GrindTV.com - Outdoor Blog


Yosemite opens ‘water trails’ on Merced River

Posted: 11 Apr 2014 03:13 PM PDT

California's Merced River is now open to paddling inside Yosemite National Park.

California’s Merced River is now open to paddling inside Yosemite National Park. Photo by Paul Martzen/American Whitewater

Kayakers and rafters have a new cliff-lined paddling playground in the heart of Yosemite National Park. While California’s Merced River has long been a hotbed of paddling outside the boundaries of the park, paddlers have now gotten the green light for a coveted section within the park as well. Yosemite National Park recently released its new Wild and Scenic Final Comprehensive Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement for California’s Merced River, putting paddling on the same footing as climbing and hiking within the park’s boundaries.

“The big take-home message and biggest coup is [the] park’s treatment of boating,” says American Whitewater’s California stewardship director, Dave Steindorf. “Now they’re treating it as just another way to travel through the landscape, just as backpackers and horsebackers. And the user numbers are in line with other trailhead users.”

The new plan places paddling on equal footing with other park activities by managing visitor numbers similarly. (The percentage of visitors who boat is estimated to be less than five percent, which is comparable to the park’s climber and backpacker use.) The plan considers river segments as “water trails” or backcountry routes, opening new segments to boating for the first time.

What’s all this spell for floaters? Official access to what Steindorf calls the “best one-day river trip you can do anywhere.”

While the traditional 3-mile, calm-water “pool toy” and raft-rental stretch in the heart of the valley remains unchanged user-wise—it still takes floaters from the horse corrals by Stoneman Bridge/Lower River Campground to Sentinel Beach—now an additional 45 private boaters per day will be able to run the river through the entire length of Yosemite Valley, a section that was closed before. The stretch goes 5.5 miles from Sentinel to Phono, including a 2-mile Class I section to the El Cap Bridge and an additional 3.5 miles to Phono, rated Class III–IV. “It’s an incredible section,” says Steindorf. “The rapids are actually a distraction … you just want to sit there and look up all the time. It’s by far the best way to see the valley.”

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Recreationists will be expected to have the right gear, in good condition, to explore the new in-park sections of the Merced River. Photo by Jose Gil / Shutterstock.com

Steindorf recommends making the trip before Memorial Day to avoid crowds, and says that they’re still working out the details of permit allocations, which will likely be a combination of online and onsite sign-up options. “And bring a bike and ride your shuttle to avoid the extra car fee inside the park,” he says.

Additional kayaking options that are much harder in difficulty have also been opened by the plan; they are still in the park, but outside of the valley. Daily-use limits will range between 10 people per day through the Class V+ Merced Gorge and 50 people per day on the Class IV+ section from El Portal to the park boundary. “The gorge section isn’t for everyone,” Steindorf says. “It starts out as Class V+, and then it gets hard.” Additionally, the multi-day, self-support Class V South Merced is now also officially regulated, with user capacities set at 25 people per day, as is the multi-day pack-raft section above Nevada Falls.

Park officials expect that the river’s hydrology will play a hand in managing boating use. With boatable flows rarely extending through July, the park expects most people will boat between March and May. To paddle in the park, boaters will be required to have boats that are in good condition and designed to handle the class of whitewater on that reach. Running that reaches Class II and above will require additional safety and self-rescue equipment. Boaters will also be required to use established put-in and take-out locations, and to avoid sensitive riparian vegetation. As part of the park’s natural ecosystem, large woody debris in the river will remain in place.

“We came to the conclusion that it’s unfeasible to do some sort of skills test,” Steindorf says. “The best way is to let people’s equipment determine the run they can do. It’s the best way to ensure that people with the necessary skills and equipment will be enjoying the river safely.”

In other Yosemite Valley news, the park also released its new plan for the nearby Tuolumne, “officially” opening the coveted multi-day Class V Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne to paddling. “All indications are that it’s similar to what we’ve seen on [the] Merced plan,” Steindorf says. “We commend the park for its open process in developing these plans and finding a balance that will allow for increased paddling opportunities while ensuring resource protection. The Park Service listened, which is great.”

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Rare two-toned lobster intensifies coloration

Posted: 11 Apr 2014 02:22 PM PDT

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Two-toned lobster named Harley Quinn (center) has intensified its coloring every time it molts. Its previous shells are also displayed here with Amy McFarlane of Scarborough Sea Life Center. Photo by Caters News Agency used by permission.

Harley Quinn, a star attraction at the Scarborough Sea Life Center in Britain, added to its legacy recently when it shed its shell and emerged with newer, vibrant colors, leaving the crustacean with its most brilliant coloring to date, according to MailOnline.

The two-toned lobster, said to be a 1-in-50 million rarity, was caught by a fisherman in 2010 and donated to Sea Life, which cares for the crustacean and has it on public display.

The fact its claws are the same colors as the opposite side of its body adds to its rarity.

Since its arrival in North Yorkshire, Harley Quinn has molted twice, and each time it has emerged with more striking colorations. Molting, incidentally, is a process in which a lobster grows. The exterior shell can’t grow, so the lobster develops a new shell and craws out of the old shell, leaving it behind (see video at the bottom).

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Two-toned lobster is held by Amy McFarlane of Sea Life. Photo by Caters News Agency used by permission.

When it was first captured, it featured a yellow, red, and black body.

“Whereas he was a reddish-black on one side and sandy color on the other, he has now adopted a deep electric blue down one side [and bright orange on the other],” Amy McFarlane of Sea Life told MailOnline.

Sea Life officials have preserved the old shells for comparison, as you can see in the photo above with the living Harley Quinn in the middle.

“The process is much the same with normal lobsters, but I’ve never seen one that’s half and half with a weird transfer of color on its claws,” a Sea Life spokesman told MailOnline. “He looks like an old-fashioned Harlequin jester.”

Harlequins were comical servant characters from ancient Italian theatre who wore colorful, checkered costumes. Harley Quinn’s name is derived from them.

The two-toned coloration is the result of a genetic mutation.

“There have been unusual colored lobsters found in the past, but he is remarkable because he has two colors separated by a near perfect straight line along the back of his carapace,” McFarlane told MailOnline.

“He’s such a striking individual, he did extremely well to avoid predators like conger eels and seals when he was in the open sea. Now safe from attack, he could live another sixty or seventy years.”

Who knows what type of coloring Harley will have by then.

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Meerkats use wildlife photographer as scouting perch

Posted: 11 Apr 2014 10:44 AM PDT

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A meerkat seeks high vantage points, like at the end of Will Burrard-Lucas’ camera, to keep an eye open for predators. Photo courtesy of Will Burrard-Lucas.

Of all the wild animals he has photographed, Will Burrard-Lucas has never encountered a species that utilized his body to get a higher vantage point to scout for predators.

Unlike lions, leopards, and elephants—animals requiring Burrard-Lucas to deploy his Beetle-Cam creation to photograph them up close—the meerkats of Boswana proved an easy “get” for the British wildlife photographer who enjoyed a close encounter with the social animal.

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Baby meerkats check out a camera. Photo courtesy of Will Burrard-Lucas.

“It was a completely unique experience,” Burrard-Lucas told GrindTV Outdoor in an email. “I have photographed habituated animals before, but they rarely climb all over you. Meerkats on the other hand like to get high vantage points so that the can scan for predators. This means they are more than happy to jump on your head if they can!

“The babies were also wonderful and, since I was able to spend so much time with them, they were totally fearless of me!”

Along with several stunning photos of the “charismatic” and “cute” meerkats, Burrard-Lucas posted a video with his newfound friends in the Makgadikgadi Pans region of Botswana:

“These meerkats are completely wild, but over time they have become habituated to humans,” he wrote in his blog. “This means it is possible to gain their trust and get really close to them. When people are around, these clever little creatures take full advantage of the situation and will sometimes climb on top of the nearest person for a better view out over the long grass. Sometimes they just decide that sitting on a warm human is more comfortable than sitting on the coarse sand!”

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A meerkat enjoys the company of the wildlife photographer. Photo courtesy of Will Burrard-Lucas.

Meerkats, a member of the mongoose family, are social animals that live in large groups. When hunting for food, one meerkat becomes a sentry while the others search for food, such as lizards, snakes, scorpions, and spiders. The sentry makes peeping sounds that ensure the coast is clear, but when danger approaches, it begins barking loudly or whistling.

For Burrard-Lucas, photographing meerkats was pure joy but proved a bit problematic.

“Trying to photograph animals that jumped on me whenever I got too close was certainly a challenge that I wasn’t used to facing,” he wrote. “Not that I was complaining!

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Meerkats climbed all over the wildlife photographer, making it more difficult to take photos. Photo courtesy of Will Burrard-Lucas.

“One of the highlights of my time in Botswana was getting to spend time with some adorable 3-week-old baby meerkats. These tiny babies first emerged from the den a day or so into my trip and after that I spent a lot of time with them so they became very comfortable around me. In fact, it wasn’t long before they were treating me like their own personal plaything!”

Check them out below.

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Baby meerkats stick together. Photo courtesy of Will Burrard-Lucas.

 

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Meerkats stand upright on their hind legs to not only search for food but keep an eye out for predators. Photo courtesy of Will Burrard-Lucas.

 

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Meerkats huddle together. Photo courtesy of Will Burrard-Lucas.

 

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Baby meerkats, like their parents, are social around humans. Photo courtesy of Will Burrard-Lucas.

 

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Angler grabs hammerhead shark by dorsal fin to save hooked tarpon

Posted: 10 Apr 2014 12:43 PM PDT

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Giant hammerhead shark goes after the tarpon; image is a video screen grab

Fishermen often become overly excited during chaotic moments, and their actions are not always appropriate for the situation.

The accompanying clip shows Captain Bo Johnson of Team Tenacity guide service trying to stop a giant hammerhead shark—by leaning out and grabbing its dorsal fin with both hands—from stealing a large tarpon that has been reeled to the boat off Boca Grande Pass, Florida. (Warning: Video contains very brief profanity. Click here for full version.)

Johnson, a fishing-show TV personality and a seasoned angler, has handled lots of hooked sharks, but presumably never a free-swimming great hammerhead. But this crazy scene definitely warrants a do-not-try-this-at-home label.

Writes Gayne C. Young of Outdoor Life: “There’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity. Truth be told, I can see plenty of both in this clip.”

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Captain Bo Johnson gets tarpon to boat while watching for shark; screen grab from video

The shark is obviously dialed in on the tarpon, though, and seems to be paying Johnson and crew no mind. The game fish is spared, according to the video description, and later released.

However, at the end of the clip there’s a screen grab from a previous video showing half a tarpon. So the large hammerheads off the coast of Florida, which feed seasonally on migrating tarpon, appear to be getting their share of hooked fish.

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UFO spying on deer in Mississippi? Mystery appears to have been solved

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 03:57 PM PDT

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Trail-cam image showing bewildered deer is courtesy of Rainer Shattles

Folks in Jackson County, Mississippi, can rest easy now that the deer-cam UFO mystery has been solved.

Or has it?

In February, motion-sensor infrared trail cameras on the rural property of Rainer and Edith Shattles captured nighttime images that seemed to reveal bright lights where light shouldn’t be, and a deer that seemed as if it were being spied on by an unidentified flying object.

The story was reported last week, leaving many to wonder if the lights were indeed caused by a UFO, or perhaps a drone being used for surveillance by an unknown person or government agency.

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Adding to the mystery were images showing round and saucer-shaped objects in the sky; photo courtesy of Rainer Shattles

WLOX 13 provided a timeline of events:

“At 7:24pm, deer appear and all is normal. At 7:29, a dim light appears. At 7:35, it gets brighter. Then at 7:53, a weird shape appears on the camera. The deer are lit up brightly, but how? The cameras are infrared and don’t emit light. At 7:56, another sharper light appears, then it gets much closer, seemingly focused on the deer. It looks like headlights, but well off the ground and there is no road. It then flies away.”

Rainer Shattles said: “Well, if it’s alien, I’m not sure about that. But it’s definitely a UFO. Now whether it’s a government drone or what, I wish if nothing else, one of them would step up and say, ‘Yes, that’s ours.’ ”

Very mysterious indeed.

But on Wednesday NBC News science writer Alan Boyle reported what appears to be a reasonable explanation. Boyle contacted Moultrie Products, the Alabama-based manufacturer of the trail cameras used by the Shattles couple.

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Adding to the mystery were images showing round and saucer-shaped objects in the sky; photo courtesy of Rainer Shattles

The company explained that the two lights in the deer image are reflections of the animal’s eyes, bouncing within the infrared camera. The phenomenon is refered to as blowback, which Moultrie said also explains the ghostly objects appearing in other images captured at the same time, perhaps when the trail-cams were triggered by moving deer.

“The big clue is that the UFO is lined up symmetrically over the deer, where the eyes would be,” Moultrie brand manager Bart Stephens said.

He added that because the photo is so overexposed it looks as though the deer is gazing toward the lights, but is actually looking straight into the camera.

Rainer Shattles isn’t convinced, however, and UFO fans probably will not be convinced either.

Shattles is skeptical because of the other images, one of which shows a saucher-shaped object hovering near the trees.

He still thinks a drone is the best explanation, and stated to NBC News: “If it’s a government drone, coming through that area at night, they need to speak up. But they’re not going to say anything.”

The story comes days after the UFO crowd was having field day with a story about a beacon of light on the Martian landscape, photographed on two consecutive days this month by NASA’s Curiosity Rover on Mars.

One UFO website said the lights could indicate that there is life on Mars, beneath the surface. Experts, however, explained that the most likely explanation was a cosmic ray strike that affected the Rover’s camera.

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Greg Hill adds more mountain madness to his resume

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 02:54 PM PDT

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Greg Hill rejoices after accomplishing 328,615 vertical feet of climbing and skiing in one month. Photo by Bruno Long/Suunto courtesy Powder

More than once, the accomplishment of ski mountaineer Greg Hill has been referred to as his version of March Madness, and for good reason. It was madness.

In the backcountry of 10 mountains and 10 smaller peaks in the Revelstoke, British Columbia, region, Hill climbed and skied 328,615 vertical feet in March, setting a world record for vertical feet climbed and skied in a month.

Of course, Hill, 38, is used to this mountain madness.

In 2005, he was the first to climb and ski 1 million vertical feet. Five years later, he did 2 million vertical feet in a year. He also holds the record for climbing and skiing 50,000 vertical feet in a 24-hour period.

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Greg Hill climbing a peak from which he skied down; photo by Bruno Long/Suunto courtesy Powder

For this latest achievement, Hill averaged nearly 13,000 feet per day for six days, then took a day off before resuming. He took five days off for the month.

For accuracy, a special watch tabulated Hill’s climbing, and the statistics were posted on Movescout.com.

Powder magazine caught up with Hill this week and asked how his month-long feat compared with his other accomplishments.

“They’re all so different in scope,” he told Powder. “I found that for the 2 million [vertical-feet record], I was more attached to it. This one, it was so intense. It’s almost like I barely had time to recognize how intense it was and then thankfully it was 31 days later.”

Hill told Powder that he attempts to get into a rhythm and almost meditates as he ascends, saying, “I love the up and the intricacies of going up, but I definitely enjoy going down. I’m a powder skier.”

As for why he does it?

“At this point in my life, I have to live life to its fullest,” he told Powder. “For me, that means adventure, challenge. I understand that there are risks to what I do, and the biggest challenge is mitigating these risks.”

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Greg Hill climbed with his wife and daughters on the first day of his March Madness achievement. Photo by Bruno Long/Suunto courtesy Powder

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Video of whitewater canoe waterfall record is released

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 11:10 AM PDT

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Canoe waterfall record is captured on video and in photos from a variety of angles, including Jim Coffey going over the lip; photo courtesy Canoe & Kayak.

After four years of thinking about it, Canadian Jim Coffey finally found the right opportunity to canoe over a 60-foot waterfall, La Cascada de Truchas, on the Alseseca River in Mexico—considered uncharted territory for a canoe.

When he popped up out of the water and turned himself right-side up, Coffey had broken the whitewater canoe waterfall record of 55 feet that had stood for nearly 20 years, as is detailed by Canoe & Kayak.

Getting there was half the battle. After hiking more than a half mile, Coffey and his team rappelled, with canoe, 80 feet into the canyon, where the canoe was put into the water amid a raging current. He didn’t have much time to paddle himself into position, as you can see:

The previous waterfall record in an open canoe was held by Steve Frazier, who ran Compression Falls on the Elk River in North Carolina in 1994.

Coffey broke the record in November, but the video of this first canoe descent and world record was just made public via YouTube on Monday by CheeksAdventure. The entire video shows the lead-up to the attempt.

Coffey, of Esprit Rafting, spoke to Canoe & Kayak about his canoe waterfall record run:

“I had thought a lot about the drop the night before. You run it in your head a million times. Most of them are successful and some of them aren’t. You think of the 90 percent that were good to go and the little percent that isn’t so sure. So you stay positive and think toward doing it. … Even going in, I knew there was an out if I didn’t like the approach.

“Trickiest part was the entry, and with somewhat precarious moments for my friend to hold the boat as I got in. There was hardly an eddy to start in; it was pretty much in the current. From there, it was turn into the current, ferry across, ride up on the marker bowl which guards the lip, and as soon as I was high up onto the boil I knew that I was going to go off in just the perfect spot.”

Making those four years worth the wait.

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Jim Coffey plunging to a canoe waterfall record; photo by Chris Loomis/Canoe & Kayak

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Beacons of light on Mars excite UFO set, but ‘cosmic ray hit’ on Rover might be the source

Posted: 08 Apr 2014 12:54 PM PDT

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Images showing bright light atop a Martian rise are courtesy of NASA/JPL/CalTech

NASA’s Curiosity Rover has delivered images from Mars showing beacons of light that have at least one UFO-themed website suggesting that there is life on mars, but beneath its desolate surface.

“This could indicate that there is intelligent life below the ground and uses light as we do,” writes Scott C. Waring at UFO Sightings Daily. “This is not glare from the sun, nor is it an artifact of the photo process. Look closely at the bottom of the light. It has a very flat surface giving us 100% indication it is from the surface.”

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(Disclose.tv, another UFO-themed website, also posted about the images under the tile: “Flashes & Pillar of Light on Multiple Mars Curiosity Rover Photos. Also, a video using the images was produced with the title, Unidentified Light Source on Mars.)

The source of the flashes, which appeared in Rover photos sent to earth on April 2 and 3, remains somewhat of a mystery.

However, NBC science/space writer Alan Boyle was informed by an imaging expert at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory that the bright spot was caused by a “cosmic ray hit” that affected the Rover’s camera.

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Boyle had written that the Rover’s navcam utilizes a stereo system and only the right-side camera shows the bright spots, which “suggests that the ‘light’ might be a bit of lost data that left blank spots only on the right-hand navcam pictures.”

Doug Ellison, the imaging expert, replied via Twitter: “It’s not in the left-Navcam image taken at the exact same moment. It’s a cosmic ray hit.”

Galactic cosmic rays, which originate outside the solar system, are high-energy subatomic particles accelerated to almost light speed. They’ve been known to disable satellites.

Ellison attached the image from the left-navcam, revealing just the barren Mars landscape, so the cosmic ray hypothesis seems valid.

But don’t expect agreement from the UFO crowd.

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Man-eating crocodile captured in Uganda

Posted: 08 Apr 2014 11:07 AM PDT

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A man-eating crocodile is captured by Uganda Wildlife Authority officials. Photo by Donald Kiirya is copyrighted by New Vision and used by permission.

A 2,200-pound, man-eating crocodile that terrorized villages along the shores of Lake Victoria was captured by Uganda Wildlife Authority officials in Jinja, Uganda, last week after a four-day hunt.

The 18-foot reptile estimated to be 80 years old was trapped with meat on a hook, according to New Vision, Uganda’s leading daily.

With more than 100 relieved residents looking on, the crocodile was brought to shore at Kakira landing and secured in the back of a truck for transport to Murchison Falls National Park over 120 miles to the northwest. Presumably the crocodile will be placed in an enclosure and put on public display, though its fate was unclear.

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A crowd watches as the man-eating crocodile is readied to load into a truck by Uganda Wildlife Authority officials. Photo by Donald Kiirya is copyrighted by New Vision and used by permission.

Residents that lived in terror of the giant crocodile just want it to be long gone, knowing it had killed and possibly eaten six people in the area, and maimed several others.

“Residents appealed to UWA to hunt the crocodile following the death of a resident from Kakira town council in Jinja district,” UWA official Sulani Tumanya told New Vision.

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Residents crowded in to touch the man-eating crocodile or take photos. Photo by Donald Kiirya is copyrighted by New Vision and used by permission.

The man was a fisherman, and only his tattered clothes were left behind floating on the water, John Kamawu of the Kakira town council told New Vision.

Kamawu said fishermen on Lake Victoria feared being eaten. But now that the dangerous reptile has been captured, they will resume fishing with a renewed confidence.

“We trapped it two years ago, but it managed to escape,” UWA official Oswald Tumanya told New Vision.

Once the crocodile was secured, many of the residents crowded in to touch the scaly animal or get photos of what might be the largest crocodile in Africa, if not the entire world. The world record was a saltwater crocodile that measured 21 feet and was 103 pounds heavier than this one; it died in captivity in the Philippines last year.

According to the MailOnline, crocodiles are the third-most dangerous predator in Africa after the hippopotamus and the lion, and they’re believed to be responsible for 275 to 745 attacks on people a year, most of them fatal.

Hopefully, Uganda Wildlife Authority officials removed the most hostile crocodile of the Jinja region. For the fishermen’s sake.

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The man-eating crocodile is loaded on a truck ready for transport to Murchison Falls National Park. Photo by Donald Kiirya is copyrighted by New Vision and used by permission.

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Humpback whales go for a surf at Pipeline

Posted: 08 Apr 2014 09:08 AM PDT

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Humpback whales go right on a large set wave at Pipeline; photo by ©J.T. Gray/NorthShoreSurfPhotos

A photographer has captured what might be the only image showing large whales riding a wave at iconic Banzai Pipeline on Oahu’s North Shore.

J.T. Gray of North Shore Surf Photos arrived Saturday to find a late-season swell had shown, minus the hordes of surfers that generally greet each swell.

As a bodyboarder was catching one wave, two humpback whales materialized in a larger second wave and rode the swell just long enough for Gray to capture the moment.

While it’s common for dolphins to ride waves, this is rare behavior for a large whale species.

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Photo by ©J.T. Gray/NorthShoreSurfPhotos

“The whales were 75 to 100 yards east of Pipeline and playing for a while, then swam to about 10 yards outside of the lineup,” Gray told GrindTv. “A set came in and the bodyboarder caught the first wave, and the humpbacks caught the second.”

Gray added: “Whales frequent Hawaii in the winter months, but never that close to shore.”

The rare image was posted Ocean Defender–Hawaii’s Facebook page on Monday, and as of Tuesday morning it had been shared more than 4,000 times. Gray gave permission for its use for this story.

He said the whales were a mother and calf, and it’s possible that the whales were just playing, but it’s also possible that the mother was keeping tabs on her stray calf.

Said Ocean Defender’s Oriana Kalama: “Yes, it’s the first time anyone has seen a humpback surf or get that close to the waves, but they do get really close to shore. Humpbacks sing, breach and if you ask me they dance too. If you ever have the chance to see them underwater, you would see how much they seem to enjoy to move their pectoral fins and in a way flirt with each other when in groups.

“So why wouldn’t they surf too? After all they are Hawaiians by birth.”

–Find North Shore Surf Photos on Facebook, SmugMug and and Instagram

–Find Pete Thomas on Facebook and Twitter

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Hometown guide with pro skateboarder Ryan Sheckler

Posted: 07 Apr 2014 11:04 PM PDT

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Ryan Sheckler is a skate superstar, but he’s also a pretty good tour guide of his hometown of San Clemente, California. Photo courtesy Etnies

In the outside world, skateboarders often get a bad rap. Twenty-four-year-old professional skateboarder Ryan Sheckler may look the part of a punk kid, with his body nearly covered in tattoos, but upon closer inspection you’ll see one of the hardest-working athletes in action sports today. He’s also known for his kindness and loyalty; for just one example, he’s been skating with sponsor Etnies for more than 15 years.

Rolling on four wheels since he was a toddler, Sheckler turned pro at the age of 13 and has been dominating the international skate scene ever since. He’s won contest after contest and received the highest accolades in the sport. After the premiere of his own reality show in 2007 on MTV, however, Sheckler’s celebrity factor skyrocketed. One look at his personal Instagram feed, @shecks, shows him with more than 1.1 million followers, and it’s easy to see that his world hasn’t been the same ever since.

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Ryan Sheckler skating in the nearby Lake Forest, California, skate park; photo by Jamie Owens

While some might just take the fame and money and run, Sheckler has not. Today, in addition to continuing to push his pro skateboarding career, Sheckler helps run a charitable organization called The Sheckler Foundation. Created as a way for Sheckler and others from the action-sports industry to give back to kids and the community, it encourages people to “be the change” they want to see in the world. Through an annual star-studded golf tournament and a skateboard event called Skate for a Cause, the foundation has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to educate, empower, and equip kids in need.

While his success has largely eclipsed the insular skate world, Sheckler has remained firmly grounded in his San Clemente, California, roots. He still lives and skates there every day. It’s home, and he’s even got its name tattooed across his chest to prove it. GrindTV caught up with him recently to see if he’d share some of his favorite spots in the picturesque beach town. Here is what he had to say.

Best skate spots
Located south of Los Angeles at the very southern tip of Orange County, San Clemente has great skateable weather year round. It’s no surprise, then, that Sheckler’s list of places that he likes to hit could be a mile long. Even so, he keeps it centered on four main spots, three of which are open to the public: the curved ledges at San Clemente State Park, San Clemente Skate Park, his private skatepark, and San Clemente High School. “San Clemente Park is where I grew up skating,” Sheckler says. “I still skate there almost every day.”

Ryan Sheckler

One of the benefits of being a skate superstar like Ryan Sheckler is having your own private skate park. Photo courtesy Red Bull

Best eats
When you’re as active as Sheckler, eating good food is a high priority. Luckily, he’s got a bunch of favorite places to hit up when the hunger pangs strike: Wahoo’s, Zona’s, Nick’s, Beachfire, and The Shore all top his list. “At Wahoo’s I get a half teriyaki chicken bowl, half Kahlua pig, white beans, and white rice,” he shares. “At Zona, the Zona Burger; at Nick’s, the Nick’s boneless buttermilk fried chicken and mashed potatoes; Josh’s Chicken at Beachfire; or any of the burgers at The Shore.”

Best place to grab a drink
Thanks to its location in hilly terrain right on the California coast, San Clemente is known for its beautiful views. For this reason, Sheckler points to a few different options with killer vistas when it’s time to grab a drink. He suggests checking out Ole’s, The Shore, Sunsets at the pier, and Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar. According to Sheckler, there’s always a good group of people around at the San Clemente Pier. “Fisherman’s is the best spot to watch waves,” he says.

Ryan Sheckler

Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar is located right on the San Clemente Pier and is great for watching people and waves. Photo courtesy thefishermansrestaurant.com

Best off-the-grid options
Though he may be a professional skateboarder, Sheckler is still a California boy at heart. He’s known to jump in the ocean whenever the temps and conditions are right. For visitors, Sheckler suggests a mandatory dip in the ocean. “Go surfing anywhere in San Clemente,” he says.

Ryan Sheckler

He may be known for his skateboarding prowess, but Ryan Sheckler’s just a Cali boy at heart. Photo via Instagram @shecks

If you’re looking for a great tattoo or maybe even a new haircut, Sheckler’s got a couple suggestions for those experiences as well. “Renaissance Tattoo Shop, and V’s Barbershop for the best cut in San Clemente,” he says.

For a closer look at Sheckler’s tattoos, check out this video from AOL On’s original series, “My Ink”:



Best lodging
There is no shortage of lodging options in San Clemente. Visitors to the city can find a variety of prices and accommodation styles. As an avid golfer, Sheckler points to a few of the best (albeit priciest) resorts in coastal Orange County: the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel, the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point, and the Montage in Laguna Beach. They may bust your wallet, but they’ll certainly be some of the most memorable places you’ve stayed. “All three are great for relaxing, golfing, and looking at the ocean,” he says.

Ryan Sheckler

The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel is a favorite of Ryan Sheckler’s for its view and amazing golf course. Photo courtesy ritzcarlton.com

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Rare video of oarfish captured on Baja beach

Posted: 07 Apr 2014 04:09 PM PDT

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A living oarfish swimming on the shoreline of Isla San Francisco off Baja, Mexico; photo courtesy Shedd Aquarium’s Facebook page

Eco tourists from Shedd Adventures and Un-Cruise Adventures were in Baja, Mexico, to snorkel, kayak, and view whales, dolphins, sea lions, manta rays, and other marine life. Viewing bizarre-looking sea creatures on the beach was not part of the itinerary.

Boy, were they in for a big surprise.

As the tourists prepared to go kayaking off Isla San Francisco, located north of La Paz, two rare oarfish measuring about 15 feet were spotted swimming along the shoreline, seemingly trying to beach themselves.

Usually when we hear about oarfish sightings, the long, slender, odd-looking fish are dead, such as the 18-foot monster discovered off Catalina Island, California, last fall and the 15-footer that washed ashore in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, two years ago.

But these two oarfish were very much alive. Un-Cruise Adventures captured the rare video, which was then posted by Shedd Aquarium. The underwater footage is especially compelling:

Seeing one oarfish swimming alive is rare enough, but seeing two?

“It was absolutely fascinating,” Tim Binder, a marine biologist who led the Shedd Adventures trip, told GrindTV Outdoor. “First, to be able to see one alive was just amazing, but the fact that two of them were there and we were able to observe them for several minutes was really quite a spectacular opportunity.

“To be in that moment of time in an inhabited place and have that happen, the odds have got to be pretty spectacular.”

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Isla San Francisco, Mexico (circled).; image via Google Maps

The first-ever footage of a living oarfish in the wild was reportedly taken in deep waters in 2011 by scientists using a remotely operated vehicle, though there was a report of another deep-sea oarfish video from 2008.

While not an overall first, this video of two oarfish might be the first footage of living oarfish in near-shore waters.

“It’s very rare,” Binder said. “I don’t know of any records of people seeing two come ashore, although they’ve been reported in pairs. But I don’t know if anybody has seen them live like this.”

Oarfish are said to be able to reach 50-plus feet in length and inhabit depths of 1,500 to 3,000 feet. When the deep-water creatures venture into shallow water, as they did in this case, it usually means they are injured or dying.

Sure enough, these two oarfish wound up beaching themselves and dying, but not before giving a group of tourists a once-in-a-lifetime encounter that lasted 20 to 30 minutes, even though most were unaware of what they were looking at.

The naturalists, on the other hand, were definitely aware, and were very much blown away by the sighting.

“The thing’s such a beautiful animal, but such a strange creature at the same time,” Binder said.

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Giant mako shark hooked in Florida shallows

Posted: 07 Apr 2014 01:32 PM PDT

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Blake Bridges poses with giant mako shark caught off Destin, Fla.; photo via Sure Lure Charters

Anglers participating in a cobia tournament recently off Destin, Florida, were off to a successful start when they landed a 40-pounder.

But they forgot all about cobia as soon as one of the crew spotted a massive mako shark cruising along the coast at a depth of only 15 feet.

A live bait was cast, and the hungry shark swirled immediately and devoured the offering. The two-hour battle, with Randy Messer handling the rod, featured more than a dozen acrobatic leaps.

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Giant mako shark was hooked in 15 feet of water; photo via Sure Lure Charters

The shark, hooked on 60-pound-test line 30 yards beyond the surf, towed the 40-foot vessel–the Sure Lure– nearly two miles offshore.

“It was pretty impressive watching a 700-pound shark clear the water like that,” said skipper Don Dineen said. “It was doing flips and everything.”

Securing the shark, with a gaff and tailrope, was a task that required the assistance of a veteran deckhand from another boat: Blake Bridges.

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Giant mako shark draws a large crowd as it’s fork-lifed ashore; image is a video screen grab

Because the shark had to be towed to port, the voyage lasted five hours. The mako was fork-lifted onto the Fishing Fleet Marina dock in the darkness and weighed 720 pounds, impressive enough to attract a crowd of about 300 onlookers.

“Word had spread about what we were bringing in,” Dineen said. “I have a friend who owns are restaurant in the harbor and he told me his entire clientele cleared out when they saw the shark when we went by. They all ran over to watch us unload our catch.”

Wrote Tina Harbuck of the Destin Log: “Before you could blink an eye the docks were filled with people in hopes of getting a glance at the monster from the Gulf.”

Dineen said that while it’s rare to hook such a large mako shark so close to shore, they’re sometimes encountered during when cobia and tarpon are feeding in the shallows.

“Sometimes we see a lot of them, and sometimes we’ll go a whole season without seeing any,” Dineen said, adding that when the mako was hung from the scale, bones and tarpon scales spilled from its mouth.

The captain said he releases most of the sharks he catches, but since this was the largest mako caught aboard his boat, and since mako flesh is prime table fare, it was brought in to be weighed.

The shark, he added, was given to a fish market for processing, and the flesh is being sold to benefit a local charity.

Dineen said the largest mako he has heard of being caught off Florida was a 1,063-pounder. For the sake of comparison, the International Game Fish Association lists as the all-tackle world record a 1,221-pound mako caught of Chatham, Massachusetts, in 2001.

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Living and playing off-grid in Tahoe, California, at remote Lost Trail Lodge

Posted: 07 Apr 2014 08:34 AM PDT

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Cutting trail on the way to Tahoe, California’s Lost Trail Lodge; photo courtesy Lost Trail Lodge

Hidden outside Truckee, California, Lost Trail Lodge is aptly named. In a typical winter, it’s buried. “Spillover” from Sierra Crest storms dump about the same amount of snow at the backcountry camp’s location at 6,250 feet as on the 8,200-foot ridge.

With parking access four miles from the lodge, life gets extra interesting in winter. “If we get a huge storm and the trucks are still at the house, they could be stuck there until June,” says innkeeper Lindsey Rodni, 33, whose parents built the lodge. “We call it Canyon Roulette.” Depending on conditions, it’s a two- to five-plus-hour ski or snowshoe on an ungroomed trail—or the increasingly popular drop-in access from nearby Sugar Bowl Ski Resort—to navigate to Lost Trail Lodge.

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In a typical Tahoe winter, the lodge and guests are happily snow-bound. Photo by Scott Sawyer

“The season is a waxing and waning of weather, a constant flow from snow to sun to snow again,” Rodni says. “Heading out into a meadow of untouched snow the morning after a big storm is an unequalled experience—the quiet, crisp air, the sun dancing off the snow in a million shimmering lights. It’s heavenly.”

In summer, hiking, biking, and kayaking are all part of the Sierra mix. “Waterfalls abound, wildflowers spring back to life, and the smell of the forest fills the air,” says Rodni. “Deer and ducks return with their babies, rubber boas and frogs wake from their slumber, and snowshoe hares don their brown coats. And these little birds [mountain chickadees] that call ‘cheeeese bur-gur’ in high-pitched song are the unequivocal sound of summer in Tahoe.”

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Summers in Tahoe are filled with lush landscapes, wildflowers, and the tranquility of the wild. Photo courtesy Lost Trail Lodge

Lost Trail Lodge is an appealing jumping-off point for year-round backcountry adventuring and taking in some serious solitude. We got some advice from Rodni about living and playing off the grid:

How does “off-grid” living make life a little more interesting?
It’s funny: I don’t really consider my life to be more interesting than anyone else’s. We’re the typical American family, raising two children along with our two dogs and cats. But I guess most 7-year-olds don’t have their own snowmobiles, and most babies don’t ride in snowcats to get to town.

Living in an off-grid backcountry lodge also requires you to be all the utility companies, the handyman, and the schoolteacher. Since we depend on the sun for our power, keeping the snow wiped off the panels is an important chore. Everything we bring in is packed into our backpacks, or a little trailer we pull behind the snowmobile. Hauling everything in makes you stop and think, “Do I really need this?” before putting anything in the shopping cart. There is definitely a lot of work to live in the backcountry, but the payoff is tremendous.

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Evenings at Lost Trail Lodge in Tahoe often involve jam sessions around the campfire. Photo by Scott Sawyer

I also think back to the time I fell off the snowmobile into a frozen pond two miles from home and had to rush home before hypothermia set in. Or all of the times I have walked miles from the house to the car with my little girl, just to get her to fiddle lessons. So many people joke about walking to school uphill both ways in a snowstorm when they were kids. Here, that story will actually be true!

What are some popular backcountry adventures people can do from the lodge or in areas nearby?
In the winter, skiing, snowshoeing, and ice climbing. Summer is great for hiking and trail running. There are waterfalls, wildflower meadows, and beautiful vistas to explore in every direction. There is also a very popular single-track that draws mountain bikers. We have paddocks on the property too, and some guests bring their horses.

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Just some of the stunning scenery summer promises in Tahoe. Photo courtesy Lost Trail Lodge

For people new to backcountry experiences, what are a couple tips you could provide from your experience at the lodge?
Avalanche training: Always bring your beacon, probe, and shovel, and be comfortable with using them. It’s one of those things you never want to have to use, but if the time comes, you don’t want to be struggling with how it works while trying to find your loved one or friend.

Remember the 3 Ws: Where you’re going, who you’re going with, and when you’ll be back. This can help your loved ones at home decide when it’s time to call your local friendly search and rescue.

Pack smart: If you’re hiking in higher elevations, keep in mind that storms can pop up out of nowhere, and remember that rain down low can be snow up top. Leave your cotton at home and opt for wool, which can still insulate even when wet. Just last September we had a freak snowstorm, which ended up dumping a couple feet down on the canyon floor. Toward the end of the day, a guy with a big pack, hiking boots, and lightweight clothes came up to the front door, covered in snow. He was wet and chilled to the bone. Had he gotten stuck on the ridge with the gear that he had, it would have been a miserable night, and he most likely would have ended up hypothermic.

Which positive traits do you develop by living/playing in remote areas?
It has been wonderful watching our daughter grow up in the backcountry. She has true compassion and shows genuine stewardship toward wildlife. I would venture to say that spreads into all aspects of nature. We want to take care of what we love. Who can spend time living or playing in remote areas and stay immune to its beauty and the solace it offers?

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Growing up in remote Tahoe has its privileges—and teaches respect for the environment. Photo courtesy Lost Trail Lodge

Also, patience and perseverance. Finding that your Jeep/snowmobile won’t start and realizing that you are going to spend the next couple hours walking home can be disheartening—or an opportunity for a nice walk. It all depends on perspective. If you have the patience to not want to rush, and the perseverance to take one step after another, you’ll find yourself enjoying the walk.

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GrindTV.com - Outdoor Blog


Reubyn Ash, ‘Runaway’ to Chile

Posted: 06 Apr 2014 04:01 PM PDT


Reubyn Ash is an English freesurfer most famous for his progressive aerial act. However, the 26-year-old from Cornwall is far more than just a one-trick pony. His latest video series, called “Runaway,” showcases a year on the road as Ash pushes his personal and performance boundaries in some of the best waves on the planet. GrindTV.com caught up with Ash to discuss the series and its latest installment, from Chile.

Tell us about the “Runaway” series.
As a professional surfer, I’ve always traveled loads, but last year I tried to tick off a few places that I have always wanted to go to. I had an extended winter season in Indonesia before traveling to Chile, California, and then a road trip through Europe in the summer. I have just come back from an amazing couple of weeks in Scotland and finished off the “Runaway” project in Ireland.

This clip features incredible waves in Chile. How was that trip?
I decided to head to Chile after my good friend, Nic von Rupp, called me up to see if I would be keen to go with him and Alex Botelho to film for his “My Road” series. We scored some amazing waves, but we put the time in. We spent loads of time in the car driving through Chile, but because the landscape is so incredible. While the north is dominated by the sandy deserts, the south has forests and big snowy mountains. With 6,000 kilometers of coast, Chile has it all.

City, desert, waves: Chile has it all, and Reubyn Ash was determined to see it. Photo by Jonna Kerman

City, desert, waves: Chile has it all, and Reubyn Ash was determined to see it. Photo by Jonna Kerman n

Also on Reubyn Ash’s itinerary, the almighty Andes, a constant presence. Photo Jonna Kerman

Also on Reubyn Ash’s itinerary, the almighty Andes, a constant presence. Photo by Jonna Kerman

Is it Mars… or Chile? Reubyn Ash set out to find out. Photo Jonna Kerman

Is it Mars… or Chile? Reubyn Ash set out to find out. Photo Jonna by Kerman

You are known for your aerial surfing, but this episode also has some big waves and slabs. Is that something you are working on in your surfing?
For sure. It helped on this trip that I surfed with Alex and Nic, who are just so excited to surf big waves. There is never any hesitation. Often you can find excuses not to surf some days, but not with these guys. It just pumps you up, being around that energy; you just get swept up in it. But I’ve always loved big barrels; most surfers do.

 Big, gnarly lefts breaking over sharp, shallow rocks. As Reubyn Ash discovered, Chile is not for the faint of heart. Photo Jonna Kerman

Big, gnarly lefts breaking over sharp, shallow rocks. As Reubyn Ash discovered, Chile is not for the faint of heart. Photo by Jonna Kerman

The wave haven of Arica as seen from above; photo by Jonna Kerman

The big-wave haven of Arica as seen from above. Photo by Jonna Kerman

You are known for your progressive surfing, though. Is that still a focus?
I am still really about progression; that’s my focus. A lot of people think that when you are not doing the comps, you are not really surfing at your absolute best. I disagree with that. As long as you [are] surfing the best waves you can find, making sure your equipment is dialed in, training super hard, and trying your absolute best each session, you can improve and keep up with the pack.

Reubyn Ash in Indonesia, showcasing his incredible aerial surfing; photo by Jonna Kerman

Reubyn Ash in Indonesia, showcasing his incredible aerial surfing; photo by Jonna Kerman

And is it true your girlfriend did the camerawork?
Yes, my girlfriend, Jonna Kerman, was filming. Early on she was being taught the ropes by my dad, Peter, who has done most of my filming in my career. They collaborated in Indonesia and then Jonna did the rest of the “Runaway” series. It’s been great to travel and work together. It really was an incredible year.

Reubyn Ash and the crew score more perfect waves in Chile. Photo by Jonna Kerman

Reubyn Ash and the crew score more perfect waves in Chile. Photo by Jonna Kerman

You'll need a big gun to tackle Chile's big waves. Photo by Jonna Kerman

You’ll need a big gun to tackle Chile’s big waves. Photo by Jonna Kerman

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Juliana Bicycles ambassador Vanessa Hauswald strives to inspire

Posted: 06 Apr 2014 10:17 AM PDT

Vanessa Hauswald is an inspiration on and off the bike. Photo courtesy Julianabicycles.com

Vanessa Hauswald is an inspiration on and off the bike. Photo courtesy Julianabicycles.com

Juliana Bicycles ambassador Vanessa Hauswald has the butterflies. Not because she’s out riding some insanely technical trail, but because she’s a week away from standing up in front of a large crowd of cyclists and telling her story of surviving stage four colon cancer. In a talk titled “Fight Like a Girl,” Hauswald is hoping to not only educate, but also to inspire other cyclists and people dealing cancer.

As the current executive director of the NorCal League for high school mountain biking and a former English teacher, this isn’t the first time that Hauswald will have spoken in public, but it is the first time the subject is personal. “Yes, I’ve done lots of public speaking, but no, not about cancer. I’m nervous,” she says.

The talk will take place on Tuesday, April 8, at 6:30 p.m. as a free event at the Juliana Bicycles and Santa Cruz factory in Santa Cruz, California. It is going to be the first “Bike Nights” event for the Juliana Bicycles brand, but according to brand manager Katie Zaffke, it certainly will not be the last. “The Juliana Bicycles crew is composed of some amazing women. And I want these amazing women to be able to tell their stories and share their experiences,” says Zaffke. “This might mean that they share their story as a key speaker at a social event at the factory, such as Vanessa. Or it might mean that they share their bike skills at a tech night or evening skills clinic. Either way, it’s women learning from women.”

Vanessa Hauswald (left, with Juli Furtado) has been thinking about sharing her experiences with cancer and mountain biking for a few years. She'll get her chance next week in Santa Cruz, California. Photo courtesy Julianabicycles.com

Vanessa Hauswald (left, with Juli Furtado) has been thinking about sharing her experiences with cancer and mountain biking for a few years. She’ll get her chance April 8 in Santa Cruz, California. Photo courtesy Julianabicycles.co

“I think we build strength from this,” continues Zaffke. “We look at our own lives differently after; we look at our own struggles and fortunes differently, and we come out of it feeling strong. Vanessa, for example, is going to share her story about her battle with cancer and how the biking community helped her beat it. This is heavy stuff. But it’s also inspirational. And I believe that Vanessa’s story is one that should be shared because she is strong and successful and has her priorities right. She works hard, and she plays hard, and she fought when she was faced with the worst. This is something that other people should get to hear about.”

Hauswald has been riding mountain bikes for the past 20 years, and the sport has kept her motivated throughout life’s battles. “I’ve always been stoked to click into my pedals and ride, whether that’s to town, on the road, or on some sweet single track. But after cancer I just feel even more joyous when I get on my bike,” she says. “I often have moments where I say to myself, ‘F–k yeah! You were half dead from chemo and now you’re ripping an awesome trail with your friends.’”

This joy is one she plans to continue to spread. She hopes that people who hear her story will be inspired to live their lives in a more conscious manner. “We have a choice about the way we are going to live our lives,” she says, “and every day when we wake up, we are given an opportunity to make it awesome.”

JULIANA BIKE NIGHTS

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GrindTV.com - Outdoor Blog


Tadpoles ‘flying overhead’ unlikely winner of underwater photo contest

Posted: 04 Apr 2014 04:52 PM PDT

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“Tadpoles”
Gold in Compact Cameras; Best in Show
Bert Willaert, Belgium
Location: Lovendegem, Belgium
Comment: Sort of looks like aliens flying overhead.

You wouldn’t think that an underwater photo taken with a point-and-shoot camera would produce an award-winning photograph, but a nature photographer from Belgium proved otherwise.

Bert Willaert was snorkeling in a small canal in Lovendegem, Belgium, and encountered a huge school of tadpoles of the common toad. Using his compact camera, Willaert took a photograph from a unique angle.

“From below it looks like they are flying overhead,” he wrote in a blog post about the photo.

The distinctive photo not only won the gold for compact cameras but was the Best of Show for the entire 2014 DEEP Indonesia International Underwater Photo Competition, the results of which were released in the past week.

It is the first time in the history of the eight-year series that a compact camera winner has won the Best of Show, “so it’s pretty unusual,” said Matt Weiss, owner of DivePhotoGuide.com, which hosted the contest with Wetpixel and DEEP Indonesia.

More than 5,000 photos were entered from more than 30 countries, with photographers from 18 countries winning more than $40,000 in prizes.

Here’s a variety of the winning photos, courtesy of 2014 DEEP Indonesia International Underwater Photo Competition:

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“Red Sea at Sunset”
Bronze in Reefscapes
Theresa Guise, Indiana
Location: Red Sea
Comment: The Red Sea, located between Africa and Asia, is known for its spectacular recreational diving sites, and its sunsets, too, apparently.

 

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“Into Space”
Bronze in Compact Cameras
Chia Chi Chang, Taiwan
Location: Northeast Coast, Taiwan
Comment: In case you’re wondering that’s a colorful emperor shrimp on a colorful nudibranch.

 

Life Cascade

“Diver with Jacks at Cabo Pulmo”
Silver in Divers
Christian Vizl, Mexico
Location: Cabo Pulmo, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Comment: Now, where exactly is this fishing spot?

 

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“Beneath the Sun”
Gold in Divers
Parnupong Norasethkamol, Palau
Location: Jellyfish Lake in Palau
Comment: Snorkeler gets up close and personal with one of the millions of jellyfish in Jellyfish Lake.

 

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“Touch down”
Silver in Animal Behavior
Marc Montocchio, North Carolina
Location: Baja, Mexico
Comment: Not only is a huge whale splashing down after breaching in the photo, but a closer look reveals a marlin, along with the sea lion.

 

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“Freediving Serenity”
Bronze in Divers
Joel Penner, California
Location: Tulum, Mexico
Comment: Tulum is said to have more diving diversity than anywhere else in the world.

 

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“Monterey Reef”
Gold in Reefscapes
Allison Vitsky Sallmon, Florida
Location: Monterey, California
Comment: Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary has been called the “Serengeti of the Sea.” It’s definitely a national undersea treasure and this is one of her jewels.

 

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“The Siege”
Gold in Animal Behavior
Martin Strmiska, Slovakia
Location: Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Comment: A marlin is mixed in with a school of sailfish dining on a “bait ball.” Seabirds enjoy a meal, too, when the billfish force the bait to the surface.

 

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“Los Gigantes”
Gold in Animal Portrait
Acevedo Eduardo, Spain
Location: Tenerife, Spain
Comment: Tenerife is said to be one of the top three whale and dolphin watching destinations in the world. Might not want to get this close to them, however.

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Finding your zenith in Zion on Angels Landing

Posted: 04 Apr 2014 01:20 PM PDT

Hang on tight: Angels Landing is one of Zion’s most famous hikes and it’s sure to take your breath away. Starting from the valley floor, you quickly go from walking along the Virgin River to an intense scramble with 1,000-foot sheer drop-offs on either side. Chains have been installed on the last half mile to help you safely navigate your way to the top of Angels Landing. And while you might be questioning your sanity on the hike up, once you make it to the top you’ll quickly realize it was all worth it.

This strenuous 5-mile round trip requires three to six hours to complete, based on your fitness level and how long you’d like to lounge at the top before heading back. Angels Landing is definitely not for the faint of heart; there’s a 1,500-foot elevation gain, and over the past few decades a handful of people have fallen to their death. But that shouldn’t deter you, so long as you’re aware, stay safe, and wear proper footwear. The trail is open year round, but the best times to visit are spring and fall. Enjoy the experience!

Find Travis Burke on Facebook and Instagram.

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Dogs excited by FedEx driver’s embarrassing moment

Posted: 04 Apr 2014 11:58 AM PDT

fedex truck

If dogs can laugh, then these three dogs in a fenced-in yard are a prime example of what that might look like as they witness an embarrassing moment for a FedEx truck driver that is caught on a home security camera. JW posted the hilarious scene, which unfolded Thursday, purported to be in Memphis, Tennessee:

Fortunately for the FedEx driver, who apparently failed to set the parking brake, he managed to open the driver’s-side door—otherwise that house on the corner would have gotten a special delivery. As it was, the open door hit a tree, causing the truck to change course and avoid the house. The runaway truck lost steam in the yard and came to a stop, perhaps aided by the fence.

The video is titled “Sometimes security cameras catch a gem!”

No doubt this is one.

The dogs certainly were entertained.

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Bison running on road fuels speculation that Yellowstone volcano will erupt

Posted: 04 Apr 2014 11:30 AM PDT

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Bison crowd the road in Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Neal Herbert/Yellowstone National Park

What do the animals know? Can their behavior portend natural events such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions?

That question remains debatable in the wake of a swift and seemingly urgent bison migration that was videotaped recently inside Yellowstone National Park.

What is known, however, is that people are quick to jump to conclusions, and that, thanks to social media and the simplicity with which people can steal the video footage of others, stories can spin wildly out of control.

The bison story is a case in point.

In at least two versions of the same footage, the bison were “running for their lives” from the mountains onto a paved road that leads out of the park. The great beasts were frantically fleeing the park, bloggers cautioned, and possibly signaling an imminent eruption of the so-called super-volcano, a vast magma chamber on which part of Yellowstone sits.

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Screen grab from video

“They detect something vast and deadly,” survivalist/blogger Tom Pupshu wrote in a post for a YouTube video report that he uploaded on March 23, several days after the first video footage of the buffalo stampede was posted. “The Yellowstone Supervolcano is the only thing there that would fit the bill. Watch the animals and watch them close, they will always give you a heads up before an event. Very strange, is the caldera about to blow?”

Stories have carried headlines such as this one, from the Epoch Times: “Yellowstone Volcano Eruption in 2014? Are Animals Fleeing Park As ‘An Alert’?”

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Bison gather on road; photo courtesy Yellowstone National Park

But here’s the twist. The original footage, uploaded on March 14 by Yellowstone Association sales associate Leo Leckie, was titled “Yellowstone Bison … On the Run!” (Video posted above. )

Leckie explained on his YouTube description that the herd was running from Mammoth Hot Springs deeper into the park, not fleeing the park. “If the herd matriarch gets the urge to run, she will… and the entire herd will run to keep up,” Leckie wrote.

This week he told the Los Angeles Times, “Those bison were running for the sake of running. There was nothing chasing them. There was no mudslide. They were just running.”

But copies of his footage carried other descriptions. “Yellowstone Buffalo Running for Their Lives!” read one copy, which as of Friday had garnered more than 1 million views.

Further fueling speculation that the running bison were signaling a major event was a 4.8-magnitude earthquake (later downgraded to a 4.7) that shook the park last Sunday. It was the strongest quake to hit the area in more than 30 years.

On Monday, the park, compelled to try to stifle rampant speculation, produced a “Rumor Control” video, featuring public affairs specialist Al Nash. (Video posted above.)

Nash explained that the earthquake produced no damage or injuries and was uncommon only in its strength. It might not even be linked to volcanic activity.

“We see between 1,000 and 3,000 earthquakes here a year,” Nash said. “It’s just part of the geologic situation that we find here in Yellowstone.”

Nash explained that bison, elk, and other animals will migrate out of the park to lower elevations each winter. This is nothing out of the ordinary. “When the snow melts off and things start to green up, those very same animals will walk right back into the park,” Nash said.

Of prospects of a super-volcano eruption, Nash said there have been no verifiable signs that an eruption will occur anytime soon. But that’s not to say there isn’t a lot of activity beneath the surface.

“Frankly,” Nash said, “We are just a few miles above some real hot magma. That magma serves as the heat that fuels the geysers and hot springs and fumaroles in the park. It’s that engine that allows for the unique things that we see here in Yellowstone. [But] we have seen no signs that the Yellowstone volcano is about to erupt.”

If only the bison could talk. Then we might truly get to the bottom of all this.

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Elk attempts to jump fence to follow massive herd but fails miserably

Posted: 04 Apr 2014 09:57 AM PDT

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An elk herd estimated at to be 200 in number jumps a fence and crosses a road near Yellowstone National Park. Photo is a screen grab from the video.

An incredibly large herd of elk followed the leader over a wire fence, across a roadway, and onto a snowy field. But for one elk, the exercise wasn’t so easy. After the entire herd crosses the road ahead of it, the elk not adept at jumping fences was left behind, struggling to get over a fence that was negotiated easily by the rest of the herd.

The incident occurred in Bozeman, Montana, near Yellowstone National Park, and was captured on video by Austin Stonnell. It’s a perfect example for the “If at first you don’t succeed…” axiom:

The elk left behind tried jumping over the fence, but that didn’t work. It tried going through the fence, but that didn’t work. It ran up and down next to the fence trying to find a better way through until a car passed and scared it away from the fence.

With a newfound determination, the elk finally made it over the fence and rejoined the herd after 1 1/2 minutes of trying.

In an email to GrindTV Outdoor, Stonnell described how he stumbled upon the scene and got the video:

“I was heading into town and thought it was a big herd of cows at first, but then I saw the alpha male leading the herd so I pulled out my camera and was gonna get some close-ups. But then they started jumping [over the fence].”

“I estimated there were 200 elk, but it may be less. I am fairly new to Montana so I thought this size of herd was normal, but no [it isn’t]. The largest herd I’ve seen until this was only a few elk. I felt so bad for the lone elk that I was close to hopping out of my car to cut the fence.”

In the end, that wasn’t necessary because the lone elk discovered the art of the running start.

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The lone elk finally managed to jump the fence after 1 1/2 minutes of trying. Photo is a screen grab from the video.

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Living local: The Surfing magazine swimsuit issue guide to Aruba

Posted: 03 Apr 2014 04:47 PM PDT

On set in Aruba at the Surfing Magazine Swimsuit Issue 2014; Photo courtesy of Surfing Magazine

On set in Aruba for the Surfing magazine 2014 swimsuit issue; photo courtesy Surfing magazine

Jason Lee Parry has a tough job. First he had to fly to the white-sand beaches of the islands and meet up with four beautiful models. Then he had to take pictures of them wearing this season’s sexiest swimwear. Did we say tough? We meant seriously envy-inducing. The arrival of the highly anticipated (and, in our case, shamelessly devoured) Surfing Magazine swimsuit issue on Friday has us pining for a trip to the shoot’s location: the sun-soaked shores of Aruba. But if slinking around in swimwear isn’t enough activity to fill your time there, the island offers plenty in the way of adventure. Follow in the footsteps of the swimsuit-issue crew to their beautiful-beyond-words shoot locations with this edition of “Living Local.” Model entourage not included.

The Old Man and The Sea is a must-visit on your last night on Aruba; Photo courtesy of the Aruba Tourism Authority

The Old Man and The Sea is a must-visit on your last night in Aruba. Photo courtesy Aruba Tourism Authority

Fly into: The Queen Beatrix International Airport, a newly renovated hub for the Caribbean served by Aruba Airlines and a slew of international carriers, including direct flights from many major cities in North America. (You’ll need a passport to enter.) The U.S. dollar and major credit cards are widely accepted, but it’s a good idea to carry smaller bills, since $50s and $100s may not be accepted due to counterfeiting problems. Dutch and the local language, Papiamento, are the official languages of Aruba, but most Arubans speak a minimum of four languages, including English and Spanish.

There's an impressive cave system and plenty of short day hikes in Aruba for those tired of water thrills; Photo courtesy of Surfing Magazine

There’s an impressive cave system and plenty of short day hikes in Aruba for those tired of water thrills. Photo courtesy Surfing magazine

Check in: While the swimsuit-issue crew settled in at the beachfront Holiday Inn Resort Aruba, they also scouted out the Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba, a boutique-style hotel made up of 14 casitas spread out in the gardens of a historical coconut plantation at Palm Beach. Each house comes with a fully equipped kitchen, a private patio with your own hammock and BBQ grill, air conditioning, and free Wi-Fi. For a cheaper alterative, check out sites like AirBnB for local daily and weekly rentals.

Get certified to scuba dive at an Aruba resort to see the reefs and sunken ships around the island; Photo courtesy of the Aruba Tourism Authority

Get certified to scuba dive at an Aruba resort to see the reefs and sunken ships around the island. Photo courtesy Aruba Tourism Authority

Get wet: Located just 15 miles north of Venezuela, Aruba is home to that bathtub-warm water famous in the Caribbean. Add white-sand beaches and consistent 82-degree sunny days to the mix and you have the recipe for the perfect shoot. The swimsuit issue was shot on Dos Playas, Baby Beach, Mangel Halto, Renaissance Island, and Palm Beach, all of which offer a long list of water activities; windsurfing, kite surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, sailing, kayaking, and submarine tours top the list. You can take a Resort Certification Scuba Diving Course if you’ve never been below the surface; it’s worth the money, since visibility is up to 90 feet. Off the northwest tip of the island, near Palm Beach, you’ll find part of a German ship that sank there in the beginning of World War II—now a popular dive spot. If sail sports are more your thing, Aruba is host to the annual Hi-Winds Windsurfing Pro-Am Grand Prix World Cup every June.

Aruba's water temperature rarely dips below 72-degrees, making it ideal for snorkeling...or swimsuit shoots; Photo courtesy of Surfing Magazine

Aruba’s water temperature rarely dips below 72 degrees, making it ideal for snorkeling—or swimsuit shoots. Photo courtesy Surfing magazine

Dry off: The swimsuit-issue models got the chance to explore the backdrop of one set at Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins, the remnants of an abandoned gold mill that once processed ore from mines in the nearby hills during a gold rush that happened on the island during the 1400s and 1500s. (Gold was discovered and the island produced more than three million pounds of the shiny stuff!) You’ll find this one on the northern coast, halfway down the island. Arikok National Park is part of the 20 percent of the island dedicated to nature preservation, offering up dramatic landscapes filled with hiking trails and wildlife.

Getting the shot for the Swimsuit Issue; Photo courtesy of Surfing Magazine

Getting the shot for the swimsuit issue; photo courtesy Surfing magazine

The windy coastline of Aruba is home to cave formations and ancient rock drawings. Try Guadirikiri Cave if you’re looking for bats, Fontein if you want cave paintings, and Huliba if want to see the heart-shaped opening at its entrance (dubbed the “Tunnel of Love”). In addition to endless rock formations and hiking opportunities, the island offers up pristine golf, horseback riding, sand dunes, ATV and Jeep tours, spas, skydiving, a donkey sanctuary, and the Aruba Aloe Museum and Factory, where you can pick up some skincare products to soothe that sunburn you’re accumulating.

The shrimp basket at Zeerovers; Photo courtesy of the Aruba Tourism Authority

The shrimp basket at Zeerover; photo courtesy Aruba Tourism Authority

Chill out: After a long morning shooting (hey, they were working, after all) the swimsuit-issue crew ate at Zeerover for lunch, a sea-to-grill restaurant that serves up wahoo, snapper, barracuda, or kingfish; the price you pay is determined by weight. (Don’t forget to order the fried plantains.) At night, they ate at the Flying Fishbone, a gourmet seafood and meat restaurant where guests dine sans shoes; the tables are actually in the water. To cap off the day, they suggest hitting up Charlie’s Bar for drinks (and island tradition) or The Old Man and The Sea, a private residence-turned-hideaway with hand-painted menu covers, a cushioned lounge area, and a beach-bungalow feel. Hey, it’s no swimsuit photo shoot, but we have a feeling you won’t mind the view.

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Putting the ‘adventure’ in adventure photography – My Playground

Posted: 03 Apr 2014 03:18 PM PDT


Travis Burke has an insatiable appetite for adventure. Growing up in California, he spent most of his time outdoors. “My parents took me camping a lot and I was into all the typical stuff: surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding,” he says. But he never committed to any active hobby until he found photography.

“Which quickly became ‘adventure photography,’ for me,” he says. “Because I kept finding myself in these amazing places, seeing and trying amazing things, but would end up with nothing to show for it. So it sort of began as a selfish thing.”

What better way to take in the view than to become part of it? This is what they came for. Photo by Travis Burke

What better way to take in the view than to become part of it? This is what they came for. Photo by Travis Burke

Yet as his behind-the-lens skills rapidly evolved, doors opened. Today Burke spends the vast majority of his time documenting adventure sports. But, being the curious cat he is, he’s not satisfied sitting on the sidelines. He likes to partake in the action too, which is what separates him from the rest and gets him into some pretty sketchy situations.

Jerry Miszewski has been walking lines for close to a decade, and he's a lot more relaxed in scary situations than he should be. Photo by Travis Burke

Jerry Miszewski has been walking lines for close to a decade, and he’s a lot more relaxed in scary situations than he should be. Photo by Travis Burke

Whether surfing an outer reef in Oregon, sail-boarding through Death Valley, or hiking a 300-mile stretch of the Pacific Coast Trail—which he did with his parents last fall—after nailing a few shots, Burke will try anything once. To his credit, he’s chalked up a variety of exploits touring the American Southwest over the past few years for GrindTV.

Last summer, Burke stopped by the office of yours truly claiming his most intense mission yet. He’d just spent a few days with Jerry Miszewski, one of the world’s best highliners, on a trip through Arizona and Utah, where they were hunting scenic places to walk their lines. Highlining, in case you’re wondering, is exactly what it sounds like: Find two high points, connect them with what appears to be a scrawny little slackline, and get walking.

Burke was so fascinated by what Miszewski and his friends were doing that he decided to buy his own slackline to learn. He practiced in his backyard, religiously, until he felt he had it pretty down. Then, a few weeks ago, he joined Miszewski for a follow-up mission. “He’s always looking for inspirational places, and the whole Southwest is filled with beautiful spots that are amazing to capture. So first and foremost, I wanted to capture him doing his thing,” says Burke. “But yeah, I also wanted to show him what I’d learned and give it a try.”

The crew found several solid crossing routes on their latest adventure, and each had its rewards. Photo by Travis Burke

The crew found several solid crossing routes on their latest adventure, and each had its rewards. Photo by Travis Burke

Of course, being 350 feet above a canyon floor presents a little bigger challenge than being 2 feet off the backyard lawn. “Your mind starts tripping the second you tell it you’re going,” says Burke. “There’s this whole internal battle you face trying to suppress all your survival instincts, because your brain doesn’t want to register all the safety equipment. It’s crazy.”

After plenty of preparation, and with guidance from Miszewski, Burke was able to suppress his fears and walk a 130-foot line more than 300 feet above a canyon floor. As you can see in the video above, it was no easy feat. The longer the line, the more it moves, increasing the degree of difficulty.

“That was probably the most intense thing I’ve ever done,” he says. And I believe him.

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Newborn critter isn’t a sheep or a goat, so most people are calling it a geep

Posted: 03 Apr 2014 12:38 PM PDT

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Rare hybrid “geep” roams Paddy Murphy’s farm with momma sheep; screen grab from video

It’s being called both a geep and a shoat, but whatever folks may call the newborn critter roaming Paddy Murphy’s farm in Ireland, it’s a very rare animal.

The cross between a goat and a sheep was born about two weeks ago, to the surprise of Murphy, a lifelong sheep farmer who had never seen anything like it.

“It had all the hallmarks of a goat,” he told the Irish Farmers Journal. “I knew a goat had gotten in among a few of the [sheep, five months ago]. I didn’t know what would turn out. They were all normal lambs apart from this fella. He looks like a goat, trapped in a lamb’s body.”

The Farmers Journal produced the accompanying video, titling it “Ewe gotta be kidding.”

In the footage, the geep or shoat can be seen scurrying around with what looks to be momma sheep, a sheep dog keeping tabs on their movements.

“Oh, he’s like a deer,” Murphy says of the geep’s surprising quickness and agility. “He’s so fast it’s unbelievable. He’s so fast now, you have to get him into the pen to catch him. There’s no chance you’ll catch him otherwise.”

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Paddy Murphy displays newborn cross between a goat and a sheep, or a geep; screen grab from video

A BBC News story states that a spokeswoman for the Ulster Farmers Union said it was not aware of the existence of any other so-called geep in Northern Ireland. The UFU described its live birth as a very rare event.

Murphy, who also owns a pub, said the geep, which is sprouting horns, is a great source of amusement.

“He’s an unusual character,” Murphy said. “I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

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Skydiver nearly gets hit by a meteorite

Posted: 03 Apr 2014 12:34 PM PDT

A skydiver in Norway captured incredible video of an extinguished meteorite shooting past him soon after he deployed his parachute, something that has never been seen before, let alone been recorded.

“This is the first time in history that a meteorite has been filmed in the air after its light goes out,” geologist Hans Amundsen told the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, Norway’s largest media organization also know as NRK.

Skydiver Anders Helstrup was lucky. The rock very nearly hit him, it passed so close.

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Meteorite (circled) nearly hits skydiver Anders Helstrup. Photo is a screen grab from the video.

Helstrup, skydiving with other members of Oslo Parachute Club in the Rena area, opened his parachute and suddenly experienced an unusual sensation.

“I got the feeling that there was something, but it didn’t register what was happening,” he told NRK.

Upon landing, Helstrup looked at the video recorded from his helmet cameras.

photo collage from video report

Meteorite shown in a collage. Photo is a screen grab from NRK’s report.

“When we stopped the film, we could clearly see something that looked like a stone,” he said. “At first it crossed my mind that it had been packed into a parachute, but it’s simply too big for that.”

In the days afterward, Helstrup and his girlfriend searched extensively in the forested area where he surmised the rock might have landed. Unsuccessful in finding the rock, Helstrup went to the Natural History Museum in Oslo with his video.

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Enhanced look at the meteorite rock. Photo is a screen grab from NRK’s video report.

“The film caused a sensation in the meteorite community,” Helstrup told NRK. “They seemed convinced that this was a meteorite, perhaps I was the one who was the most skeptical.”

Helstrup still isn’t sure, but Amundsen said it couldn’t be anything else, and believes it was part of a larger stone that might have exploded 12 miles above Helstrup. He thought it was a breccia, otherwise known as a common type of meteorite rock.

In NRK’s video report below, Amundsen surmised it came from an asteroid in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, began falling towards the gravity of the Sun, reached the speed of perhaps five times the velocity of a bullet, and got caught by Earth’s gravity.

“If you’d jumped a fraction of a second later, you’d be dead,” Amundsen told Helstrup in NRK’s report above. “It would have cut him in half. Imagine a 5-kilo [11-pound] rock hitting you in the chest at 300 kilometers [186 miles] per hour. That would have led to quite an accident investigation.”

The incident occurred in the summer of 2012 but was made public for the first time Thursday in an effort to get help finding the valuable rock, a venture being called Project Dark Flight. Numerous videos were posted about the incident on the Dark Flight YouTube channel and a website was to launch, though it wasn’t functional last we checked.

Asked for the probability of filming an extinguished meteorite during a parachute jump, Amundsen gave his best guess: “It’s certainly much less likely than winning the lottery three times in a row.”

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Himalayan bus ride is not for faint of heart

Posted: 03 Apr 2014 09:56 AM PDT

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Himalayan bus ride image is a video screen grab

Anyone considering a sight-seeing trip in the Himalayas should be wary about which bus they board.

But don’t take our word for it. Just watch the accompanying video clip, which reveals a harrowing and precarious Himalayan bus ride along a road that seems best left for mountain critters. (Video contains a single profane word.)

There is a sheer cliff to one side, and a gaping canyon that spills thousands of feet below immediately to the other. The road leads beneath at least one enormous overhang, beneath which the bus or van can barely fit, and through the middle of a cascading waterfall.

There is absolutely no room for error.

Numerous copies of the clip have been circulating on the Web for the past week. One of them mentions the possible name of the treacherous route: Pangi-Kishtar Road.

The man narrating the clip seems to be masking his fright with a humorous front. “Absolutely the maddest road I’ve ever been down,” he says, nervously, after the driver of the bus or van negotiates the rocky overhang.

If nothing else, the clip may remind travelers about some of the scary roads on which they’ve driven.

Thankfully, the scariest stretch I’ve been on is a narrow strip of dirt road leading to a lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The dropoff is  perhaps 1,000 feet, and drivers are pressed to the edge of the precipice only if another vehicle is passing from the opposite direction.

It’s a bit harrowing for only a few seconds. Pangi-Kishtar Road, by comparison, is pure madness.

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Yosemite opens in-park paddling to Merced River recreationists

Posted: 02 Apr 2014 03:13 PM PDT

California's Merced River is now open to paddling inside Yosemite National Park.

California’s Merced River is now open to paddling inside Yosemite National Park. Photo by Paul Martzen/American Whitewater

Kayakers and rafters have a new cliff-lined paddling playground in the heart of Yosemite National Park. While California’s Merced River has long been a hotbed of paddling outside the boundaries of the park, paddlers have now gotten the green light for a coveted section within the park as well. Yosemite National Park recently released its new Wild and Scenic Final Comprehensive Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement for California’s Merced River, putting paddling on the same footing as climbing and hiking within the park’s boundaries.

“The big take-home message and biggest coup is [the] park’s treatment of boating,” says American Whitewater’s California stewardship director, Dave Steindorf. “Now they’re treating it as just another way to travel through the landscape, just as backpackers and horsebackers. And the user numbers are in line with other trailhead users.”

The new plan places paddling on equal footing with other park activities by managing visitor numbers similarly. (The percentage of visitors who boat is estimated to be less than five percent, which is comparable to the park’s climber and backpacker use.) The plan considers river segments as “water trails” or backcountry routes, opening new segments to boating for the first time.

What’s all this spell for floaters? Official access to what Steindorf calls the “best one-day river trip you can do anywhere.”

While the traditional 3-mile, calm-water “pool toy” and raft-rental stretch in the heart of the valley remains unchanged user-wise—it still takes floaters from the horse corrals by Stoneman Bridge/Lower River Campground to Sentinel Beach—now an additional 45 private boaters per day will be able to run the river through the entire length of Yosemite Valley, a section that was closed before. The stretch goes 5.5 miles from Sentinel to Phono, including a 2-mile Class I section to the El Cap Bridge and an additional 3.5 miles to Phono, rated Class III–IV. “It’s an incredible section,” says Steindorf. “The rapids are actually a distraction … you just want to sit there and look up all the time. It’s by far the best way to see the valley.”

Merced River

Recreationists will be expected to have the right gear, in good condition, to explore the new in-park sections of the Merced River. Photo by Jose Gil / Shutterstock.com

Steindorf recommends making the trip before Memorial Day to avoid crowds, and says that they’re still working out the details of permit allocations, which will likely be a combination of online and onsite sign-up options. “And bring a bike and ride your shuttle to avoid the extra car fee inside the park,” he says.

Additional kayaking options that are much harder in difficulty have also been opened by the plan; they are still in the park, but outside of the valley. Daily-use limits will range between 10 people per day through the Class V+ Merced Gorge and 50 people per day on the Class IV+ section from El Portal to the park boundary. “The gorge section isn’t for everyone,” Steindorf says. “It starts out as Class V+, and then it gets hard.” Additionally, the multi-day, self-support Class V South Merced is now also officially regulated, with user capacities set at 25 people per day, as is the multi-day pack-raft section above Nevada Falls.

Park officials expect that the river’s hydrology will play a hand in managing boating use. With boatable flows rarely extending through July, the park expects most people will boat between March and May. To paddle in the park, boaters will be required to have boats that are in good condition and designed to handle the class of whitewater on that reach. Running that reaches Class II and above will require additional safety and self-rescue equipment. Boaters will also be required to use established put-in and take-out locations, and to avoid sensitive riparian vegetation. As part of the park’s natural ecosystem, large woody debris in the river will remain in place.

“We came to the conclusion that it’s unfeasible to do some sort of skills test,” Steindorf says. “The best way is to let people’s equipment determine the run they can do. It’s the best way to ensure that people with the necessary skills and equipment will be enjoying the river safely.”

In other Yosemite Valley news, the park also released its new plan for the nearby Tuolumne, “officially” opening the coveted multi-day Class V Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne to paddling. “All indications are that it’s similar to what we’ve seen on [the] Merced plan,” Steindorf says. “We commend the park for its open process in developing these plans and finding a balance that will allow for increased paddling opportunities while ensuring resource protection. The Park Service listened, which is great.”

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Tiger shark nursed back to life amid Australia’s controversial shark-culling program

Posted: 02 Apr 2014 12:58 PM PDT

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Tiger shark being nursed back to life by conservationists; photo tweeted by NoWASharkCull.

A dying tiger shark off Australia was nursed back to life by divers who took turns swimming with the shark for one and a half hours in an effort to keep it upright and to get oxygen into its gills. Just as the conservationists were about to give up, the shark kicked, indicating new life.

After a couple more strong kicks, the tiger shark regained its strength and swam off on its own, The Australian and WA Today reported Wednesday.

The success story comes amid the controversial shark-culling program implemented as a means to reduce the risk of shark attacks off the Western Australian coast.

The program, launched in January and scheduled to run until April 30, involves WA Fisheries deploying baited drum lines (baited fishing lines connected to a floating drum) just over half a mile off Perth’s metropolitan beaches.

Any tiger shark, bull shark, or great white shark longer than 3 meters (9.8 feet) caught on the hooks are shot dead. Smaller ones are measured, tagged, and released. But they aren’t always released alive or in good shape, since the sharks could have been hooked for up to 14 hours before the lines were checked.

When fisheries officials released a 7.8-foot tiger shark near Trigg Beach, observers on three boats noted that it was floating just under the surface and began turning upside down, indicating imminent death.

About 15 divers from a Sea Shepherd vessel and an Animal Amnesty boat began taking turns swimming with the tiger shark in an effort to revive it. Sea Shepherd released this video showing part of the rescue:

Among the divers were shark conservationists Riley Elliott, a PhD student at the University of Auckland, and Ocean Ramsey, the Hawaiian who came to fame when she was photographed riding the dorsal fin of a huge great white shark.

“It wasn’t particularly dangerous,” Amy-Lea Wilkins of Animal Amnesty told The Australian. “We could see the shark was close to death and it was a matter of everyone taking turns—two people swimming with the shark and one spotter.

“We kept tickling it under the chin and moving it to help get the oxygen into its system. It was really beautiful to see it swim off.”

Other sharks aren’t as fortunate.

tiger shark

Tiger shark is nursed back to life by a team of divers, including Riley Elliott, shown here; photo tweeted by NoWASharkCull.

Ramsey described to The Australian seeing an 11-foot tiger shark shot and dumped at sea and a 3-foot tiger shark appearing to be dead after being released “alive.”

“It’s a complete waste of life because of the ineffectiveness of the methods,” Ramsey said. “The small sharks aren’t surviving and the large ones are tortured for a long period of time before they are eventually put out of their misery.

“The Fisheries guys just don’t know how to handle the animals. They were unable to kill [the larger shark]. They started dragging it out as if they had killed [it] and then they realized they hadn’t killed it so they had to stop and shoot it again.

“It’s hard [to witness] for someone who works with sharks and gets to see them alive, to see how beautiful and misunderstood they are. I feel like this cull is just coming out of fear and is a knee-jerk reaction by politicians because they feel like they have to do something.”

Billionaire Richard Branson also weighed in on this “catch and kill” program, tweeting on Wednesday, “Stop killing sharks for behaving like sharks.” He also wrote about why Western Australia’s shark cull must stop.

“This entire policy to protect the beaches came about to save tourism because everyone feared the sharks,” Elliott told The Guardian. “What they’ve done is far more damaging to their image, and how people view Western Australia, than the six or seven shark attacks that there were.”

WA Today reported that between January 25 and March 16, 110 sharks had been caught. Sixty-six were released and 31 were shot; the remainder were in such poor condition that fisheries officials euthanatized them.

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Off-the-map beaches to hit for spring break

Posted: 02 Apr 2014 11:43 AM PDT

Spring break has historical ties to beach vacations, but it also has some negative connotations. By this point in the year, there’s a good chance want to be somewhere warm and sunny, but maybe you don’t want to deal with obnoxious crowds or too-drunk fraternity brothers. In that case, here are some alternative options.

The empty Outer Banks, a spring break escape for East Coasters; photo by Phyllis Magnolia/Flickr

The empty Outer Banks, a spring break escape for East Coasters; photo by Phyllis Magnolia/Flickr

Outer Banks, North Carolina
The East Coast’s most interesting stretch is arguably the Outer Banks, the barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina that run from Duck at the northern tip to Ocracoke in the south. The Outer Banks have a ton of interesting history, and there’s lots to do to there. For surfers, the beaches tend to pick up north swell in the spring, and for fishermen, this time of year is prime for surf casting. You can hang glide down some of the biggest sand dunes in the country at Jockey’s Ridge. Hatteras has beach camping, including three National Park Service campgrounds.

Beverly Beach, Oregon, offers a PNW escape for spring break. Photo courtesy Oregon State Parks

Beverly Beach, Oregon, offers a PNW escape for spring break. Photo courtesy Oregon State Parks

Beverly Beach, Oregon
Oregon’s coast, with its rocky shoreline and steep bluffs, holds some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. You’ve probably seen a million pictures of the rocks at Cannon Beach, and, if you’re a child of the ’80s, you know Astoria from the Goonies. A little bit farther south, lesser-known Beverly Beach has the same dramatic views, plus you can surf the northern part of the beach and stay in one of 21 state-run yurts instead of camping. It won’t be tropical this time of year (or ever), but it’s beautiful and crowd free.

San Diego’s a perennial spring-break favorite for hordes of college students, but Jalama’s got the charm of Santa Barbara County and is far less crowded. Photo by Damian Gadal

San Diego’s a perennial spring-break favorite for hordes of college students, but Jalama’s got the charm of Santa Barbara County and is far less crowded. Photo by Damian Gadal

Jalama Beach, California
Just north of Santa Barbara, Jalama Beach, which is a county park, has surf that goes off all year round. The currents are strong and the surf can be heavy, so it’s not a beginner break, but there’s a left reef break, and a beach break, and the whole area is beautiful. You can camp right along the beach and get anything you need—including much-hyped Jalama Burgers—at the Jalama Beach Store. Plus, if you want some spring break in your spring break, UCSB isn’t too far, so if you’re jonesing for some partying you can get that too.

Shi Shi Beach offers a spring break experience that just screams Pacific Northwest. Photo by Heather Hansman

Shi Shi Beach offers a spring break experience that just screams Pacific Northwest. Photo by Heather Hansman

Shi Shi Beach, Washington
Shi Shi, on the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, can be slammed in the summer, and it’s not hard to see why. An easy, flat, 2-mile walk from the trailhead gets you access to a beautiful, miles-long beach. There are tide pools full of starfish, rock towers to climb and scramble on, driftwood to collect for beach bonfires, and good swell for surfing. In the spring, before the crowds and families hit, you can have the place to yourself. You access the beach from the Makah Indian Reservation, so you need a recreation pass from the tribe, which you can get at gas stations in Neah Bay, the last town you hit before you make it to the beach.

The Florida side of Gulf Islands National Seashore is a drivable spring break option for those who want to avoid the Daytona Beach set. Photo courtesy National Parks Service

The Florida side of Gulf Islands National Seashore is a drivable spring break option for those who want to avoid the Daytona Beach set. Photo courtesy National Parks Service

Gulf Islands National Seashore
The very best way to beach camp is to get yourself out to an island and post up for a while. On the Gulf Island National Seashore, which spans Florida and Mississippi in the Gulf of Mexico, you can do just that. You can camp on seven of the 12 islands in the park, and they’re all good bases for hiking, boating, snorkeling, and fishing. Most of the Mississippi side is accessible only by boat, but you can drive to the sandy beaches on the Florida side.

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Drone-hunting measure shot down by voters in Deer Trail, Colorado

Posted: 02 Apr 2014 09:54 AM PDT

drone1

Drone image courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Last July, the small town of Deer Trail, Colorado, made national headlines when it moved to legalize the hunting of drones.

“We don’t want drones in town,” longtime resident Phillip Steele explained. “They fly in town, they get shot down.”

But on Tuesday, the measure that would have allowed the sale of $25 drone-hunting licenses was shot down by voters.

drone,jpeg

Screen grab from ABC 7 News

Of Deer Trail’s 348 registered voters, 181 submitted ballots and 73 percent of voters rejected the measure.

It’s worth noting that the drone-hunting plan was mostly a means of protest against the increasing use of drones for surveillance; it was not meant to be taken seriously.

Shooting at government drones, of course, is a federal crime.

But the plan, apparently, became a serious issue. The Denver Post reports that Deer Trail Mayor Frank Fields was voted out of office on Tuesday, and some residents believed it was because of his stance in favor of the drone-hunting measure.

When the ordinance was drawn up last summer, it contained this description:

“The Town of Deer Trail shall issue a reward of $100 to any shooter who presents a valid hunting license and the following identifiable parts of an unmanned aerial vehicle whose markings and configuration are consistent with those used on any similar craft known to be owned or operated by the United States federal government.”

Applicants would have had to be at least 21 years old and able to “read and understand English.”

The ordinance would have allowed the use of only shotguns 12 gauge or smaller, making it virtually impossible for anyone to actually hit a high-flying drone.

Votes on the measure were delayed several times, but finally the issue has been settled and the skies over Deer Trail appear to be safe for unmanned aircraft, even if many in town don’t like it.

Said Steele, “Basically, I do not believe in the idea of a surveillance society, and I believe we are heading that way.”

Hat tip to NPR.

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