt, to finish his Walking the Nile quest. Photo from Walking the Nile Facebook page

Levison Wood reached Rosetta, Egypt, to finish his Walking the Nile quest. Photo from Walking the Nile Facebook page

After walking more than 3,100  miles through six countries in nine months—about 7 million steps—Levison Wood of Britain used two words to announce the completion of his epic journey: “Made it!!!”

The adventurer reached the mouth of the river Nile at Rosetta, Egypt, on Saturday to lay claim as the first person to walk the Nile from its source in Rwanda to the Mediterranean Sea.

Wood’s parents made a surprise appearance at the beach and held up a string of flags from all six countries the Nile cuts through—Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan, and Egypt. Wood ran under the flags and into the sea.

ran into Mediterranean Sea under flags of 6 countries he spent 9 months passing in Walking the Nle FB page

Levison Wood runs under six flags representing the countries the river Nile cuts through. Wood’s parents held up the flags, marking the finish line of Walking the Nile quest. Photo from Walking the Nile Facebook page

Unfortunately, Wood cannot say he walked the entire length of the Nile, as some outlets are reporting, because he was forced to miss a 400-mile stretch in South Sudan due of a civil war. Someday, he plans to fill in that missing gap.

Still, the expedition was one of triumph, inspiration, perseverance, and survival.

“It’s been the most epic adventure I could ever have imagined and I feel extremely privileged to have been able to undertake it,” Wood said, according to The Sentinel of the U.K.

“I’d like to thank everyone that has supported and followed me on this journey. I couldn’t have made it without the kindness and generosity of the amazing people I have met along the way.

“I can’t believe what I’ve experienced in the past nine months.”

He experienced plenty. He had close calls with crocodiles, elephants and buffalo, was reportedly robbed and hunted by poachers, suffered near starvation, and coped with the tragic death of Men’s Journal correspondent Matt Power, who accompanied Wood for three days before falling ill, losing consciousness and dying, presumably of heatstroke.

Wood continued on after Power’s family gave him their blessing.

Digital Maps for Graphic Design

The route Levison Wood took on his Walking the Nile quest. He skipped 400 miles of South Sudan, however, because of civil war. Image courtesy of Walking the Nile.

The most harrowing part of his journey was South Sudan. Wood feared for his life when he found himself in the middle of a civil war in the town of Bor. A former British army captain, Wood experienced war in Afghanistan in 2008 but told The Guardian, “This was the worst I’d ever seen. It was on another level.

“It was happening in the streets around me. One guy tried to attack me, and threatened to kill me. They were attacking anyone western, who they associated with the UN, who they felt was supporting the other side. The entire marketplace had been burnt to the ground. Banks had been looted. There were hundreds and hundreds of burnt-out cars. Mass graves everywhere.”

Wood and his guide eventually escaped Bor by car. From his Day 134 blog entry:

Two nights in that hellish place was enough for me. Reports came in that the rebels were staging a massive offensive on the key towns that straddle the Nile—Bentiu, Malakal and Renk. All that day, battle raged around these towns and hundreds, possibly thousands, were reported killed.

with 20 miles to go final day of walking the nile... fb

Levison Wood pauses along Nile with 20 miles to go until reaching Mediterranean Sea. Photo from Walking the Nile Facebook page

It would be reckless and downright stupid to try to walk through the middle of a war zone where people are starving and dying, so I made the heart-wrenching decision to fly from Juba to North Sudan and continue my journey from there.

Whilst I won’t be able to walk this stretch of the Nile I will carry on with the expedition on the other side of the war zone, 400 miles to the north. One day, in more peaceful times, I will come back and fill in the gap.

Channel 4 of the U.K. is making a documentary about his journey, which helped raise awareness and funds for his charities: the AMECA Trust, Space for Giants, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, and Tusk Trust.

“I’ve achieved a lifelong dream to discover modern Africa,” Wood said in his post on U.K.’s “There were times when I wondered what I had let myself in for, but I have discovered so much about this incredible continent.

“The people that live along the Nile are a true inspiration and I feel very privileged to have been able to undertake this expedition…

“Now…Time to rest my weary feet!”

Follow David Strege on Facebook 

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Close shark encounter captured on video

Posted: 02 Sep 2014 12:48 PM PDT


Hammerhead shark pursues stingray (circled) while unsuspecting waders stand nearby; video screen grab

Footage recently emerged showing a large hammerhead shark pursuing prey off Destin, Florida, with two people standing close by in the shallows.

There were no injuries to the waders–the shark was going after a stingray–but a media frenzy nonetheless ensued.

“Couple have terrifying escape from mammoth hammerhead share,” screams one of dozens of headlines atop stories posted over the weekend.

“See lucky escape for swimming couple who don’t notice the hammerhead shark just feet away,” reads another headline that implies the shark might have gone after the waders had they not eventually scurried toward shore.

The sensationalistic approach is working. The video, shot by Scott McCain from the 19th floor of an oceanfront hotel, had garnered nearly 2 million views as of Tuesday afternoon.

The footage shows a fairly large hammerhead (perhaps 9 or 10 feet; not “mammoth”) pursuing a stingray into shallow, green water.

More than likely, the shark was never aware of the presence of people, and shark experts probably would agree that even if the hammerhead had been aware, it posed little or no danger, as the predator was focused entirely on capturing one of this species’ favorite snacks.

What’s unique about the footage, however, is the theater-like atmosphere, and the amusing commentary as the shark approached the swimmers.

McCain told that it was like “you’re about to see a car wreck.”

He was with eight friends who had gathered in Destin for a bachelor party, and this episode became one of the highlights.

“Shark! Get out the water!” one of the friends yells to the waders, to no avail. They were too high up to be heard.

Finally, after the hammerhead broke water during a lunge toward the elusive stingray, the waders became frightened and ran to shore.

The hammerhead chased the stingray into knee-deep water and ultimately claimed its prize.

When the video began going viral, Florida-based shark expert David Shiffman stated on Facebook, in reference to one of the headlines mentioned above: “For crying out loud this hammerhead was chasing a stingray not people.”

To be sure, the stingray had the most right to be terrified, but its worries seem to be over.

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Mola mola encounter a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience

Posted: 02 Sep 2014 10:45 AM PDT


Mola mola images are video screen grabs

Erik van der Goot described his recent encounter with a giant Mola mola as a “once-in-a-lifetime experience,” which seems a rather bland assessment judging by his amazing footage.

The strange-looking sea creature is utterly massive, dwarfing several scuba divers in its midst, looking more like an alien being than a mere fish as it traverses the dark-blue waters off Gozo in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Mola mola has long been a favorite among divers, much like whale sharks and giant mantas, because of its size and docile nature.

These ocean sunfish, which feature truncated bodies and comically-long faces, are the world’s heaviest bony fishes and can weigh up to 5,000 pounds. Their rounded bodies can measure about 15 feet from top to bottom, and about 10 feet in length. (Only sharks and rays, which are cartilaginous, are heavier.)

But few divers  ever get to share such an intimate encounter with a truly gigantic Mola.


Van der Goot does a good job of keeping up with the sunfish he encountered off Gozo, and presenting it from various angles, including a frontal view that shows the critter’s long face and tiny mouth, and a host of small fish tagging along to forage on skin parasites.

According to National Geographic, the Mola mola’s near-circular shape has to do with the fact that it never fully develops a tail fin.

Though the fish are born with a tail fin, it does not grow and instead folds in upon itself and forms a sort of rudder, with which the Mola mola propels itself clumsily through its azure realm, dining on sea jellies, algae, zooplankton, and even small fishes.

(Mola molas are found in tropical and temperate seas throughout the world.)

Emails sent to Van der Goot inquiring about the encounter were unanswered at the time of this post, but it’s probably safe to assume that his “once-in-a-lifetime experience” was also mind-blowing, surreal, and just plain awesome.

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Heavy Pedal Tour: The trails, free shuttles, and beer of Helena, Montana

Posted: 02 Sep 2014 03:00 AM PDT

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth installment of an eight-part Bike magazine series documenting the travels of Galen O’Moore and Hurl Everstone as they go from Colorado to Montana to North Dakota to Utah and back to Colorado. They will be filming their adventure with Sony Action Cameras, and posting their adventures and the faces they meet on Instagram. Follow along: @bikemag and #heavypedaltour.

Quick, what’s the first thing you think of when you hear, “Helena, Montana?”

Well, sure, it’s the state capital. But did you also know that it’s the de facto singletrack capital of Montana? We were stoked to spend a few days exploring the area after our weekend in Butte, Montana, and a chance meeting with Steve Coen of the Gravity Guild Garage in Helena cemented the deal.


Emmet Purcell rips down from the Top of the World in Helena. Photo by Dylan H. Brown

Galen had sasquatched the rear wheel on his Trek Remedy during the Evel Knievel Urban Downhill, and with no replacement 650b wheels available locally, Steve graciously offered first a spare wheel, then his personal Knolly Warden bike, for Galen to ride. This ultimately did not work out, but we did drive to Helena the day before the Butte 100 for a replacement, hooked up by Jim and the staff at Big Sky Cycling. With that kind of hospitality from local shops, and stories of bitchin’ trails, we had to test out the trails.

Helena is an IMBA Bronze-level ride center, with over 70 miles of trails. “Singletrack at the end of every street,” is how they like to say it, and it’s not far from the truth. There is even a free shuttle service five days a week, called the Trail Rider. It leaves from the Women’s Mural on Broadway, and serves the South Hills Trail System. The shuttle utilizes a trailer that can haul more than 20 bikes. And did we mention that it is free? The Trail Rider runs two evening shuttles at 5:00 p.m. and 5:40 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, and three—count ’em—three shuttles on weekend mornings: 8:00 a.m., 8:40 a.m., and 9:20 a.m. The hot ticket is to take the first shuttle, shred down, and then catch the 9:20 for more breakfast singletrack. Are you convinced yet? We sure as hell were.


How about a nice draught? Blackfoot River Brewing is a staple for many Helenans. Photo by Galen O’Moore

Upon our arrival, Bike Helena Community Outreach Director Pat Doyle rolled out the red carpet, stuffing us with a delicious lunch of tacos and beer across from his office on Reeder’s Alley at Karmadillos, before accompanying us to the Blackfoot River Brewing Company to make sure our growlers were properly filled.

But our mission to Helena was not merely for sustenance; we wanted to sample the singletrack. Pat loaded us up with maps and some local knowledge, and with the expert accommodation of local trail building hero Emmett Purcell and his infamous garage tenant, Timmy Wiseman, we would soon be riding. Posting up the TC Teardrop in front of Emmett’s home gave us access to Internet (work, you understand), but, more important, the neatly ensconced pumptrack between his house and the neighbor’s. Emmett gave a clinic on riding the smooth lines, before Timmy took over with his brakeless dirt-jumper and made us all thirsty. Good thing we had those growlers …


Tacos anyone? Photo by Galen O’Moore

The next morning Emmett had more trail building to attend to with a group of local youngsters, but not before plans were hatched for an afternoon shuttle. Meanwhile, Timmy agreed to give us a personal tour of some of the sweet stash, and after fueling up at Hub Coffee, we bolted, climbing up and out to the Rodney Ridge Trail, and a fast, flowy, technical section known to locals as “Rent Money.” Seems part of the trail was built in exchange for living arrangements; talk about a cool landlord!

Back in town, Galen and I hoovered lunch at the quirky No Sweat Café, a Helena family-owned institution, who refreshingly will not tolerate cell-phone usage while in their establishment.

By late afternoon, we were ready to hop on the Trail Rider. Dropping us off on Davis Gulch Road, we climbed briefly, then sliced down Archery Range Trail and some great mini-berms and whoop-de-doos, before meeting up with Emmett and his neighbor Taylor, who then gave us the locals tour of (I think) the following: Entertainment Trail to 2006 Trail, then Eddye McClure West to Mount Ascension Loop, and finally Easy Rider to … ? I can’t even tell you with a map because there are so many sick ribbons of loamy dirt, shale rock climbs, and descents it boggles my mind. I can tell you that we finished back at Blackfoot Brewing for last call of delicious pints, followed by street tacos at Chavela’s across the street—by far the best food truck, or, more accurately, food Winnebago, we would experience on this trip.

And let me tell you just one last thing: I’m heading back to Helena just as soon as I can.

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Escaping Cuba’s all-inclusive resort life

Posted: 01 Sep 2014 05:00 AM PDT


The little dancing diva showing off for the camera; photo by Kade Krichko

A string of pink plastic nearly ruined my weekend.

Our bus had turned away from the Cuban town of Trinidad, venturing instead toward the sandy peninsula and its row of colossal waterfront hotels adorned with over-nourished tropical plants and Muzak renditions of “Guantanamera.” But it was the neon bracelet that manifested my fears. Instead of spending the weekend in the historic colonial town, we would be spending it in my personal purgatory—a Cuban all-inclusive resort.

Before I get jumped for being a spoiled college kid or an idealistic punk, hear me out. All-inclusives are great spots for getting away and enjoying a carefree vacation, but they’re also a cultural whitewash. Let me put it this way: people don’t go to resorts to meet the locals. I had come to Cuba to experience something completely foreign (and potentially amazing), so I was bummed to find myself wasting away in a piña-colada-soaked beach chair.


OK, so the resort beach was a nice perk; photo by Kade Krichko

The Cuba resort experience is a strange one. Similar to those in many developing countries, Cuba’s resorts are geared toward a foreign crowd. French fries, ’80s synth-pop, bottomless glasses of Rum Collins—the outside influence is apparent. In fact, very few of the island’s actual inhabitants can afford to stay there. The hotel employees are Cuban, but when their shifts end they return to town or stay in employee housing quarters. They are simply cogs in the country’s tourism machine.

Our first night at the resort we caught the hotel’s version of a variety show. A singer, magician, and pod of dancers took the sparsely decorated and offensively bright stage in front of 10 or so tourists and 100 open seats. For an hour the group went about their choreographed performance like they were entertaining a sell-out crowd, something they apparently did every night at 9 p.m. It was a bizarre display with a handful of older European men clapping along to the music and playfully nudging their (much younger) female companions as we all descended into a haze of sugary rum drinks.


Alejandro sits shotgun in the classic rock cab; photo by Kade Krichko

The next day I was determined to at least set foot in Trinidad, a 20-minute cab ride from the resort, and a world away. A couple more from our group made the push too, as well as our appointed tour guide, Alejandro. Alejandro was a 27-year-old Habanero (Havana citizen) who had taught himself English by listening to rock and roll music, was an aspiring photographer, and had quickly become our new friend. He had forgotten his camera, so we lent him one, and we all jumped a taxi as the sun started its late afternoon descent.


Brother and sister playing in the late day shadows in the streets of Trinidad; photo by Kade Krichko

Windows down, Canadian and Cuban flags dangling from the rearview mirror, and holes where trunk speakers should have been, our Soviet-era compact sped toward Trinidad, the driver catering to his North American clientele with a classic rock mixed tape. We rolled into town with the Beatles on blast, and Alejandro made sure the cab driver would be around to pick us up before we slipped out into the afternoon heat.

Trinidad. Finally.

Trinidad is a slow-moving city full of vibrant color, grooved cobblestone, and the deep shadows and dramatic contrasts that photographer’s drool over. For the first time all weekend, I felt like I was where I needed to be. Our collective wandered the streets and talked to as many people as we could, asking for directions, taking portraits, and immersing ourselves in new surroundings.

Street portraiture in downtown Trinidad; photo by Kade Krichko

Street portraiture in downtown Trinidad; photo by Kade Krichko

Alejandro remembered a casa particular (essentially a bed and breakfast) he had once stayed in with group of French tourists, and took us to say hello. A woman opened the oversize wooden doors and smiled at Alej, inviting us all in, and letting us know that dinner was almost ready (if we should choose to stay). She led us up to the roof and we gazed out over a sea of chipped terracotta, the sounds of guitar and crackly radio frequencies wafting through the late day air. Far in the distance sat our hotel along the Caribbean shore, but the only view I cared about was the living city below me.

Taking in the Trinidad views from the roof above the city as dusk approaches; photo by Kade Krichko

Taking in the Trinidad views from the roof above the city as dusk approaches; photo by Kade Krichko

Our rendezvous hour came too quickly, but before meeting up with the taxi we caught an impromptu street performance with a man plucking his guitar strings on a curb and a little girl who could not get enough of the music. Twirling, jumping, and shaking her hips, the girl wasn’t more than 5, but she commanded her street stage like an accomplished performer. We laughed and snapped a few pictures hoping that somehow our memory cards would do that fleeting moment justice.


Cabs share the road with a variety of vehicles in rural parts of Cuba, including the occasional horse and buggy; photo by Kade Krichko

The cab ride back to the resort was lighthearted and relief-filled—our redemptive mission was complete. Our driver once again bumped rock classics, the Eagles’ “Hotel California” sweeping over us while we raced the dipping sun, clouds turning purple and water burning fiery orange as day fought off night. I wanted to press pause right there, but I knew it was just a snapshot in time. I sighed as we rounded the bend and caught sight of our fortress in the sand, the words ringing in my head, “You can check out any time you like, but you can ne-ver leave…”

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Glastonbury, Connecticut: The accidental mountain bike town

Posted: 01 Sep 2014 04:00 AM PDT

In the annals of the world’s best mountain bike towns, Glastonbury, Connecticut, wouldn’t make the cut. You won’t even find it in a list of great places to ride in New England. That’s because this suburb of Hartford isn’t a mountain bike town—at least on purpose. While you won’t find happy mountain bikers gracing the cover of the town’s tourism brochure (or even a town tourism brochure), Glastonbury is quietly the center of some of the best riding in southern New England. The town is bordered by a 9,000-acre state forest to the south, a 640-acre recreation area to the north, and a 1500-acre state park to the east. While most of the riding is outside of the town’s borders, many of the trailheads are in G-Bury.

Steve Dauphinais owns Bicycles East, a bike shop in downtown Glastonbury. His clientele, like most riders in Glastonbury, come almost exclusively from Central Connecticut. In other words, not a lot of people travel here just to ride bikes. But maybe they should. Here are a few places to check out.

Case Mountain:

Easily the most popular riding spot in the area, Case Mountain is 640-acre recreational area and an adjacent forest set aside by the town of Manchester’s water department. Spanning the border between Glastonbury and Manchester, Case features a stellar view of Hartford from Lookout Mountain, and the best maintained and marked trail system in the area. “Case Mountain offers a lot of variety,” says Dauphinais. “It’s a pretty large trail system that you can enter from a variety of places. [It’s] very well-maintained, because it’s getting a lot of riding and a lot of club activity.” Much of the riding in Case is technical, including steep descents and rock ledges. “If you want aggressive trail riding, you’ve got the ability to do that,” says Dauphinais. 

Meshomasic State Forest


The map of a roughly 10-mile ride in Meshomasic State Forest. The Nike site is just below the orange dot.

The second oldest state forest in the U.S., Meshomasic may have the best riding in the area. With 9,000 acres carved up with both sanctioned trails and unofficial singletracks that have been cut clandestinely, “Mesh,” as the locals call it, offers a wide variety of options. It lacks organization and maintenance, however. “Mesh state forest is interesting because it’s a state forest, and it’s huge,” says Dauphinais. “Riding-wise there are a lot of options there. The one challenge is the trails aren’t as well marked as some other areas. If you’re not riding with someone who knows the area, it’s a little more complicated to navigate.”

The forest has about eight miles of graded dirt road that creates a good reference for exploring the trails that criss-cross off of them. Many of the best singletracks branch out from the ruins of a Cold War-era Nike anti-aircraft missile site at the top of Del Reeves Road (behind a yellow gate). Most of these link back to either Del Reeves or Mulford Roads. With some basic advance knowledge of these roads and an iPhone, you can navigate a few loops from the Nike site and remain relatively safe from getting lost. “If you have an understanding of the main fire roads that go through there, then at least you can always get yourself back,” Dauphinais says. There are also maps on, and Bicycles East does a weekly group ride on Sundays that often ventures into Mesh.

J.B. Williams Park


A singletrack runs down the remnants of an old ski area in J.B. Williams Park.

A 161-acre town park, J.B. Williams was also the site of a rope tow and ski hill in the ’70s. One of the bike trails runs right through the old lift line, the remains of which are still standing, though they’ve been swallowed a bit by the woods. The riding here is much more mellow than in Mesh or Case, and the loops are shorter. It’s a great place for beginners, and for more experienced area riders like J.B. Williams it’s great for night rides because the trails are smoother and less technical. “J.B. Williams Park can be a nice place to get started,” says Dauphinais. “It has an outer loop that’s pretty easy to do, so it gets somebody at least in the woods on a mountain bike. Then there are some trails they can go off on.”

Gay City State Park                                                  

The trailhead for Gay City is actually in adjacent Hebron, but part of the state park stretches into Glastonbury. The site of an 18th century mill town, Gay City is another great beginner/intermediate riding area. The park is just over 1,500 acres, and can be linked up to the Case Mountain system. It can be a standalone ride, or a warm-up to a bigger day. “It’s not quite as technical,” says Dauphinais. “It’s a little smaller trail system, and it’s well-marked.” According to local legend, the park is haunted.


2 Hopewell is the best fine dining in town, and also has a cool downstairs tavern and patio. The Diamond is the locals’ pub, and is conveniently located just down the street from Bicycles East. Robb’s Farm is a homemade ice cream stand located near Meshomasic State Forest. If you stay somewhere with a kitchen, take advantage of the farm stands throughout town. There is a Homewood Suites and a Hilton Garden Inn on the north side of town, as well as a few bed and breakfasts.

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Playgrounds: Surf Chateau brings rural Colorado town to life

Posted: 30 Aug 2014 03:00 AM PDT

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The Surf Chateau in Buena Vista, Colorado, overlooks whitewater of the Arkansas River. Photo by Kennley Selby

The Surf Chateau is 1,000 miles from the ocean. And for Colorado kayakers and riversports lovers, that’s the beauty of it. This new boutique hotel overlooking the famous whitewater of the Arkansas River in Buena Vista, Colorado, is just one wave in Jed and Kennley Selby’s decade-long (perhaps lifetime) project to reinvent the waterfront South Main neighborhood of Buena Vista, a rural, blue-collar town in the quietly adventurous and deliciously temperate banana belt of central Colorado.

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Timeless French architecture and design inspire the Surf Chateau boutique hotel. Photo by Kennley Selby

“The big idea behind South Main is a walkable, vibrant neighborhood on a world-class river park,” says Jed Selby, a former professional kayaker who owns and manages the new-urbanist community with his sister. “We have wanted to build balconies overlooking the waves and park for years. That dream has finally come true.”

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A river “surf” park is just out the door of the Surf Chateau. Photo by Kennley Selby

Ten years ago the riverside parcel was the town dump. The Selby Family bought the dream—a 274-acre ranch—out of foreclosure. Today South Main is home to 50 new buildings, including the truly one-of-a-kind Surf Chateau.

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Rooms at the Surf Chateau feature thoughtful elements like handmade oak barrel tables. Photo by Kennley Selby

Framed by the state’s largest concentrations of 14,000-foot peaks, Buena Vista is a place people come to climb and ride mountains, but also in vast numbers to experience Colorado’s epic whitewater. There’s a steady flow and plenty of manmade play parks for “surfing” kayaks and standup paddleboards between Buena Vista and Salida, Colorado.

“The river is obviously an awesome place for the people who are kayaking, surfing, fishing, and rafting. It can also be a lot of fun for others to just watch people surfing and running the rapids,” says Selby. “The river creates a ton of energy that is contagious for everyone. That energy is what it’s all about.”

surf chateau

The Surf Chateau’s riverfront access makes it a perfect spot for kayaking, standup paddleboarding, fishing, and other water sports. Photo by Dustin Urban

While the river and mountains are obvious draws for adventure travel, the Surf Chateau itself is becoming a beacon. The architecture is eclectic and unexpected for this little river town, but it reflects the tastes of its dynamic owners. There are well-appointed yet appropriately minimalist rooms; stoned courtyards for mingling before and after a wave session; and balconies and patios designed to capture the essence of life on the water.

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Riverside live music is another draw at the Surf Chateau. Photo by Kennley Selby

“We wanted something that was rustic with the natural wood and local stone but also refined,” Selby says. “We love French architecture, the great courtyards around Europe, and timeless architecture, so we blended a bunch of different ideas.”

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The Surf Chateau’s enclosed central courtyard makes for an inviting social setting. Photo by Kennley Selby

Somehow it all works. Whether you stay at the Surf Chateau, walking just steps to the nearest kayak put-in, or you wander a few blocks to a the mini riverfront “downtown” area to sample beers from the local brew pub or do a little shopping, it’s yours to explore.

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Some 19th-century-inspired rooms and suites at the Surf Chateau include 19th century canopy beds, clawfoot tubs, and fireplaces. Photo by Kennley Selby

“We are not only overlooking the Buena Vista River Park on the Arkansas River, but are also next to an immense amount of open space with year-round trails, parks, climbing possibilities, river access, etc. Beyond that, South Main is a vibrant, walkable neighborhood with restaurants, shops, live music, and galleries,” Selby says. “It’s just a fun and beautiful place to be, and it’s growing quickly. Every year there is more going on down here.”

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Some of Colorado’s highest peaks are also a short drive from the Surf Chateau. Photo by Kennley Selby

Selby is right on there. The visionary community, which like all new construction stalled during the economic downturn, eventually weathered the storm. The sounds of hammers have returned, pounding together new modern, urban-style homes and commercial ventures in this crafty community. River lovers are putting down roots here, too. Others just pass through to play in the river park and spend a memorable night or two at the chateau with a view.

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Most of the Surf Chateau rooms offer views of either the mountains or the river park. Photo by Kennley Selby

“The Surf Chateau is ideal for anyone who likes the outdoors … or great design and architecture in a spectacular setting,” says Selby, who has also rented the hotel for weddings and family reunions. Still in its infancy, the lodging facility will be privy to all that unfolds in the coming years of the emerging South Main neighborhood.

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Elegant details indoor and out at the Surf Chateau show a passion for craftsmanship and sustainability. Photo by Kennley Selby

There’s talk of everything from an artist colony of galleries, to a large riverside hotel and restaurant, to more hand-crafted waves for the kayak park, even a trust for an arts and live-music venue along the river. So far the Selbys have come through, bringing an aspiration for sustainable development to an old Colorado outpost.

For now, we’ll kick back at the Surf Chateau and watch the next wave of goods come through. For hotel rates and availability, visit

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5 of the world’s most dangerous hiking trails

Posted: 29 Aug 2014 03:56 PM PDT

If you are an adventure-seeking hiker who has no problem with acrophobia and you are sure-footed, then challenging five of the world’s most dangerous hiking trails might be appealing, even upon learning one trail is referred to as the Hike of Death.

They are steep, scary, spine tingling, and treacherous, but very much captivating.

Mind you, there may be several others that are more dangerous, but these five hiking trails certainly rank right up there in difficulty. Clearly, none can be considered a walk in the park. They are definitely not for the faint of heart. See for yourself:

1. Mt. Huashan Cliffside Plank Path, China

World's most dangerous hikes include the cliffside plank path on Mt. Huashan in China. Photo by Aaron Feen/Flickr

World’s most dangerous hiking trails include the cliffside plank path on Mt. Huashan in China. Photo by Aaron Feen/Flickr

Robin Esrock, an adventure travel writer from British Columbia, received a photograph of a harrowing cliffside trail in an email. Curiosity piqued, he had to experience it for himself.

“I’m here specifically to see if that picture is true and I can assure you that picture is true,” Esrock says on his YouTube video of the cliffside plank path on Mt. Huashan in China.

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World’s most dangerous hiking trails: The Mt. Huashan cliffside plank path includes several steps cut into the side of the cliff. Photo by Harry Alverson/Flickr

Often labeled as the most dangerous hike in the world, the breath-taking cliffside plank path has wooden boards bolted into the side of a sheer cliff. Located near the top of the South Peak of Mt. Huashan, the path is said to be a couple hundred feet long and 2,000 feet down. Just getting to the plank path is challenging with many vertical climbing steps.

The 7,070-foot South Peak has religious history dating back centuries and features a temple at the top. It is a two-hour bus ride from Xian, China, and is near the city of Huayin.

A concessionaire at the entrance to the cliffside plank path offers safety harnesses to clip into a guide wire, but one brave soul traversed the daunting path without one, despite the obvious danger.

Figo Fromagio, that one brave soul, detailed the hike up in Part 1 and Part 2, and posted video of his scary crossing sans safety harness:


2. El Caminito del Rey, Spain

World's most dangerous hikes include El Caminito del Rey in Spain. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

World’s most dangerous hiking trails include El Caminito del Rey in Spain. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

El Caminito del Rey means King’s little pathway. It’s also referred to as Camino del Rey, or King’s pathway, and, like Mt. Huashan cliffside plank path, has been called the world’s most dangerous hike.

Construction of this trail began in 1901 and was finished in 1905. It was built because workers at the hydroelectric power plants of Chorro Falls and Gaitanejo Falls needed a walkway to cross between the falls and provide transport of materials.

The trail is 3 feet, 3 inches wide and rises more than 350 feet above the river, though it sure looks higher.

Its name was established in 1921 when King Alfonso XIII crossed the walkway to inaugurate the dam Conde del Guadalhorce. It’s doubtful he’d use the trail today.

Like things that are more than 100 years old and not maintained, the route has fallen into disrepair and is reportedly off limits, but the government began a restoration project this year.

German trekker Daniel Ahnen, who traversed the trail without clipping into a safety guidewire, shot this dramatic video:


3. Taghia, Morocco

World's most dangerous hiking trails: Taghia, Morocco. Famed solo climber Alex Honnold braves tenuous trail.

World’s most dangerous hiking trails: Taghia, Morocco. Famed solo climber Alex Honnold braves tenuous trail. Photo courtesy of Alex Honnold’s Facebook page

In May, famed solo climber Alex Honnold posted a photo of himself on Facebook on a tenuous trail in Morocco and wrote, “Still my favorite trail in Taghia!! Can’t beat Berber stonework.” Uh, sure.

A Newsweek story in 2013 described Tahia, Morocco, as the Yosemite of North Africa, only without the people. Whereas Yosemite gets 4 million visitors annually, Taghia, a remote village in the High Atlas mountains, sees 500 visitors annually, if that.

“For trekkers, the mountains and canyons are unforgiving and steep,” Newsweek’s Alex Lowther wrote. “Water is scarce up high. Trails are often exposed to great heights, where a wrong step could mean a big, bouncing, rag-doll fall. This far into the mountains, accidents, even minor ones, can be serious. For climbers there is very little that is easy; you should be experienced leading long routes rated 5.10 and above to enjoy yourself.”

Kristoffer Erickson of Atlas Cultural Adventures lives in nearby Zawiya Ahansal and often guides groups on the Taghia hiking trail, “given how spectacular it is.”

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World’s most dangerous hiking trails: Taghia, Morocco. Photo from Alex Honnold’s Facebook page

“This trail has been an evolving trail for the last ten years,” Erickson told GrindTV Outdoor in an email. “Originally there was some oak and juniper logs jammed into cracks and various stones stacks to ascend sections. The French Alpine Club added some cables in the spring of 2006. Myself and some other North Face athletes added sections of chains to the trail in the fall of 2006 and during that time a local man by the name of Said started the direct crossing, which you can see in Alex’s image. A tour du force given the work involved to do this mostly by hand.

“The trail is part of a large circumnavigation of the mountain Oujdad. There are a few high pastoral regions that were the original reason for the trail being created. The canyon below is cut off by waterfalls in several places and the walls towering above are at times rising 800m [2,600 feet]. This small trail slices through a very unique section of the canyon to create a passage. Unfortunately prior to the trail having the safety work done several shepherds died due to slips on the steep and unforgiving ground.”

4. Maroon Bells, Colorado

1024px-Maroon_Bells_Aspens photo by Jesse Varner:wikimedia commons

World’s most dangerous hiking trails: Maroon Bells, Colorado. Photo by Jesse Varner/Wikimedia Commons

The Maroon Bells, made up of Maroon Peak (14,156 feet) and North Maroon Peak (14,014 feet) and located close to Aspen, are said to feature the most photographed spot in Colorado.

They are also referred to as “The Deadly Bells” in a U.S. Forest Service sign on the access trail, describing the “downsloping, loose, rotten and unstable” rock that “kills without warning.” detailed a traverse to North Maroon, saying it was an 11-hour hike that was “long, dangerous, and very challenging mentally, physically, and technically.”

It also said that once on the ridge, “the trail gets down to business. At this point we put the poles away and the helmets on.”

World's most dangerous hiking trails: North Maroon Peak gets a bit treacherous once you start up the ridge. Photo by Chris Tomer/Wikimedia Commons

World’s most dangerous hiking trails: North Maroon Peak gets a bit treacherous once you start up the ridge. Photo by Chris Tomer/Wikimedia Commons


5. Huayna Picchu, Peru

Huayna_Picchu_towers over Lost City of Machu Picchu, Peru.jpg David Stanley:wikimedia commons

World’s most dangerous hiking trails: Huayna Picchu towers over Lost City of Machu Picchu. Photo by David Stanley/Wikimedia Commons

Huayna Picchu, also referred to as Wayna Picchu, is a tall peak that towers 1,180 feet over the ancient lost city of the Incas called Machu Picchu, which sits on a mountain ridge above the Sacred Valley in Peru. An ancient staircase climbs a reported 1,000 feet in less than a mile. It is steep and said to be treacherous in places—it’s why some refer to it as the Hike of Death—but the payoff of making the one-hour climb is a spectacular view of Machu Picchu.

stairs of death by Andrew Hitchcock:Flickr-2

World’s most dangerous hiking trails: Treacherous stone steps along the Huayna Picchu trail. Photo by Andrew Hitchcock/Flickr

A YouTube video called Stairs of Death gives an idea of just how treacherous those stone steps are in the above photo.

The 26-mile Inca Trail, the most famous trek in South America and considered among the top five treks in the world, leads to Machu Picchu. Guided treks varying from 2 to 5 days are available, but advance reservations are required. The Peruvian governments allows only 2,500 visitors to Machu Picchu per day and only 400 each day on Huayna Picchu in an effort to prevent further erosion.

Chris Wheeler of 48 Hour Travel posted a video of Machu Picchu and part of the trail up Huayna Picchu, providing an excellent summary of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu:

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Mysterious crater appears in Utah pond

Posted: 29 Aug 2014 02:05 PM PDT


Images of mysterious crater are video screen grabs

Last week we reported on a mysterious mile-long crack that appeared overnight in agricultural land in a rural part of the Mexican state of Sonora.

This week folks in Circleville, Utah, were left wondering what might have created a huge round crater inside an irrigation pond owned by Gary Dalton, who jokingly described the phenomenon as “Martian art.”

A few weeks ago, Dalton claimed to have spotted a bright-red meteor streaking across the sky, adding a touch more intrigue to this mystery.

Much of the pond had been drained for irrigation, and when sunlight was at just the right angle, concentric circles, the largest about 25 feet in diameter, came sharply into view.

The outer circle was green; clearly a dip in the earth covered in algae. The inner circle looked more like a crater; it was as though something had crash-landed, or there had been an eruption of some sort.

“I saw this blasted thing that no one had ever seen,” Dalton told


Experts from the Utah Geological Survey launched an investigation and lead scientist Bill Lund was left scratching his head, at least initially.

“Well, yeah, we’ve got several theories,” he said. “[But] most of them have gone up in smoke.”

The top guesses were that the rings were created by a natural spring beneath the pond, or by a pipeline leak. But Lund confirmed that there is no spring, and no piping, beneath the pond.

The scientist was asked whether methane gas might have escaped from below and created the crater, but Lund discounted that theory, saying this isn’t coal country, where such a phenomenon could be possible.

Dalton’s “Martian art” comment no longer seemed so ludicrous, and that fiery object he saw streaking across the sky seemed to at least represent a possible explanation.

Lund, however, ruled out the possibility that the rings were caused by a meteor crash, especially since Lund’s observation was weeks before the rings were spotted.

“We don’t think it’s an impact crater,” Lund told “We don’t think anything hit here.”

So what has Lund concluded, after a prolonged inspection that involved hovering over the crater via platform-lift, and probing the crater with a pitch fork and tape measure?

He credits a geologic phenomenon known as collapsable soils, a condition created by repeated draining and refilling of the pond. That allows for soil ultimately to collapse under the weight of the water, creating what resembles an eruption.

“As it collapsed and compacted, it forced some air and some water up, and created this thing,” Lund explained. “It looks like a one-off thing. It happened this one time. That’s it.”

The scientist didn’t seem sold on his answer, saying, “There are still some unanswered questions here,” and that he had never seen anything like it.

But it was at least a seemingly viable explanation, providing the Daltons with an answer for their many inquiring neighbors.

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Abusive elephant owner tries to get Raju back

Posted: 29 Aug 2014 01:31 PM PDT

Raju, an abused elephant for 50 years, walks free of chains and spiked shackles at an elephant sanctuary in India. Photo from Wildlife S.O.S. Facebook page

Raju, an abused elephant for 50 years, walks free of chains and spiked shackles at an elephant sanctuary in India. Photo from Wildlife S.O.S. Facebook page

Raju, the abused elephant that gained worldwide fame after crying when it was rescued in July, is now facing the unthinkable—a return to its previous owner.

The abusive elephant owner, identified as Mr. Shahid, has taken legal action in an attempt to regain custody of Raju, according to the group that organized the nighttime rescue of the animal in the Uttar Pradesh area of India.

Wildlife SOS of New Delhi, India, announced on Facebook that “the same cruel person who abused Raju and held him in illegal custody has approached the Allahabad court seeking custody of him. Basically, he wants to put Raju back in chains.”


Raju, the elephant that was forced to wear spiked chains during 50 years of abuse, cried when it was rescued in July. Photo from Wildlife SOS

The organization posted a petition to the government of Uttar Pradesh to ensure Raju is not taken away from the Elephant Conservation and Care Center at Mathura where he was able to walk free from cruelty for the first time in 50 years. The petition also asks that Mr. Shahid be punished.

“We are disheartened to learn we have to fight once again for Rahu’s freedom,” Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS, told the New York Daily News. “We sincerely hope the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department and the courts prosecute Mr. Shahid for his illegal act and find him guilty.”

It would seem very unlikely that Mr. Shahid would prevail in regaining custody of Raju since Wildlife SOS led a team of 10 veterinarians and wildlife officials, 20 forestry department officers, and six policemen in rescuing the elephant after receiving a court order.

But Wildlife SOS is not taking any chances.

“There is no explanation we can give you that makes any sense,” Wildlife SOS said on Facebook. “Unfortunately, although the situation is idiotic and this man is a criminal, we are having to take action. We cannot ignore this threat. If we do, we are risking Raju’s freedom. We can’t imagine this man winning… but then again, we couldn’t imagine that he would take the outrageous action to try and legally get Raju [back].”

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Want to nab a surfing world record? It could be easier than you think

Posted: 29 Aug 2014 05:00 AM PDT

surfing world records

Garrett McNamara’s 78-foot wave in Portugal is a current surfing world record. Photo courtesy Billabong XXL

In 2012 Hawaiian Garrett McNamara was towed by Jet Ski in to a 78-foot-high wave ridden at Portugal’s Nazare. That wave went into the Guinness World Records as the biggest one ever ridden and still stands to this day. A few months after Garrett’s wave, another new world record was set for the biggest wave ever paddled into. Californian Shawn Dollar successfully rode a wave measured at 61 feet in height at Cortes Bank, a reef 100 miles west of San Diego. However, there are other surfing records out there that aren’t quite as extreme and that, quite frankly, anyone could attempt and possibly nab. So if you’d like to write yourself into the surfing record books, here’s your chance.

Most people riding a single surfboard
This seems relatively achievable, assuming you can find a board 40 feet long and 4 feet thick. That’s what the record 47 surfers rode at Snapper Rocks, Queensland, in May 2005, on a board specifically shaped by Nev Hyman for that purpose. Fittingly, Hyman was one of the surfers riding the world’s biggest party wave.

Most surfboards stacked on a car
Way back in 1998, a bunch of Californians stacked 282 surfboards on the roof of a Humvee in Santa Barbara and then drove the vehicle 100 feet. Sixteen years later, the record still stands. What are you waiting for?

Most surfers on a single wave
One hundred and twenty Australians hold the record for riding a single wave at the same time, dropping in at Anglesea in Victoria in 2012. All surfers had to have ridden the wave for at least five seconds. Another attempt in Australia, at Broulee in January, featured 280 surfers, but has yet to be certified by the bean counters at Guinness.

Longest surfing marathon
The Guinness Book of World Records states that the longest surfing marathon was achieved by Kurtis Loftus when he surfed continuously for 29 hours and 1 minute, at Jacksonville Beach, Florida, on October 26 to October 27, 2011. The 50-year-old raised money to fight breast cancer and surfed 313 waves during his time in the ocean, using the same board throughout. His effort surpassed that of Bill Laity, who managed a 26-hour session at Huntington Beach, California, in 2010.

Most dogs on a surfboard
During the 2012 Loews Coronado Bay Resort Surf Dog Competition in California, 17 dogs crammed themselves on to a single longboard, setting the new world record for the most dogs on a surfboard at one time with a human.

surfing world record

Seventeen pooches and one human get ready to rumble for a surfing world record. Photo courtesy Loews Coronado Bay Resort, via Facebook

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This is America’s most iconic road trip

Posted: 29 Aug 2014 04:00 AM PDT

Winding along the Pacific coast, the US-101 is America's best drive; photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Winding along the Pacific coast, the US-101 is America’s best drive; photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

When people talk iconic American road trips, conversation automatically turns to the fabled Route 66 and its chintzy old gas stations. But in reality, that iconic drive lies further west, skirting the rugged coastline of California, Washington, and Oregon. Running over 1,500 miles south to north, U.S. Route 101 starts in Los Angeles and ends in Tumwater, Washington, navigating many of the Western U.S.’s finest natural bounties along the way.

While the entirety of US-101 is quite the trek, those with a taste for adventure can get their fill on the three-state stretch of road from San Francisco to Seattle. Complete with meandering coastline, colossal forest, and some of North America’s most impressive tributaries, the northern half of the 101 is one classic road trip that cannot be overlooked, and not just because of the views. If you have a couple of days and are craving the open road, here are a few stops that will make a trip along the northern 101 an unforgettable one.

Explore the Redwoods

After catching saying goodbye to San Francisco from Golden Gate National Recreation Area (possibly the best way to feel small in the shadow of the towering Golden Gate Bridge), the road winds north into Humboldt County. Hiding in those hills are the fabled Redwoods, some of the biggest old growth trees in the world. Take a short detour to an old stretch of 101 known as the Avenue of the Giants to see the trees in all of their humbling glory, groves that stretch up to 350 feet into the air, blocking sunlight from above, and making for one heck of a peaceful drive. There are plenty of spots to pull over and check out the trees up close, but grab a map at the entrance to the Avenue and hit up Founder’s Grove.

Ready to feel small? The Avenue of the Giants in Northern California should do the trick; photo courtesy of foxtail_1/Flickr.

Ready to feel small? The Avenue of the Giants in Northern California should do the trick; photo courtesy of foxtail_1/Flickr.

Get the shot along the Boardman State Scenic Corridor

Crossing over into Oregon, the 101 winds up coastline so beautiful that it was designated a State Scenic Corridor over 60 years ago. The 12-mile stretch of road before Brookings includes stunning vistas of jagged rock formations, sea cliffs, and hidden coves—with the rugged Pacific serving as a stunning backdrop. It’s hard to keep your focus on the road, but thankfully there are several pullouts along the stretch to take it all in, and impress a few of your Instagram friends along the way.

road trip

Nobody likes the fog—that is unless it’s creating a mystical wonderland along the Oregon coast; photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Sandboarding in Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park

Miss the feeling of sliding downhill on your board? OK, well it isn’t snowboarding, but strapping on a sandboard and sliding down a sand dune isn’t a bad alternative in the summertime. Backing up to the 27,212-acre Oregon Dunes National Park, Honeyman State Park is midway up the Oregon coastline and home to an endless array of steep coastal sand dunes perfect for getting your thrill on. Gas stations around the park offer rentals for as low as $5; just be sure to wear shorts you don’t care about, as you’re bound to fall and rip a hole or two (or maybe that’s just us).

road trip

Pick up a new sport this season sliding down dunes at Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park; photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Surf near Cannon Beach

No 101 trip is complete without visiting the classic Cannon Beach, a flat stretch of sand highlighted by the towering rock beehive structure known as Haystack. Oregon’s coastline is the largest stretch of public beach in the country, and Cannon Beach is one big reason we’re glad it is. For the surf crowd, you can hop in at Cannon, but ideal surfing is just a little farther north at Indian Beach in Ecola State Park. The water is cold, so you’ll need a thick wetsuit, but even a little cold water won’t be able to subdue the feeling of catching a wave in this idyllic Pacific bay.

road trip

There’s really not much that competes with a Cannon Beach sunset; photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Hike up Washington’s Hurricane Ridge

The 101 goes out with a bang in Washington, circumnavigating the picturesque Olympic Range and Olympic National Park. While there are several attractions along this stretch worth a visit (Hoh Rainforest, Shi Shi Beach, Cape Disappointment, the list goes on), Hurricane Ridge is an easy-access hike along the northern tip of the Olympic Peninsula with some killer payoff. Seventeen miles south of Port Angeles on the Hurricane Ridge Road, the area offers several hikes from ridgetop traverses to steeper trails accessing mountain lakes and valleys. With sweeping views and amazing wildflowers, we recommend the three-mile out and back Hurricane Ridge Trail for those looking to get their feet wet and enjoy a day in the mountains.

road trip

Views and colors galore along the Hurricane Ridge Trail; photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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What to do this Labor Day

Posted: 28 Aug 2014 03:00 AM PDT

Labor Day

A visit to New York’s Fire Island lighthouse is one Labor Day option; photo courtesy littleny/

Summer is coming to a close, and it feels like it flew by particularly fast this year. If you’re craving one last jaunt before sweater season, we don’t blame you, and we highly suggest you make use of summer’s final three-day weekend: Labor Day.

So, where to go? Depends on what you want. Here are some good options, from road trips to beachside dunes.

Beach: Fire Island, New York

Fire Island, which is home to Fire Island National Seashore and a famous lighthouse, is an easy trip by train from New York City, but it feels like it’s a world away. There are no cars, deer roam the streets, and the beaches are quiet. You can check out tiny towns like Lonelyville (seriously), and ride your bike along the boardwalks. Fire Island was slightly beat up by Hurricane Sandy, but, because of a dune stability project, it wasn’t hit nearly as bad as the surrounding islands, so you’ll have sandy stretches to explore.

Your Tetons are showing. Photo: TPS Dave/Pixaby

Your Tetons are showing. Photo by TPS Dave/Pixaby

Mountains: West side of the Tetons

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and the entrance to Grand Teton National Park, can get incredibly crowded in the summer. To avoid that, head to the west side of the mountains, to Driggs, Idaho, and Grand Targhee Resort. The Teton Mountain Bike Festival is going on Labor Day weekend, if you feel like racing, but you can also hike, fish, camp, and climb.


Bands will be playing right under than space needle this Labor Day. Photo by TPS Dave/ Pixaby

City: Seattle, Washington

Seattle, despite its cloudy reputation, shines in the summertime and well in to fall. This is the best time of year to visit. Get out on the water, spend some time in one of the parks, eat fresh seafood, and listen to music. Bumbershoot, the yearly arts and music festival at Seattle Center, is Labor Day weekend, and this year a shockingly wide range of musicians are playing, from the remainder of Wu Tang to Elvis Costello to hometown favorites The Head and the Heart.

Labor Day

Who says the Midwest doesn’t have a coastline? Visit Michigan’s Sleepy Bear Dunes this Labor Day. Photo courtesy Shutterstock

Lake: Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan

This spring, President Obama declared 32,557 of Michigan lake shore as wilderness under the National Wilderness Preservation System. See why he set aside Sleeping Bear Dunes with a trip to the shores of Lake Michigan. Climb the dunes, bike the trails, and dip in the lake. You can camp within stumbling distance of the beach.

Zion views. Photo: TPS Dave/Pixaby

See Zion views this Labor Day. Photo by TPS Dave/Pixaby

Road Trip: Southern Utah

Labor Day is one of the most common weekends for road tripping. No need to buck the trend. Head out on the road in one of the most beautiful parts of the country: southern Utah. The desert is finally starting to cool off and the summer crowds will have thinned out, which makes it prime time to check out Bryce and Zion and Capitol Reef national parks.

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Portuguese man-of-war as never seen before

Posted: 27 Aug 2014 02:59 PM PDT

Portuguese man-of-war. Photo by Aaron Ansarov used by permission

Portuguese man-of-war. Photo by Aaron Ansarov used by permission

The Portuguese man-of-war with its long tentacles and painful sting is something swimmers and beach-goers try to avoid. Not Aaron Ansarov. He seeks them out, and then creates something beautiful that nobody has ever seen before.

Or at least Ansarov believes he’s “the only one to ever have done this.”

What the Delray Beach, Florida, resident does is collect live Portuguese man-of-war specimens from the beach and photographs them up close, bringing out their beauty, intricate designs and amazing makeup of multiple organisms.

“It’s an opportunity to explore a new world,” Ansarov told National Geographic.

Not only does he photograph the Portuguese man-of-war, he films its movements, some of which resemble a kaleidoscope. Watch:

The Portuguese man-of-war is not a jellyfish but a siphonophore, a marine creature made up of a colony of organisms working together. Its name is derived from its uppermost polyp, a gas-filled bladder that sits above the water and resembles the sail of an old, man-of-war sailing ship.

The sail is tinted blue and purple and has tentacles that reach an average of 30 feet below the surface.

aaron ansarov from facebook

Portuguese man-of-war specimens being photographed by Aaron Ansarov. Photo courtesy of Aaron Ansarov’s Facebook page

Ansarov goes to the beach with a small cooler, collects live Portuguese man-of-war specimens, returns to his photo studio and photographs the intriguing sea creatures before returning them to the ocean. A video on his website shows the process.

“It’s not any secret how to achieve these images,” Ansarov told GrindTV Outdoor. “It’s a pretty simple process. In fact my light table was made from a piece of acrylic nailed to a wood frame that came off the bottom of our new dishwasher box and mounted to sawhorses from Home Depot. I try to keep things as simple as possible when it comes to my photography. I want the image to be about the nature, science and art and less about the mystery of how the photograph was made.”

The retired Navy combat photographer never considered himself a nature photographer. Eight years ago, he began photographing creatures in the woods with his son as part of therapy to overcome depression. Ansarov was helping his son identify the creatures when his son said, “Daddy, why don’t we take pictures of them?”

So Ansarov started doing so.


He began photographing Portuguese man-of-war specimens two years ago. His photos were recently featured by National Geographic and will be on display at the Mark K. Wheeler gallery in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, starting Thursday, August 28.

Here are more of his images.


Portuguese man-of-war. Photo by Aaron Ansarov used by permission

Portuguese man-of-war. Photo by Aaron Ansarov used by permission


Portuguese man-of-war. Photo by Aaron Ansarov used by permission

Portuguese man-of-war. Photo by Aaron Ansarov used by permission


Portuguese man-of-war. Photo by Aaron Ansarov used by permission

Portuguese man-of-war. Photo by Aaron Ansarov used by permission


Portuguese man-of-war. Photo by Aaron Ansarov used by permission

Portuguese man-of-war. Photo by Aaron Ansarov used by permission


Portuguese man-of-war. Photo by Aaron Ansarov used by permission

Portuguese man-of-war. Photo by Aaron Ansarov used by permission


Portuguese man-of-war. Photo by Aaron Ansarov used by permission

Portuguese man-of-war. Photo by Aaron Ansarov used by permission

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Racetrack Playa mystery in Death Valley solved

Posted: 27 Aug 2014 11:00 AM PDT

Racetrack Playa researcher Richard Norris standing by a trail likely formed more than a decade before this December 16, 2012 photo. Trails can last for years or decades between pond-forming events. Photo: Richard Norris courtesy of Scripps Oceanography

Racetrack Playa researcher Richard Norris standing by a trail likely formed more than a decade before this December 16, 2012 photo. Trails can last for years or decades between events. Photo from Richard Norris courtesy of Scripps Oceanography

The phenomenon of the “sailing stones” on Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park has baffled scientists for decades.

By some mysterious force of nature, rocks move along the flat-as-a-pancake playa and leave long trails behind. What causes the stones to move?


Parallel trails carved into the wet, mud-cracked surface of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley. Photo by Jim Norris courtesy of Scripps Oceanography

One popular theory was that strong winter winds upward to 90 mph combined with just enough rain to make the clay slippery caused the stones to “sail.”

Another is that ice sheets pick up the rocks, or ice forms around the rock enabling it to move with the wind, leaving a series of rock trails.

But now, the mystery is solved.

Scientists can say conclusively that these synchronized trails left by rocks, some up to 700 pounds, are caused by thin sheets of ice pushing the rocks across the desert floor under certain conditions, a theory that had been previously dismissed in 1976 after a test.

The conclusion was reached by a team led by paleobiologist Richard Norris of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, with the results published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.

Scripps Oceanography details the phenomenon in this six-minute video (it also illustrated the event on a whiteboard):

As part of the Slithering Stones Research Initiative, researchers custom built motion-activated GPS units and fitted them into 15 rocks and placed them on the playa in the winter of 2011, with permission from the National Park Service. They expected it would take five to 10 years before something happened.

A GPS tracking unit was fitted into 15 rocks that were placed on the Racetrack Playa. Photo by Richard Norris courtesy of Scripps Oceanography

A GPS tracking unit was fitted into 15 rocks that were placed on the Racetrack Playa. Photo by Richard Norris courtesy of Scripps Oceanography

Ralph Lorenz, one of the paper’s authors from Applied Physics Laboratory at John Hopkins University, called it “the most boring experiment ever.”

But in December 2013, something happened.

“Science sometimes has an element of luck,” Norris said. “Only two years into the project, we just happened to be there at the right time to see it happen in person.”

Three inches of water covered the playa and shortly after their arrival, rocks began moving. The study showed that sailing rocks require a rare combination of these events:

1. The playa fills with water deep enough to form floating ice during cold winter nights but shallow enough to expose the rocks. 2. As overnight temperatures drop, the pond freezes to form thin sheets of “windowpane” ice. 3. When the sun comes out, the ice begins melting and breaking up into large floating panels. These ice panels, driven by light winds, push the rocks ahead of them, leaving trails in the soft mud below the surface. When the playa dries out months later, the trails become clear.

Example of

Example of “windowpane” ice collected on the Racetrack Playa. It was much thinner than expected. Photo by Richard Norris courtesy of Scripps Oceanography

“On Dec. 21, 2013, ice breakup happened just around noon, with popping and cracking sounds coming from all over the frozen pond surface,” said Richard Norris. “I said to Jim [Norris, a cousin], ‘This is it!’”

Indeed it was.

Forget hurricane-force winds, the rocks were moved by quarter-inch thick ice panels by light winds of 10 mph. The rocks moved only a few inches per second or a speed deemed imperceptible at a distance without a stationary reference point.

“It’s possible that tourists have actually seen this happening without realizing it,” said Jim Norris of the engineering firm Interwoof in Santa Barbara. “It is really tough to gauge that a rock is in motion if all the rocks around it are also moving.”

Lorenz said the last suspected movement previously was in 2006, so rocks may move only about 1 millionth of the time, and there is evidence to suggest that the frequency of rock movement has declined since the 1970s because of climate change.


Racetrack Playa is partly flooded shortly after the December 21, 2013 move event in which hundreds of rocks scribbled trails in the mud under the floating ice. Photo by Richard Norris courtesy of Scripps Oceanography

Asked if the mystery of sliding rocks has finally been solved, Richard Norris replied, “We documented five movement events in the 2 1/2 months the pond existed and some involved hundreds of rocks. So we have seen that even in Death Valley, famous for its heat, floating ice is a powerful force in rock motion. But we have not seen the really big boys move out there….Does that work the same way?”

No word whether the Slithering Boulder Research Initiative is now forming.

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