GrindTV.com - Outdoor Blog


Lightning images make striking composition

Posted: 19 Aug 2014 02:44 PM PDT

Lightning Composites

Multiple images of lightning bolts are combined into one stunning composite photo. Photo by Tomas Hulik/Caters News Agency used by permission

An intense storm was moving in and prospects for lots of lightning were strong, so photographer Tomas Hulik set up his camera in the window of his 12th floor apartment in Devinska Nova Ves, Bratislava, Slovakia, in hopes of capturing the storm’s intensity in photos.

It was the most violent lightning storm he had ever encountered, Caters News Agency reported Tuesday, and it did not disappoint.

Over the course of 81 minutes, Hulik snapped multiple exposures of lightning and then used Photoshop to create one electrifying photo displaying all the lightning bolts, as you see in the above photo.

“During the 81 minutes, I could not count how many lightning strikes there were, but it was the most I have ever seen in a single storm,” Hulik told Caters.

“The sound was incredible and lit up the night sky like I have never seen before. It was a constant barrage of lightning. I must admit, there was even some points when I felt a little nervous.

“I knew it would make for a wonderful Photoshop composition and I could not be happier with the time-lapse video, there is something truly fascinating about this kind of extreme weather.”

Here’s a look at his time-lapse video:

In addition to the above photo, Hulik also created a composition photo from images of lightning bolts he shot over Hofom Castle. The image is no-less compelling than the other.

Lightning strikes over Hofom Castle in Slovakia is Photoshopped into one striking image. Photo by Tomas Hulik/Caters News Agency used by permission

Lightning strikes over Hofom Castle in Slovakia is Photoshopped into one striking image. Photo by Tomas Hulik/Caters News Agency used by permission

“I had heard that there was going to be a chance of some serious lightning in the area so I knew I had to try and capture it,” he said.

In a sense, it was like trying to catch lightning in a bottle—and he succeeded beautifully.

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Killer whale flips sea lion 20 feet into air

Posted: 19 Aug 2014 11:18 AM PDT

sea lion

A killer whale flips a sea lion into the air in Ketchikan, Alaska. Photo is a screen grab from the amazing video

Fishermen in Ketchikan, Alaska, were watching a sea lion take refuge under their boat as it attempted to hide from a killer whale. Unfortunately, the sea lion failed to keep up with the charter boat from Anglers Adventures when the fishermen decided it was time to move on. Someone on board kept their camera rolling and caught this amazing encounter on video:

“This morning near Ketchikan, Alaska, a sea lion was hiding under our fishing boat because he was being stalked by a killer whale,” Anglers Adventures wrote in the YouTube description of the August 15 encounter. “When we decided to leave the area, the whale attacked the sea lion and tossed him 20 feet into the air!”

The fishermen, as you can hear by their reaction, were totally amazed by the display of nature.

“Did you get that on video,” someone says.

“Yeah, I got that,” came the reply.

It was unknown whether the killer whale ended up eating the sea lion. It might have, but it also could simply have been playing with the sea lion or teaching its young how to hunt.

Surely it wasn’t a playful moment for the sea lion.

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Sea plankton discovered outside space station

Posted: 19 Aug 2014 10:12 AM PDT

Sea plankton was discovered on the outside of the International Space Station. Photo by NASA from Wikimedia Commons

Sea plankton was discovered on the outside of the International Space Station. Photo by NASA from Wikimedia Commons

Russian scientists conducting experiments on the outside surface of the International Space State made a puzzling discovery, one made all the more remarkable because it’s something that whales eat.

Samples taken from illuminators and the surface of the space station were found to have traces of sea plankton and other microorganisms, but scientists are baffled as to how they got there, the Russian chief of the orbital mission told the ITAR-TASS News Agency.

“Results of the experiment are absolutely unique,” chief of the Russian ISS orbital mission Vladimir Solovyev told ITAR-TASS. “We have found traces of sea plankton and microscopic particles on the illuminator surface. This should be studied further.”

The study shows that the sea plankton and organisms can live in space despite lack of oxygen, zero gravity, extreme temperatures, and cosmic radiation, and they proved these organisms can even develop.

More from Will Stewart in Moscow for the U.K. Express:

The news agency reported that Mr. Solovyev was uncertain “how these microscopic particles could have appeared on the surface of the space station,” adding that the organisms were not typical for Baikonur in Kazakhstan, from where the space station lifted off.

“Plankton in these stages of development could be found on the surface of the oceans.

“This is not typical for Baikonur. It means that there are some uplifting air currents which reach the station and settle on its surface,” he was quoted as saying.

The discovery was made using high-precision equipment in the experiment, apparently prompted during an operation to clean and polish the International Space Station, the Express reported.

As Solovyev said, this should be studied further.

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The Heavy Pedal Tour attempts the Butte 100

Posted: 19 Aug 2014 06:00 AM PDT

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

The Butte 100, a mountain bike race just outside of Butte, Montana, features an astounding 16,600 feet of climbing and is touted as the “most difficult mountain bike race in the country.” That quote is attributed to one Tinker Juarez, a three-time winner of the race. Tinker wasn’t on hand this year to defend, but Galen and I were present and decided to give it a crack.

Butte 100

The Heavy Pedal Tour attempts the Butte 100

There is also a Butte 50-mile event, in addition to the 100 miler; the Bureau of Land Management does cap total registration at a combined 250 riders for both events, due to concerns about overuse in one day, and the 2014 edition sold out in an astonishing 4 minutes 23 seconds, while the 100 miler filled up in just 13 minutes. Without question, event organizer Gina Evans, and her outstanding crew of volunteers, known as the “Neon Army” for their brightly colored attire, have created an exemplary mountain bike experience.

A 6 a.m. start time is hard to adhere to in the best of scenarios, and given that we were coming off of Evel Knievel Day—including the urban downhill race on Thursday, as well as the Black Flag show Friday night and then followed by staying up until 2:30 a.m. getting our gear ready—it’s a minor miracle that we rolled out of the now-deserted starting area at 6:45.

butte 100

There was a lot of beer to drink, which made finishing the second loop of the Butte 100 less appealing

The Butte 100 is made up of two sections: a north loop, and a south loop. Run in a figure-eight format, the north loop comes first and is mostly Jeep road and two-track. Plenty of banked turns and high-speed descents kept this segment interesting, and we were sure to stop for repeated runs down rock-strewn slopes and off-camber corners. It was also a blazingly hot day.

We encountered one rider, Keith from Alberta, who was on his third attempt to conquer the 100. Sadly for him, his freehub body “bought the farm” approximately 10 miles from the halfway point. He made a valiant effort to hike it out, but time constraints led race organizers to haul him in on the back of a quad wheel.

The Heavy Pedal Tour does the Butte 100

The Heavy Pedal Tour does the Butte 100

What Galen and I didn’t count on was taking 9.5 hours to conquer this first loop, so that by the time we reached the start/finish, and the beginning of the south loop, it was nearly 4 p.m.

Now, I’m no fan of DNFing, but there was realistically no chance of us finishing in a timely manner. This was a major bummer, as the south loop features large swaths of singletrack, utilizing the excellent Continental Divide Trail. (In retrospect, we should have opted for the Butte 50, which simply eliminates the north loop and runs the south loop in its entirety.)

An executive decision was made to throw in the towel, and to cheer on the remaining finishers. There were also three kegs to help consume, food to recharge our tired bones, and plans made to return the next day to ride the south loop singletrack. These plans would be derailed, not for lack of trying, but because the Butte and Helena area is primed full of singletrack, and we had a hard time narrowing it down.

Tune in next time as we dissect the Discovery Bike Park, Philipsburg, Montana’s finest drinking establishments, and some hellacious mosquitos on the gnarly Muskrat Creek Trail outside of Boulder, Montana.

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Enjoy this majestic, outdoor-lover’s paradise

Posted: 19 Aug 2014 03:00 AM PDT

Minnesota’s Boundary Waters

Empty lakes in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters. Photo by Heather Hansman

Northern Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which covers more than 800,000 acres of lakes, rocky islands, and canals along the Canadian Border, is one of the most beautiful and remote places in the country. You can disappear for days—fishing, skipping between lakes, paddling, and swimming. The best way to see it is by canoe, because there’s only one hiking trail that cuts through the wilderness and motorboats are forbidden on all but a few of the lakes. So find a boat, practice your J stroke, and head north.

Why go

Because it’s beautiful, remote, and pristine. And outside of Minnesota it’s not well-known, which means it’s uncrowded and relatively untouched. You’ll pass groups of Boy Scouts from Minneapolis and dads from Duluth on the portages, but for the most part you’ll be in deep, beautiful wilderness by yourself.

Where to go

Ely, Minnesota, a tiny town close to many of the put-in zones, is your best bet for staging. The town, which is full of outfitters and gear shops, has everything you’ll need. Rent gear and boats, go grocery shopping, and have your last shower. Even the liquor stores in town are geared toward paddlers, with multiple varieties of boxed wine and beer in plastic bottles. You can either supply your own trip, or get geared up through an outfitter in town. Outfitting ranges from simple boat rentals to full ride packages complete with guides.

Minnesota’s Boundary Waters

Deserted campsites in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters. Photo by Heather Hansman

What to know

Planning can be overwhelming, because your trip will be based on the put-in zone you get a permit for. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources only lets a certain number of people in to each spot per day, which is good for crowd management, but means you need some foresight. Check out their site here.

The Boundary Waters are an amalgam of multi-sized lakes, which means you’ll be portaging (carrying your canoe and gear) between them. Portages are measured in rods, which are equivalently the length of a canoe. Bring shoes you can walk in—some of the portages are nearly a mile—and make sure your boat is outfitted to carry on your shoulders.

Bring a fishing rod. The area is known for prime walleye fishing. It’s also know to be serious mosquito country, especially in the early summer, so be prepared to get bitten, especially on the portages when you’re deep in the woods.

There are designated campsites, and they tend to be situated far away from each other to add to the feeling of solitude. It’s nice, but it can be heartbreaking to show up at one late, just to find that it’s occupied. Lock down your site early in the day, then take time to fish and swim.

Minnesota’s Boundary Waters

Looking for fish in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters. Photo by Heather Hansman

What to bring

A bug net (see above), gear for camping over an open fire (all the campsite have grills), and your bathing suit (because, you know, of the pristine lakes). Pack it all in a Duluth Pack, a locally made, square-shaped backpack specifically designed to fit in a canoe, and schlep your gear on a portage.

What to eat

Northern Minnesota, and Ely in particular, has a surprisingly dense local food scene, and much of it is geared toward paddlers. You can get locally made granola, Crapola, which is delicious, as well as locally roasted coffee, and, because you’re going to be camping, meals that have been freeze dried right in town. Plus, if you’re fishing, you’ll be catching dinner.

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Finn Iles belies his age, wins Whip-Off title

Posted: 18 Aug 2014 03:46 PM PDT

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Finn Iles won $2,000 in the Crankworx 2014 Whip-Off World Championship, showing he’s capable of competing with the big boys at age 14. Photo by Sean St. Denis/Crankworx used by permission

Finn Iles has some serious mountain biking skills, but at age 14 he was deemed too young to compete in the Crankworx 2014 Whip-Off World Championships at Whistler Blackcomb last Thursday.

Knowing Iles is a local Whistler rider who’s been jumping Crabapple Hits since age 11, Vital MTB, a mountain biking website, made a serious social media push to get the organizers to allow Iles to compete, saying he could win if let in.

Well, not only did the #LetFinnIn campaign succeed—Crankworx relented and three days before the event announced Iles was eligible to compete—but Iles proved himself worthy by beating out the older competitors and winning the event.

Here’s his “Steps to the Top” video that was posted at Bike Magazine:

“It’s been pretty exciting,” Iles said afterward. “When I found out I was in I was so stoked. People were telling me that my whips were good enough to win, so I just tried to throw down as best I could and I ended up winning. I’m super happy.”

Iles won $2,000 for the victory in which he beat out defending champion Bernardo Cruz of Brazil, Andreu Lacondeguy of Spain, Ryan Howard of the U.S., and Graham Agassiz of Canada, doing so in front of a few thousand fans.

Finn Iles, 14, won the 2014 Whip-Off World Championships despite his age. Photo by Clint Trahan/Crankworx used by permission

Finn Iles, 14, won the 2014 Whip-Off World Championships despite his age. Photo by Clint Trahan/Crankworx used by permission

Minors entering pro events at Whistler Blackcomb are scrutinized by a multi-disciplinary committee, which reviews the athlete’s technical ability and maturity, and interviews the family, according to WhistlerQuestion.com.

“Finn took it in stride when he was told he couldn’t get in, but then everyone rallied behind him,” his mother, Alison Iles said. “We’re just so proud of him. It’s great.”

Finn Iles, 14,  a boy among men, won the Crankworx Whip-Off World Championship. Photo by Clint Trahan/Crankworx

Finn Iles, 14, a boy among men, won the Crankworx Whip-Off World Championship. Photo by Clint Trahan/Crankworx

Crankworx announced that Iles was officially in the competition with a tweet that read, “So we hear you wanted to #letfinnin—well guess what, #finnisin.”

“I’m pretty much a loss for words right now,” Iles said in the above video. “A lot of people were helping me out, they really thought I could win this, so they really pushed for it. I ended up getting in and then I just tried my best here and tried to have as much fun [as possible], and ended up taking it.”

That’s #FinnForTheWin.

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Dolphin adopts calf of another species

Posted: 18 Aug 2014 02:20 PM PDT

Dolphin1

Pee-Wee (top) and Kiwi swimming together off New Zealand; image courtesy of Lawrence Hamilton

A bottlenose dolphin in New Zealand appears to have adopted an abandoned common dolphin calf in an event that, if true, can be described as extremely rare.

If this were not heartwarming enough, the bottlenose dolphin, known among researchers as Kiwi, is believed to have lost her own baby after becoming stranded on a muddy bank inside Kerikeri Inlet five years ago.

The common dolphin calf has been given the name, Pee-Wee.

The pair has been seen together since January, but last week Lawrence Hamilton, a crew member aboard the vessel Tangaroa, captured an image showing Pee-Wee swimming upside-down and nursing from beneath Kiwi (see image below). This occurred outside of Onewhero Bay.

dolphin1.jpeg

Pee-Wee takes milk from Kiwi; photo courtesy of Lawrence Hamilton

Bottlenose dolphins and common dolphins rarely intermix, short of being in the same general area by happenstance, and there are no known instances of hybrid bottlenose-common dolphin calves being produced in the wild.

This further suggests that Pee-Wee is an abandoned calf taken underwing by Kiwi. Regardless, it’s a significant discovery.

“It’s just so unusual; the crew are ecstatic,” Jo “Floppy” Halliday, a dolphin expert, told the Northern Advocate. Hallidayis a naturalist with Bay of Islands–Fullers GreatSights, a travel company that specializes in dolphin cruises. Halliday is said to know all the local dolphins by name.

Kiw

Kiwi being rescued from mud flat five years ago; photo credit unknown

Kiwi somehow became stuck on a mud flat five years ago (see photo above). She was “refloated” by rescuers, but her calf, Squirt, was never seen again. It’s presumed that Squirt was killed by orcas.

Halliday told the Northern Advocate that Kiwi is not known to have given birth since losing Squirt, but is clearly giving milk to the baby common dolphin.

“There’s so many things they’re capable of doing,” she said. “They may be able to switch on lactation on demand.”

Bottlenose dolphins are among cetacean species known to have nursed and cared for the young of other dolphins in their pods. Even older dolphins, namely grandparents, have shown the capability of nursing. (Pilot whales and beluga whales are two other examples. So are primates.)

It’s not yet known whether Pee-Wee is a male or female.

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Jet-ski rider collides with humpback whale

Posted: 18 Aug 2014 10:33 AM PDT

humpback.jpeg

Brynar Thor Gunnarson veers slightly but cannot avoid colliding with humpback whale; image is a video screen grab

A personal watercraft rider in Iceland is fortunate not to have been injured after colliding with a humpback whale that had surfaced directly in front of him.

Brynar Thor Gunnarson told the newspaper Visir on Sunday that he and a friend had spent a long day on the fjord and were about to call it quits when they noticed plumes of whale breath in the distance.

“So we decided to slide down there and see them only,” said Gunnarson, who was wearing a GoPro camera and captured the accident on videotape.

As the riders were traveling at moderate speed, Gunnarson glanced toward his partner, and when he looked forward again the whale had surfaced and he could only veer slightly to his left to avoid a direct broadside hit.

Gunnarson was not hurt, and he said that he does not believe the whale was injured. ” Jet-skis and other personal watercraft are jet-powered and do not have propellers.

Gunnarson added that he did not have time to panic, only to react. Afterward, he joked:

“If I had been a bit faster, I would probably just jump straight over it.”

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Enjoy this family friendly day-trip with a view

Posted: 17 Aug 2014 03:00 AM PDT

Mount Fremont Trail

A well-maintained Mount Fremont Trail with a consistent grade makes for a pleasant afternoon in the shadow of the Northwest’s biggest mountain; photo by Kade Krichko.

Being one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the U.S. earns you a little bit of recognition—just ask Mount Rainier. The 14,411-foot stratovolcano is only a few hours drive from Seattle, and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world every year—everyone from climbers, to skiers, to hikers, to day picnickers.

Mt. Rainier National Park was established in 1899, the fifth national park in the U.S., and is host to dozens of trails that wind up, around, and down the legendary mountain face. While there are many challenging routes that should only be attempted by skilled climbers and navigators, the national park also has some amazing day-hikes for families, large groups, and dogs, with enough Instagram opportunities to keep all of your followers happy for the next two years.

The Mount Fremont Trail is one of these hikes, winding up the east side of the park to an exposed fire lookout and 360-degree panoramas. If you’re game to hike along meadows of wild flowers, rock gardens, and glacial lakes on this easy day-hike, here’s a simple guide to make the Mount Fremont Trail your next adventure.

Mount Fremont Trail

Wildflowers and mountain views are a few of the pluses on the Mount Fremont Trail; photo by Kade Krichko.

What: Sitting on the east side of Mt. Rainier and Mt. Rainier National Park, the Mount Fremont Fire Lookout was built in 1933 as one of four lookout points used by park rangers to spot forest fires in the park. It is no longer used for lookout purposes, but offers stunning views and is the midpoint for the 5.5-mile round-trip hike. The trail is well-maintained, and though it features some loose rock sections, is easy walking for younger families and dogs (on a leash).

Where: The Mount Fremont Trailhead rises from the Sunrise parking lot and is shared with several other trailheads, 10.5 miles from Rt. 410, and about three hours from Seattle.

Mount Fremont Trail

There have been a few updates to the Mount Fremont Fire Lookout, but for the most part the original 1933 structure remains intact; photo by Kade Krichko

How to get there: From Seattle, head south on I-5, and then take exit 142A to Rt. 18, toward Auburn. Jump on Rt. 164 toward Enumclaw and then take Rt. 410 east into Mt. Rainier National Park. Turn right at the signs leading to Sunrise and follow the road to the upper lot. The Mount Fremont Trailhead is on the right hand side of the parking lot, near the bathroom facilities.

When to go: With a slew of trails branching from its parking lot, Sunrise is absolutely packed on weekends. Take a day off, use the kids’ summer vacation to your advantage, and take a midweek trip up to the mountain for the least crowds and the best chance at parking.

What to bring: Pack a lunch and bring your bug spray. You’ll want to hang out at the lookout, but bugs can get a bit pesky up high, so be prepared.

Mount Fremont Trail

Weather moves quickly around Mt. Rainier and Mount Fremont Trail, making for some dramatic landscape; photo by Kade Krichko

Must see: Obviously Mt. Rainier is the big attraction here, but don’t be afraid to walk up to the observation deck of the fire lookout and check out the traditional innards of a mountain cabin—pretty cool. Also worth the view, sprouting from Rainier’s eastern flank is the Tatoosh Range, an impressive array of jagged peaks formed from the same lava that forged the mighty Rainier.

Do: Check several weather reports before even attempting this hike! It’s easy to just gloss over the information, but you’ll be thankful you checked instead of getting caught on an exposed ridge during a lightning storm. Fire lookouts were designed to have unobstructed views of the land surrounding them, which means no trees or rocks are around to provide coverage during a flash thunderstorm.

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Leopard completely forgets how to hunt

Posted: 15 Aug 2014 11:16 PM PDT

leopard 2

A leopard sneaks up on a warthog and takes action, though not the kind of action you’d expect. Photo is a screen grab from the video

A leopard in the Kruger National Park in South Africa stealthily snuck up on a warthog that was minding its own business and happily feeding in the grass. The warthog had no idea it was about to become a meal. It kept feeding and wagging its tail without a care in the world. Until the leopard decided to pounce.

Cedric submitted the video to Kruger Sightings with the first 50 seconds sped up to twice the normal speed, returning the video to normal speed when the leopard decided to take action, though it’s not the kind of action you’d expect. Watch the humorous outcome:

Just as the leopard is about to leap on its prey, it completely forgets what it is supposed to do, or so says Kruger Sightings.

Commenters on YouTube had other opinions, such as the leopard didn’t realize how big the warthog was (not likely) or the leopard was surprised that the warthog did not start running (probably not).

Someone offered the warthog-was-too-big theory because leopards are known to carry their kill up into trees to protect it from scavengers like hyenas. But leopards are also known for their strength that enables them to carry large animals into trees.

A warthog, on the other hand, is known for its sprinting ability to flee from danger, as this one showed once it realized it was about to be eaten—or licked, or sniffed. This one definitely wasn’t known for detecting danger, that’s for sure.

As for the leopard, who knows why it did what it did? For our amusement, perhaps?

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5 tasty fish, but how well do you know them?

Posted: 15 Aug 2014 10:52 AM PDT

WahooExcel2

Wahoo photo is courtesy of Excel Sportfishing

People love fish, but how much do they really know about what they’re eating? We’re not referring to mercury levels, or environmental concerns regarding method of capture, but to ordinary aspects such as appearance and behavior.

For example, how many people know what a mahi-mahi looks like in the flesh? Where does it live and what are some of its peculiarities? With this in mind we present a short list of popular (or obscure) ocean fish that many have savored with a cold beer or glass of wine, with a photograph and a few factoids.

5 tasty fish you love to eat, but how well do you know them?

Wahoo (also called ono; pictured above and below)

CREW KID WAHOO GREAT

Wahoo photo courtesy of Pisces Sportfishing in Cabo San Lucas

Belongs to the mackerel family and said by many to be the fastest fish in the sea; can swim in bursts to 60 mph. Body is long and slender, like that of an oversized barracuda. Teeth are abundant and razor-sharp. Found in tropical and sub-tropical waters. Can weigh more than 150 pounds and measure to 8 feet. Commercially caught via longline gear. Recreationally caught via trolled lures.

When hooked, the wahoo’s sizzling burst of speed is a sight to behold. Dangerous to anglers, though, because of their teeth and because they’ve been known to leap into boats at high speed. Serious injuries have been incurred thanks to leaping wahoo. Can live 10-plus years, and a female wahoo can lay up to 6 million eggs per spawning. Delicate and flaky on the plate, typically itemized as ono (Hawaiian).

Chilean seabass

Toothfish

Chilean seabass photo is via Wikipedia

Real name is Patagonian toothfish, but that name is not marketable. Chileans were first to market toothfish in the U.S., as Chilean seabass, even though it’s not a bass and is caught in deep, frigid waters throughout the Antarctic. Described as the perfect fish of its firm, white flesh. The result of its booming global popularity in the mid-1990s was severe overexploitation. Its discovery, and the many shenanigans that went into play because of skyrocketing demand, is the subject of a fascinating book by G. Bruce Knight, “Hooked: Pirates, Poaching and the Perfect Fish.”

The fishery is carefully managed and there’s more control over illegal fishing these days, but it remains an embattled fishery. The U.S. imports about 20% of the worldwide catch. Toothfish reside in depths to about 8,000 feet. They can grow to 200 pounds and live nearly 50 years. They feed largely on squid and prawns.

Mahi-mahi

mahi

Mahi-mahi photo is courtesy of Jen Wren Sportfishing

Mahi-mahi in Hawaii, dorado in Mexico, dolphinfish in Florida. Few fish are as colorful; its iridescent blue-green hues change rapidly when it’s pursuing prey or fighting on a hook. Large males boast blunt, hatchet-shaped heads. These slender fish grow extremely fast, and can reach weights of nearly 100 pounds, but only live about four years.

They love to congregate out under floating objects, such as kelp paddies. Hundreds, perhaps thousands might gather beneath a dead whale, becoming an angler’s dream as long as the whale’s stench isn’t too overwhelming. Mariners adrift for long periods invariably attract mahi-mahi as traveling companions. Mahi-mahi are commercially caught via long-line gear and drift nets. Recreationally caught by anglers who love them for their beauty and acrobatics. Flesh is firm and mildly sweet, and best-served fresh.

Lingcod

lingcod

Lingcod photo is courtesy of Monterey Bay Aquarium

Not a cod, belonging to the greenling family. Unique to the west coast of North America, common in cooler waters in rocky areas, residing at depths of 30 to 300 feet. Voracious predators with long, sharp teeth. Can weigh 80 pounds or more and measure 5 feet. Females lay the eggs–between 60,000 and 500,000 eggs–but males guard the nest until the juveniles hatch. This is believed to be due to the fact that so many natural predators would love to get to the eggs. These include rockfish, sculpin, cod, urchins and starfish. Oddly, the male lingcod will ward off fish predators with lunging attacks, but will let starfish and urchins feed on the eggs. States the Monterey Bay Aquarium: “While guarding eggs, lingcod have been known to attack humans.”

A lingcod’s flesh is sometimes tinged with green but cooks up white and firm.

Opah

opah

Opah caught recently by Joe Ludlow (pictured) weighed 181 pounds and could become new world record; photo courtesy of Excel Sportfishing

Also called moonfish because of their oval shape and silvery-red bodies, which are polka-dotted. Fins and outer edges are a bight vermillion. Opah roam tropical and sub-tropical seas and are largely solitary except during spawning periods. Deep-water denizens most of the time; found as deep as 2,400 feet. There is no directed fishery for opah, but they’re caught in large enough numbers, indiscriminately by long-line fishermen, to make them available to consumers. Caught very infrequently by sport fishermen. Two weeks ago anglers aboard a San Diego-based tuna-fishing boat experienced a super-rare quintuple opah hookup, and landed three of five fish, including a 181-pounder that might qualify as a sportfishing world record. The opah’s flesh is rich and fatty, a chef’s delight. In Japanese cuisine, opah is often served as sashimi or sushi.

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6 dead after Mont Blanc climbing accident

Posted: 15 Aug 2014 10:03 AM PDT

Mont Blanc

The Mont Blanc Massif attracts thousands of outdoor enthusiasts every year; photo courtesy Shutterstock

The bodies of six French climbers were found on Mont Blanc in the Alps Wednesday, just a day after the group ran into inclement weather and went missing on Europe’s highest peak. Five of the climbers were found when rescue teams swept in on Wednesday, while the group’s guide was spotted in a crevasse later in the day after falling nearly 800 feet, according to French authorities.

The group was part of a two-week mountaineering course hosted by the Union Nationale des Centres Sportifs de Plein Air (UCPA) according to a report by The Guardian, and was attempting to ascend the Aiguille d’Argentiere, a route that runs between two narrow peaks on its way towards Mont Blanc’s summit. Weather moved in Tuesday evening, stranding the group and grounding a rescue helicopter until midday Wednesday.

A closer look at the Aiguille d'Argentiere route; photo courtesy of Fab738/Flickr.

A closer look at the Aiguille d’Argentiere route; photo courtesy of Fab738/Flickr

The tragedy follows closely on the heels of one in July that saw six climbers die on the mountain in five days. According to The Guardian, traffic on the mountain has increased significantly over the last few years and may be a contributing factor to this year’s high death toll.

But Mont Blanc is not the only popular mountaineering destination that has seen tragedy in 2014. In April, 16 Sherpas were killed at Everest Base Camp, fueling the argument that climber numbers have reached dangerous levels on the world’s highest peak. Just a few months later 6 climbers lost their lives on Mt. Rainier in Washington in a rockslide and avalanche along Liberty Ridge—the deadliest mountaineering accident on U.S. soil since a 1981 avalanche killed 11 on the same mountain.

It hasn’t been a good stretch for mountaineering over the past few months, and while it is easy to point at crowds as a potential cause for the incidents, there are many other factors to consider. Warmer winters have led to increasingly unstable snow and glacial formations, facts that manifest later in the season rather than in the winter months. Experience also comes into question, but with two of the three major climbing accidents this year occurring with a guide, that too cannot be pinpointed as the main cause for these events.

August is said to be the best and safest month to climb Mont Blanc, but fast-moving inclement weather is not unheard of in the region.

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GrindTV.com - Outdoor Blog


Woolly mammoth tusks found in same spot 22 years apart

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 10:09 PM PDT

Woolly mammoth tusk discovered by Andrew Harrelson in the exact same spot his mother found one 22 years ago. Photo courtesy of Andrew Harrelson

Woolly mammoth tusk discovered by Andrew Harrelson in the exact same spot his mother found one 22 years ago. Photo courtesy of Andrew Harrelson

An Alaskan man having a slow day of salmon fishing decided to do some hunting for fossils on the Fish River outside of White Mountain, Alaska, and hit the jackpot of prehistoric artifacts.

In an amazing case of déjà vu, Andrew Harrelson discovered a woolly mammoth tusk in the exact location of the river bend where his mother found a woolly mammoth tusk 22 years earlier, according to Alaska Dispatch News.

“It’s surreal,” Harrelson told GrindTV Outdoor in a phone interview. “It’s unbelievable in my eyes. I always pass that bend in that part of the river [where his mother found the first tusk] and I always slow the boat down to look for something like that and I finally found something.”

Harrelson, 25, who was fishing with his fiancée and two young children, discovered the woolly mammoth tusk almost immediately, thanks to the water being clearer than usual. He took his family back to shore and recruited Irving Ashenfelter to help extract the tusk, which was stuck under a tree stump.

Mammoth Tusk Boat_ above where tusk found; luann harrelson

Andrew Harrelson and his family are in the spot on the Fish River where he and his mother discovered woolly mammoth tusks 22 years apart. Photo courtesy of Andrew Harrelson

They hooked anchors to the stump and tried pulling it off the tusk about six times before finally succeeding.

“It flipped over perfectly for us,” he told GrindTV. “We decided to see if we could get a rope around the tusk and eventually did and surprisingly it came up pretty easy.”

Fortunately, the woolly mammoth tusk was discovered on private land owned by White Mountain Native Corporation.

“You can’t remove this kind of artifact from state or federal-owned land,” Harrelson, who is a White Mountain native, explained to GrindTV. “If you do that then you’re looking at getting prosecuted and being find. The land I found it on happened to be on native-owned land…so I was able to [retrieve the tusk].”

Once news spread of his Sunday discovery, Harrelson was inundated with offers to buy the 162-pound artifact. They ranged from $75 to $105 per pound, meaning he could potentially make from $12,150 to $17,010, or more.

Considering what happened with the tusk his mother found, Harrelson is willing to wait as long as five years until he gets the price he wants. He is hopeful of buying a house and the sale of the tusk could make a good down payment.

“I have a number in the back of my head, but I’m not willing to share it just yet,” he told GrindTV. “I’m in no rush [to sell it].”

Luann Harrelson and her son, Andrews, pose with the woolly mammoth she discovered in 1992. Photo courtesy of Andrew Harrelson

Luann Harrelson and her son, Andrew, pose with the woolly mammoth she discovered in 1992. Photo courtesy of Andrew Harrelson

Harrelson was 3 when his parents came home with the first woolly mammoth tusk. His mother, Luann Harrelson, had spotted the 79-pound fossil in the Fish River while fishing with her husband, Daniel Harrelson. Luann saw something strange in the water while pulling up the anchor. Daniel extracted the odd-looking log and discovered it was a woolly mammoth tusk.

Hoping for a big payday since they were on a tight budget, Daniel flew it to Anchorage where a manager of a local shop agreed to sell it for them. For weeks, the couple heard nothing. After hounding the manager, they were told the tusk was stolen from his garage, and the manager paid them $1,500.

Andrew Harrelson thinks his parents were ripped off.

“It’s the past,” he told GrindTV. “It is what it is, not much you can do about it right now.”

Except to make sure the second tusk fetches fair value, which is why he is taking his time in selling it.

How old is the woolly mammoth tusk?

Quarternary paleontologist Dale Guthrie of Fairbanks told the Alaskan Dispatch News that mainland woolly mammoths died off by about 12,000 years ago.

“The [White Mountain] tusks could be that young or they could be when mammoths first arrived here, which is 300,000 to 400,000 years ago,” Guthrie told ADN. “You’d have to radio carbon date it to see its age.”

Whatever its age, the woolly mammoth tusk is bound to result in a mammoth payoff for Andrew Harrelson.

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800-pound leatherback turtle rescued off N.J.

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 03:21 PM PDT

turtle

The U.S. Coast Guard and disentanglement specialists have teamed to rescue an 800-pound leatherback turtle that had become trapped in fishing gear 30 miles off New Jersey.

The Coast Guard on Tuesday released dramatic video footage of last Saturday’s rescue.

The massive turtle was located after the Coast Guard had been supplied with GPS coordinates by a ship captain boater who spotted the floundering animal.

Coast Guard spokesman Nick Giannaris explained in the video that the turtle had become entangled in the flipper area by a rope that was attached to a buoy. The turtle was unable to swim.

With the Coast Guard was a team with the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine. Jay Pagel, of the MMSC, estimated the weight of the turtle based on “based on previous experience” and a carapace length of just over five-and-a-half feet.

Leatherback turtles are the largest turtles on the planet, and can reach weights of about 2,000 pounds and measure nearly eight feet long. Their evolutionary history dates back more than 100 million years.

They’re listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and while their numbers have been stable in recent years in the Atlantic, their numbers in the Pacific remain in decline because of illegal egg harvesting, commercial fishing bycatch, loss of habitat, and other factors.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Garrett Dailey said this was the first time he had been involved in such a hands-on rescue involving an animal, “rather than to work at a distance with line cutters and things of that nature.”

Said Pagel: “The energy level was pretty high. The guys and myself were pretty excited to free the animal without any further injury… to the animal or the group.”

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–Hat tip to The Dodo

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Gold rush is silver lining to California drought

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 02:10 PM PDT

Bruce Meyer checks out gold he mined from Bear River. Photo by Spencer Millsap/National Geographic used by permission

Bruce Meyer checks out gold he mined from Bear River. Photo by Spencer Millsap/National Geographic used by permission

A silver lining to the California drought apparently is gold.

With rivers reduced to a trickle or at least flowing much lower than average, gold prospecting has increased in Gold Country, thanks to areas previously impossible to pan becoming accessible, according to National Geographic.

Sales of prospecting equipment at Pioneer Mining Supplies in Auburn, California, are up 20 to 25 percent because of the drought, Frank Sullivan of the gold mining supply company told NatGeo.

Gold in vials. Photo by Spencer Millsap/National Geographic used by permission

Gold in vials. Photo by Spencer Millsap/National Geographic used by permission

With the worst drought in the state’s recorded history, prospectors “have been able to get to places they couldn’t before,” hydrogeologist Tim Horner of Cal State Sacramento told NatGeo.

Horner said a student of his recently found about $900 worth of gold in a stream previously too treacherous to explore, though that isn’t believed to be the norm.

“Looking for gold is a popular hobby, and some people are making a living doing it,” Horner said.

One such person is Bruce Meyer of Carson City, Nevada.

Meyers quit his job a few years ago and started prospecting fulltime. NatGeo met up with him on the Bear River outside of Colfax, California.

“When I started coming here four years ago, the river was about four feet higher and running fast,” Meyer told NatGeo.

It was so low earlier this month, Meyer was able to don a wetsuit and snorkel, and get on his hands and knees in the middle of the river to hunt for gold.

NatGeo tells his story in this video:

The Puumala family, which spent up to $60 on mining supplies, was also panning for gold on the Bear River.

“We’re hoping we can find something you can actually pick up with tweezers, so we can say we went gold panning and actually found gold,” John Puumala told NatGeo. “It’s not about the money, but we’d like to have something to keep as a souvenir.”

Meyer is looking for more than that.

Last year, Meyer mined about four ounces of gold in California and Nevada rivers. At $1,300 or so an ounce, that’s about $5,200. It’s not much, but Meyer lives simply.

“The more I do it, the more I find,” Meyer said. “Some people found 600 ounces, 700 ounces. Not me yet.

“But I like doing it. It’s just good wholesome living, I think. One of these days I’ll find a nice deposit, make a couple bucks. Keep looking and you’ll find it.”

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A truly unforgettable sea otter encounter

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 12:27 PM PDT

sea otter

Sea otter clutches man’s leg in amazingly close encounter; image is a video screen grab

A man wading in a bay on Vancouver Island experienced a close encounter of the cutest kind recently, involving a wild sea otter that swam up to snuggle against his legs in a surprisingly long and intimate get-together.

The footage in the accompanying video was captured at Cadboro Bay in southern Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada.

But was it wise for the man to remain in the water, and even attempt to pet the otter, instead of backing onto shore and merely observing?

Of course not, say experts who are familiar with otter behavior. The sea otter has a powerful bite displays aggression when agitated.

At one point the man reaches down to pet the otter and appears to be nipped in the hand, but the animal continued to swim around and against his legs before finally moving on.

Said Tessa Danelesko, a marine mammal expert at the Vancouver Aquarium: “Getting close to otters and other marine mammals is dangerous for a number of reasons. They can behave unpredictably, which poses a safety risk if they use their natural defense mechanisms like teeth or claws. Animals can also transmit diseases to people through close contact.”

sea otter

Sea otter photo is a video screen grab

Andrew Johnson, Sea Otter Program Manager for the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, cautioned against encouraging this type of behavior, saying it could cause this otter to grow bolder and eventually become aggressive.

Johnson added: “Otters are curious. It’s usually the younger animals that have the time and inclination to interact with people, so avoiding/discouraging these interactions is the proper response. I know that people enjoy wildlife encounters and want memorable experiences, but letting wild animals approach and engage is beyond dangerous.”

All of this is good to know, because for many it’d be hard to resist the urge to accept a friendly approach by such a cute and iconic animal.

The video was shared Wednesday night on the Vancouver Aquarium Facebook page. Reads one of  dozens of comments, from Carey Evenson:

“My instincts would have been to pet the otter but that’s only because I enjoy animals and want to naturally be affectionate towards an animal that would willingly come up to me! I didn’t see anything wrong with this and I probably would have done the same thing! Sorry if you disagree but that’s how I am.”

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Treehotel puts you up… in a bird’s nest

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 10:37 AM PDT

Tree hotel in Sweden

Treehotel’s Bird’s Nest room only looks like one from the outside; photo via Caters News Agency

The thought of spending your next outdoors vacation in a bird’s nest might not sound very appealing, but consider a bird’s nest that’s large enough to sleep four, with modern architecture and comfortable beds….

… A massive nest deep in the forest and nestled in treetops, with spectacular views of towering pines and a star-filled sky.

Tree hotel in Sweden

Treehotel’s rooms boast incredible forest views; photo via Caters News Agency

Welcome to the Bird’s Nest, one of the most popular rooms at the new and unique Treehotel in Harads, in northern Sweden beyond the Lule River. From the outside the room resembles an actual nest,  a conglomerate of giant twigs. But from inside the room looks almost luxurious.

Treehotel, which opened with five rooms in 2010 and has since expanded, was built by architect Bertil Harstrom. The owners are Kent and Britta Lindvall, who told Caters News Agency this week that the concept of the Bird’s Nest was simply to provide a contrast between the indoors and outdoors.

Tree hotel in Sweden

Treehotel rooms feature portals to nature; photo via Caters News Agency

 

“The exterior of the Bird’s Nest is nothing but, just that, a giant bird’s nest,” Kent Lindvall said. “It provides a camouflage allowing you to quickly disappear and become part of the surroundings.

“The interior however, is familiar and exclusive. A spacious environment in which a family with two children can comfortably spread out. The walls are clad in wood paneling and windows disappear, almost, in the exterior’s network of branches.”

Tree hotel in Sweden

Bird’s Nest room can sleep up to four; photo by Caters News Agency

Other rooms are unique, too, with names such as UFO, Blue Cone, Tree Sauna, and Dragonfly. Treehotel guests dine on Arctic char, salmon, caviar, reindeer, moose, and even bear.

Guests staying in the Bird’s Nest must retreat to their room, after a day of hiking, kayaking or fishing, via a retractable ladder. The windows afford panoramic vistas of the Lule River Valley, and the swift-flowing river.

A marvelous getaway? Perhaps. But prices at Treehotel are something to chirp about. Room rates, including breakfast, start at more than $600 per night.

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Husband, wife row Pacific on high fat diet

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 05:00 AM PDT

high fat diet

Husband and wife Sami Inkinen and Meredith Loring celebrate after arriving in Honolulu; they rowed across the Pacific to bring awareness to the dangers of a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates and to espouse the benefits of a high fat diet. Photo courtesy Inkinen

In early August, Silicon Valley entrepreneur and endurance athlete Sami Inkinen, 38, and his wife, Meredith Loring, 34, finished the Great Pacific Race by rowing from California to Hawaii. It took them 45 days to complete the journey, making them the fastest pair to ever row across the Pacific, the first couple to row from Monterey, California, to Honolulu, and Inkinen, who is originally from Finland, the first Finnish person to row across any ocean.

Although Inkinen and Loring had limited rowing experience, they were able to complete a journey that proved a miserable failure for many other racers, and in doing so they were able to raise more than $200,000 for a cause close to them: bringing awareness to the dangers people face by eating diets high in sugar and simple carbohydrates, which has been linked to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

high fat diet

Inkinen and Loring rowed across the Pacific by fueling on a high-fat diet, one that consisted of about 9 percent carb calories, 70 percent fat calories, and 21 percent protein calories. Photo courtesy Inkinen

“We are using this as a platform to raise awareness and raise funds against sugar and for whole-foods-based nutrition,” Inkinen, whose charity partner for the expedition was the Institute for Responsible Nutrition, which is run by Dr. Robert Lustig of the University of California, San Francisco, told GrindTV before he set out across the Pacific.

Indeed, as part of this mission to raise awareness, Inkinen and Loring decided to fuel themselves with a high-fat diet during the journey, obtaining a majority of their calories from fat, some protein, and limited carbohydrates, as new research is suggesting that high fat, low carbohydrate diets may actually be the healthiest way to eat after all.

We caught up with Inkinen after he landed in Honolulu to see how he was holding up. (Incidentally, while Inkinen and Loring were nearing Hawaii, news broke that real estate website trulia.com, which Inkinen cofounded, is being acquired by Zillow for $3.5 billion in stock.) Here’s what he had to say:

The Great Pacific Race proved extremely difficult for many teams, with some even having to be rescued by the Coast Guard. Given you and your wife had so little experience rowing, why do you think you were able to succeed—on your first try—when so many others failed?

To our knowledge, only 12 people have rowed the Pacific Ocean before. Now I know there’s a good reason why so few people have succeeded in it. There’s only a 90-day window each year to even consider rowing from California to Hawaii due to winds and hurricanes. Although we chose our launch date carefully, we were immediately hit with strong winds of 25+ knots and what looked like house-sized waves when we left from Monterey. While we had no prior rowing experience, we paid a lot of attention to details in our preparation: We got the best boat we could, equipped every detail well, and spent countless hours training our bodies for the expedition. I think when you combine a little bit of luck, meticulous preparation, and very hard work, you can succeed in anything.

Was there ever a time during the journey where you guys thought you wouldn’t make it? If so, how did you get through this?

Although we had plenty of scary moments, we never felt that our lives were at risk. However, the first two weeks were very tough, because the strong winds were pushing us back to California shore. We weren’t sure if we could get off the California coast at all and thought that we might need to land in Mexico. We created a plan B and decided to row significantly off-course towards south to get around the weather system and wait for lesser winds, if needed. Once we had a new plan, we just put our heads down and rowed. After three weeks, we knew that we were off the coastal weather system and then it would be just a matter of hard work to eventually get to Hawaii.

high fat diet

Inkinen and Loring near Honolulu; Inkinen says the high fat diet they fueled on during the journey produced no food cravings. Photo courtesy Inkinen

Given you guys fueled mostly on fat, was there ever a time during the journey when you would have killed for a nice carb-loaded pizza or piece of chocolate cake? (Also, just want to confirm that you guys did indeed eat lard, nuts, coconut butter, and dehydrated salmon, grass-fed beef, and some fruits and vegetables?)

The diet is correct. Although the beef was not grass-fed, unfortunately. I ate about 9 percent carb calories, 70 percent fat calories and 21 percent protein calories.

The interesting and somewhat surprising thing to me was that all our food cravings went away with a real-food-based diet that is low in carbs. Typically after just a couple of hours of exercising, for example on a bike, you start fantasizing about food and different treats you should have next. I thought we’d be dreaming about foods, especially high-carb treats, all the time on the boat. But it was just the opposite. We had none of that thanks to the diet we followed. And once we finished 45 days later, the only thing we craved was a huge glass of icy sparkling water. We only had dinner 6 hours after arrival!

high fat diet

Inkinen and Loring hug after landing in Honolulu; they became the fastest pair to ever row across the Pacific, and they did so using a high fat diet.

What was it like going through such a strenuous physical event using mostly fat for fuel? How did your body feel?

I think the biggest benefits for me were steady energy all day and no food cravings at all. I ate when I was hungry, which was two to four times a day, and I really didn’t crave anything while on the boat. And we rowed up to 21 hours per day each, with an average of 12 to 14 hours per day. It’s tough to evaluate recovery under different diets, but given we were able to continue this day in, day out for 45 days without getting slower at the end, I think we got something right. I also didn’t touch any pain killers, not even ibuprofen, which I’ve heard is the daily medicine for almost all past ocean rowers.

What was your routine like on a day-to-day basis, and how did you feel mentally and physically on a day-to-day basis?

I found that it was very helpful to have a routine, a daily set of things you look forward to: brushing teeth, starting row shift, lunch, reading email, shower, etc. That routine made the day interesting and helped to break it into small chunks. Meredith and I rowed at slightly different shifts, but my last week’s routine was roughly this: 10 a.m. wake up, breakfast, and start rowing. Then row until 4 a.m. or 18 hours close to non-stop without leaving my rowing seat. Then sleep 6 hours and repeat again. I took a “shower” just before going to sleep, as well as brushed my teeth. I typically had a 30- to 40-minute lunch break mid-afternoon and a couple shorter eating breaks in the afternoon, while sitting at my rowing position. If I was very tired, I took a nap.

You had mentioned to me before you left that such an event could wreak havoc on a marriage, but judging by your photos and blog, it looks like your guys had a great time together. How was the journey for you guys relationship-wise?

Although we had a solid relationship to begin with, we thought there was a serious possibility that our marriage would fall apart during the expedition. Yes, we are very pragmatic, even when it comes to marriage! Or, at least we thought a break-up was much more likely than it would be in regular life. Well, luckily we were wrong and the 45-day crossing turned out to be an amazing shared life experience. We learned a lot about ourselves and our relationship and came out loving each other even more than when going in. I’m glad we got to experience everything together.

You are now the fastest pair and mixed pair to ever row across the Pacific, the first couple to row from California to Hawaii, the first Finnish person to row across any ocean, and Trulia is in an ongoing acquisition by Zillow for $3.5 billion in stock. You must feel on top of the world. So what’s next for you?

I try not to cling on to any accomplishments or results, whether they are good or bad. I like moving forward, staying active, and building new things. After catching up on sleep a bit, my life will hopefully include more of all those things. But probably no more rowing for a while!

To keep up-to-date with Inkinen and his wife, or to donate to their cause, visit their website.

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GrindTV.com - Outdoor Blog


Paddleboarding record set by Brit adventurers

Posted: 13 Aug 2014 04:24 PM PDT

Paddleboarding record included some calmer moments, as enjoyed her by Robert Cunliffe. Photo from Caters News Agency used by permission

Paddleboarding record included some calmer moments, as enjoyed her by Robert Cunliffe. Photo from Caters News Agency used by permission

Two British adventurers encountered sharks, drug smugglers, stormy and sweltering weather, and thieving turtle egg poachers to set a paddleboarding record on the coast of Panama, where they also discovered two previously unknown populations of the critically endangered Antillean manatee.

Arron Ford and Robert Cunliffe, paddling in the prone position with their arms, traveled 380 miles in 44 days to break the world record for longest prone paddleboard journey. American Wyatt Werneth, who paddled along the Florida coast in 2007, set the previous paddleboarding record of 345 miles.

“We’re immensely relieved to have broken this record and proud of the style in which we have done it, making some really exciting discoveries along the way,” Cunliffe told Caters News Agency, which released the story Wednesday. “Thankfully we were well prepared because Panama literally threw the kitchen sink at us. We could not have chosen a harder place to do this.”

Paddleboarding record was set by Arron Ford, left, and Robert Cunliffe, who endured some stormy weather. Photo from Caters News Agency used by permission

Paddleboarding record was set by Arron Ford, left, and Robert Cunliffe, who endured some stormy weather. Photo from Caters News Agency used by permission

The adventurers, both 24 and traveling unsupported, paddled for six hours a day with 55 pounds of equipment and food on their paddleboards, a challenge they undertook to raise awareness for the environmental charity Seacology.

Part of the paddleboarding challenge included looking for the Antillean manatee.

“After three years studying critically endangered animals, it was fantastic to get out into the wild and conduct some primary research during our own project,” Ford told Caters.

“With less than 3,000 Antillean manatee remaining, finding two new populations was more than we could have dreamed of—a glimmer of hope for a beautiful and graceful animal that deserves protection.”

Paddlers set up came en route a paddleboarding record along the coast of Panama. Photo from Caters News Agency used by permission

Paddlers set up came en route a paddleboarding record along the coast of Panama. Photo from Caters News Agency used by permission

Ford and Cunliffe could’ve used some protection of their own. On the first night, they were robbed by turtle egg poachers, and later in their adventure, they were forced to hide from drug smugglers, who landed on an island they were camping on.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t film the cocaine smugglers incident as a flashing red recording light would have been one hell of a risk,” Cunliffe said.

At one point, while taking a break from paddleboarding, the pair discovered a bull shark attempting to nibble at their feet.

Paddleboarding record attempt meant dealing with stormy conditions along the coast of Panama. Photo from Caters News Agency used by permission

Paddleboarding record attempt meant dealing with stormy conditions along the coast of Panama. Photo from Caters News Agency used by permission

And if that wasn’t enough, halfway through their journey, Cunliffe suffered second-degree burns when a stove broke and sent boiling water pouring onto his feet. That meant an evacuation from the coastline and a five-day stay in a hospital.

But after the detour, the adventurers were back on the water to resume their paddleboarding record. Cunliffe said it is great that two Brits now own a record in a sport dominated by Australians and Americans.

Obviously it was also an adventure they’ll never forget.

“It was an amazing experience filled with constant surprises every day,” Ford said. “Nothing since has felt so exciting, and I’m already planning the next eco-adventure.”

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Rare opah catch might be a world record

Posted: 13 Aug 2014 01:52 PM PDT

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Joe Ludlow poses with rare opah catch that could land angler in the record book; photo courtesy of Excel Sportfishing

Three anglers recently completed a rare and perhaps unprecedented feat by each landing an opah on the same day aboard a San Diego-based boat fishing in Mexican waters.

Opah, also referred to as moonfish, are rarely caught by recreational fishermen, and for three people to catch one of these beautifully colored fish on the same day is considered extraordinary.

But lost amid the opah-trifecta hype that swirled in fishing circles after the photo surfaced (see below) was that one of the moonfish, a 181-pounder caught by Joe Ludlow, is 18 pounds heavier than the existing world record. (The fish were caught aboard the Excel, a luxury long-range sportfishing boat that spends several days at a time in Mexcan waters.)

The International Game Fish Association lists as the all-tackle world record a 163-pound opah caught in October 1998 off San Luis Obispo in Central California.

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Armando Castillo, Joe Ludlow and Travis Savala (left to right) pose with opah aboard the Excel; photo courtesy of Excel Sportfishing

That was an El Niño year and El Niño-like conditions (unusually warm water) are prevalent this summer off California. Opah catches tend to be associated with warm-water events.

Justin Fleck, captain of the Excel, said Ludlow was one of five anglers that hooked an opah at about the same time, soon after the boat had stopped over a school of yellowtail.

Most passengers were fishing near the surface with bait, but the five anglers dropped heavy lures into deeper water, and suddenly all five were hooked into large fish that fought much differently than yellowtail.

“The fish were pulling the guys up the rail toward the bow, and back toward the stern, then back to the bow, but they weren’t really taking any line,” Fleck said. “We weren’t sure what they were.”

Opah are oval-shaped with silvery-red bodies and vermillion-colored fins. When the first opah was spotted and identified, many customers stopped fishing and started following the five anglers around the boat.

“It became a sideshow,” Fleck said.

Ludlow’s fish was the first to be hauled over the rail, after a 30-minute fight.

Two others were gaffed minutes later, while two became unhooked during the fight.

The Excel was fishing at a depth of 190 feet near San Martin Island. Fleck said that a school of opah must have been swimming through the area.

That in itself is somewhat unusual, since opah are not schooling fish, except during spawning periods. (There’s not a directed fishery for opah because they’re so solitary, but enough are caught indiscriminately by long-line fishermen to provide a market for consumers.)

“We must have just been in the right place at the right time,” Fleck said, adding that paperwork has been submitted to the IGFA for world-record consideration. “And we were following IGFA rules.”

The IGFA generally takes several weeks to approve or deny world-record applications.

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Little girl survives 11 days in Siberian forest

Posted: 13 Aug 2014 12:11 PM PDT

Little girl spent 11 days in Siberian forest before her dog led rescuers to her location. Photo from Caters News Agency used by permission

Little girl spent 11 days in Siberian forest before her dog led rescuers to her location. Photo from Caters News Agency used by permission

A little girl lost in a remote region of Siberia inhabited by bears and wolves survived 11 days in the subarctic forest by eating wild berries and drinking river water before her dog finally left her side to summon help, leading rescuers to her location.

Karina Chikitova, 3, wandered away from her home in a remote village of the Sakha Republic on July 29, according to The Siberian Times and U.K. MailOnline.

Her mother believed Karina and her dog had followed her father, Rodion, who had left to go to his native village. Because there were no phone connections, it wasn’t until four days later that the family discovered Karina was missing, prompting a massive search.

Sakha is said to be Siberia’s coldest region in winter, but this time of year overnight temperatures were about 42 degrees Fahrenheit, though some parts were colder. Karina hugged her dog and huddled up in the tall grass to stay warm, but that made it difficult for rescuers to spot her from helicopters and drones.

Two days before Karina was found, her dog returned to the girl’s home in the village Omon in the Olyokminsky district.

The dog that led rescuers to the little girl lost in Siberian forest. Photo by Caters News Agency used by permission

The dog that led rescuers to the little girl lost in Siberian forest. Photo by Caters News Agency used by permission

“That was the moment when our hearts sank, because we thought at least with her dog Karina had chances to survive; night in Yakutia are cold and some areas have already gone into minus temperatures,” Afanasiy Nikolayev, spokesman for the Sakha Republic Rescue Service, told The Siberian Times.

“If she was to hug her puppy, we thought, this would have given her a chance to stay warm during nights and survive [she wore only a tank top and purple stockings]. So when her dog came back we thought ‘that’s it’—even if she was alive, and chances were slim—now she would have definitely have lost all hope. Our hearts truly and deeply sank.”

By that time, the family had lost hope.

Hero Dog Rescue

Little girl was found in tall grass. Photo from Caters News Agency used by permission

Experts said chances of survival for such a long period were minimal. Rescuers confronted a bear during the search, highlighting the danger of the region.

Then, a miracle.

Karina’s dog led the adults to the lost child, or as The Siberian Times called her, the miracle girl. With the dog’s help, rescuers discovered bare-foot tracks in the dirt, which helped lead them to the girl.

“In the morning, almost right after we began searching—we only made 20 meters—we saw Karina sitting in the grass,” Nikolayev said. “We rushed to her, got her a little tea and grabbed her to run back to the car and doctors.

“I carried Karina myself to the car, and she was light as a bird. She was hardly ten kilograms [22 pounds], but amazingly she was fully conscious.”

This video from The Siberian News shows the rescue effort; the moment Karina was found starts around the 3:05 mark:

Karina was said to look surprisingly well. She was given food and drinks, and was taken to the hospital in Yakutsk, though she had no serious injuries, only scratches, particularly on her feet from walking long distances without shoes. Plus, she had several mosquito bites.

Hero Dog Rescue

Little girl suffered only a few scratches on her feet and several mosquito bites. Photo from Caters News Agency used by permission

Truly a miraculous ending to a remarkable story.

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7-ton elephant relocated (carefully) in Kenya

Posted: 13 Aug 2014 11:38 AM PDT

Elephant Relocation

7-ton elephant is hoisted by crane; photo by Jeremy Goss via Caters News Agency

Moving a 7-ton elephant from one location to another, after the animal has been sedated, requires tremendous care–and also a heavy-duty crane.

The incredible images that accompany this post were captured by Jeremy Goss, a conservationist who witnessed a relocation effort that was launched after the bull elephant had run amok in Kenya farmland, damaging crops and injuring a man.

Elephant Relocation

Elephant’s trunk being held to keep it from dragging; photo by Jeremy Goss via Caters News Agency

The massive pachyderm was transported 195 miles from Amboseli National Park to Tsavo National Park. Its trunk had to be held by wardens to keep it from dragging, as the animal was lifted via crane onto the transport vehicle.

Goss, 29, told Caters News Agency: “It was extraordinary to see something like this as it doesn’t happen often around Amboseli. This male had done an extraordinary amount of damage to people’s crops by eating them. He had also injured a man trying to chase him out of a farm.

Elephant Relocation

7-ton elephant safely on transport vehicle; photo by Jeremy Goss via Caters News Agency

 

“If he stayed he could have either killed himself or injured another farmer trying to protect his crops.”

Wardens with the Kenya Wildlife Service carried out the relocation effort, while the South African-born Goss stood on the sidelines with his camera.

The KWS moves about 200 elephants a year in an attempt to keep the animals, and humans, safe.

Elephant Relocation

Wildlife experts at work; photo by Jeremy Goss via Caters News Agency

Said Goss: “Elephants and humans have a difficult time coexisting, particularly in agricultural areas, as the crops are irresistible for the giants. They can become dangerous to the communities, as well as risk being killed themselves in retaliation.

“In extreme cases the KWS will move particular animals to remote areas, out of trouble, saving the life of the elephant as well as saving local farmers huge losses.”

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Whale of a mystery unfolds in Pakistan

Posted: 13 Aug 2014 10:00 AM PDT

whale of a mystery

Man stands next to whale found near Karachi, Pakistan; image is a video screen grab

When The Express Tribune reported Tuesday that a rare Arabian humpback whale had washed up on a beach near Karachi, Pakistan, it created quite a stir among U.S.-based researchers.

Not because the 60- to 70-foot whale had washed ashore dead, with numerous wounds believed to be caused by a net that was still wrapped around the whale.

But because the photo The Express Tribune used was that of a gray whale, credited to Amir Khan, an Express Tribune photographer.

Gray whales have never been documented in the Arabian Sea. If this were, in fact, a gray whale, it would be major news. A whale of a mystery had begun to unfold.

whale of a mystery

Gray whale that stranded in 2005 in Puget Sound, Washington. A different photo of this same whale appeared in the Express News story, but has since been removed; photo via Cascadia Research Collective

Several inquiries were sent to The Express Tribune, including one from GrindTV, informing the newspaper that the whale pictured was a gray whale, asking for clarification.

On Tuesday night, researcher Craig Hayslip recognized the whale as being the same gray whale that had washed ashore in Puget Sound in 2005.

On the American Cetacean Society-Los Angeles Chapter Facebook page, Hayslip provided a link to a story about that stranding event on the Cascadia Research Collective website.

There was no mistaking that it was the same whale that appeared with the Express Tribune story.

whale of a mystery

Dead whale on a Karachi beach; photo is courtesy of the Pakistani Fisherfolk Forum

So it turned out that a gray whale had not, in fact, been discovered in the Arabian Sea.

And by Wednesday morning the Express Tribune had subbed out the gray whale photo for an image showing the actual whale that washed ashore this week, courtesy of the Pakistani Fisherfolk Forum.

However, the mystery has not ended.

The Express Tribune had, at the time of this post, stuck with its story that the dead whale is an Arabian humpback whale.

Arabian humpback whales are critically endangered. They number as few as 80 animals, though some estimates place the population at about 400.

The whale was discovered by fishermen from Ibrahim Hyderi, and it required 40 fishermen to haul the mammal onto the beach.

Moazzam Khan, the former director of Pakistan’s Marine Fisheries Department, said the cause of death could not have been the fishing net, according to the Express Tribune, and that the whale had died very recently.

But it’s not an Arabian humpback, according to other researchers who have looked at the photos, including Pieter Folkens, a California-based scientist who specializes in whale anatomy.

(Other reports on the whale discovery do not identify the species.)

Folkens commented on Facebook that a news agency has sent him several photos of the dead whale, and the scientist determined that it’s most likely a pygmy blue whale, but could also be a fin whale or a sei whale.

“Turns out the Karachi whale isn’t even a humpback. More like a pygmy blue,” Folkens wrote.

Pygmy blue whales are found in the region.

Khan told the Express Tribune that a three-member team was set to examine the whale Wednesday, and collect DNA samples, which will be sent to the Unites States for study.

Perhaps only then will the mystery truly be solved.

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5 stateside waterfalls to visit before you die

Posted: 13 Aug 2014 04:00 AM PDT

Alamere Falls in Point Reyes National Seashore, California is the waterfall dropping directly into the Ocean; Photo from Shutterstock.com

Alamere Falls in Point Reyes National Seashore, California, is the waterfall dropping directly into the ocean. Photo from Shutterstock.com

Waterfalls have been cloaked in mystery and myth for as long as people have known about them (and, come on, who didn’t get a shiver when they landed the helicopter next to one in “Jurassic Park”?). The largest waterfalls in the world draw people from every continent, but lucky for you, you don’t need to hop on a plane for Hawaii or Zambia to revel at some rushing water. Here are five majorly impressive waterfalls a little closer to home.

Alamere Falls

Point Reyes National Seashore, California

There may be more impressive waterfalls in close proximity, but when it comes to uniqueness, Alamere Falls takes the cake. Even with an eight-mile approach, it’s more accessible than nearby falls and the entire hike in offers beautiful views of the craggy coastline. The reward? A raging waterfall that crashes on to a coarse sand beach and meets up directly with the waves of the Pacific Ocean.

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Havasu Falls, Supai, Arizona, United States; photo from Shutterstock.com

Havasu Falls

Havasupai Indian Reservation, Arizona

Nestled into a side canyon of the more famous Grand Canyon, this waterfall is rare in that it gushes year round. Its milky blue-green water makes it a surreal experience and one of the most Instagrammed spots in the country. How could it not be—the red rock dams and rock formations surrounding the falls give the whole look of the place a magical contrast. It’s a no-brainer on our list.

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Multnomah Falls in the Columbia Gorge in Oregon, shot at springtime; photo from Shutterstock.com

Multnomah Falls

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

If there’s one thing the Pacific Northwest has plenty of, it’s water, and the Columbia River Gorge boasts quite a few falls to choose from. At 620 feet, Multnomah Falls is tall enough to be jaw-dropping on its own, but add in the concrete arch bridge that stretches across its lower drop, and this waterfall is truly a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle.

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Yosemite Falls with a rainbow; photo from Shutterstock.com

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite Falls may seem like an obvious choice, but we couldn’t leave 2,425 feet of falling water off our list. The falls is one of the tallest in the world and the starring act of the waterfall systems of Yosemite. Adding to that its elusive flow—it only runs as the winter icepack melts and usually dries up by mid-summer—and it’s no wonder why this landmark has inspired some of the most influential outdoorsmen of our time (photographer Ansel Adams and conservation advocate John Muir were both fascination by the spot).

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Cumberland Falls in Kentucky; photo from Shutterstock.com

Cumberland Falls

Corbin, Kentucky

Known as the Niagara of the South, this semi-circle dish of rock produces a similarly wide waterfall complete with rainbows and, if you’re lucky, lunar “moonbows.” Go during the fall for a backdrop of vivid orange foliage and a heaping dose of countryside solitude.

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Czech climber earns ‘Crown of the Himalayas’

Posted: 12 Aug 2014 03:34 PM PDT

Radek Jaros earned the Crown of the Himalaya by making the summit of K2. Photo from Caters News Agency used by permission

Radek Jaros earned the Crown of the Himalayas by making the summit of K2. Photo from Caters News Agency used by permission

On his fifth attempt, Radek Jaros finally succeeded in scaling K2 to become the 15th person in the world to scale all 14 summits above 8,000 meters (26,247 feet) without using oxygen, thus earning him the Crown of the Himalayas.

What makes his “eight-thousanders” achievement all the more remarkable is that he did so after losing seven toes to frostbite in his previous climb, according to a report from Caters News Agency on Tuesday.

So while Jaros became the first Czechoslovakian to climb the 14 tallest mountains on Earth without using an oxygen mask, he most likely also became the first to climb K2—the second-tallest to Mount Everest at 28,251 feet—while missing seven toes.

Upon returning to base camp on K2, Radek Jaros was given Crown of Himalaya. Photo from Caters News Agency used by permission

Upon returning to base camp on K2, Radek Jaros was given pseudo Crown of Himalayas. Photo from Caters News Agency used by permission

“I thought I’d burst into tears when I reached the top of K2, but the exhaustion was massive,” Jaros told Caters News Agency. “The weather was really nasty and when I got there I was all alone and the euphoria was weaker than the exhaustion.

“At that moment it didn’t occur to me exactly what I had achieved. I’m just glad it’s all over, and I’m sure it’s not something I’ll be trying again.”

He also said he wanted to “enjoy the experience” and climb without oxygen and without the aid of lifting carriers (to help him climb).

“I wanted to use my own strength and climbing skills to reach the top, and I’ve learned that where there’s a will there’s a way.”

Jaros, 50, reached the summit after 16 hours, followed by Jan Travnicek, according to the Prague Post. A third member of the climbing party remained in the tent at the fourth camp.

Jaros attempted K2 in 2001, 2003 and 2005, but the weather always ruined his chance at summiting. He tried again in 2007. This time, a crushed finger in base camp prevented him from continuing.

Radek Jaros nearing top of K2 where he earned his Crown of the Himalaya. Photo from Caters News Agency used by permission

Radek Jaros nearing top of K2 where he earned his Crown of the Himalayas. Photo from Caters News Agency used by permission

But before his successful climb of K2, it was the previous climb in 2012 that really did a number on Jaros.

After scaling Annapurna in Nepal, Jaros subsequently underwent 11 surgeries over more than a year, and ultimately lost seven toes to frostbite. He posted photos on his Facebook page in January. They are too graphic to show here, however.

Through it all, Jaros never lost sight of his goal to climb K2 and complete the Crown of Himalayas.

Camp II on K2 en route Radek Jaros' completion of the Crown of the Himalaya. Photo from Caters News Agency used by permission

Camp II on K2 en route Radek Jaros’ completion of the Crown of the Himalayas. Photo from Caters News Agency used by permission

When he first started climbing, that was hardly his goal. He was just your average climber at first.

“I started by climbing the rocks at home in the Czech Highlands,” Jaros told Caters. “Sandstone cliffs followed then the Alps and the Himalayas, it was then I found my passion for big mountains.

“Before I knew it I had climbed 11 of the ‘eight-thousanders’ and a friend of mine suggested I try to climb all 14.”

So he did.

Upon returning home to Czechoslovakia on Friday, a crowd of 200 people awaited him at the airport to cheer and congratulate him. He was treated like a celebrity. Or, should we say, a rock star.

A look at Jaros’ eight-thousanders or Crown of Himalayas achievements:

1998 – Mount Everest (8,848 meters; 29,035 feet)

2002 – Kangchenjunga (8,586; 28,169)

2003 – Broad Peak (8,051; 26,414)

2004 – Cho Oyu (8,188; 26,906)

2004 – Shishapangma (8,027; 26,335)

2005 – Nanga Parbat (8,125; 26,660)

2008 – Dhaulagiri I (8,167; 26,795)

2008 – Makalu (8,485; 27,838)

2009 – Manaslu (8,163; 26,781)

2010 – Gasherbrum II (8,034; 26,358)

2010 – Gasherbrum I (8,080; 26,444)

2011 – Lhotse (8,516, 27,940)

2012 – Annapurna (8,091; 26,545)

2014 – K2 (8,611; 28,251)

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For these divers, every week is Shark Week

Posted: 12 Aug 2014 11:03 AM PDT

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Diver shows tiger shark a little affection; images are video screen grabs

For a group of Florida divers, every week is Shark Week.

Mickey Smith and Robert “Cameron” Nimmo are featured this week in a short GoPro video titled, “Petting a tiger shark.” The footage is incredible, revealing a surreal scene beyond Jupiter, involving a large tiger shark moving gracefully through azure waters as it approaches the divers to be fed and gently touched.

At one point one of the divers is cupping the shark’s head with both hands, much like a person will cup a dog’s head. After the diver lets go, the shark turns back toward the diver as if wanting more of this type of attention.

Asked Tuesday about the experience, Smith said this footage was pulled from an 8-minute video shot in May with Emerald Charters. The footage was licensed to GoPro and the shorter clip was released Tuesday.

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The divers belong to the group, Shark Addicts, and on Tuesday, in reference to the release, they boasted on Facebook, “We’ve waited for this moment for a long time!”

Smith said that he and Nimmo dive with Randy Jordan of Emerald Charters, and with paying clients, every weekend. They venture at least four miles offshore and make three dives per trip, and encounter as many as 20 sharks per dive.

They’re familiar with many of the sharks and have given them names, such as Terri, Patch, and Hooker.

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“Sharks have such a bad reputation, all caused by the media,” Smith said, when asked why the group is so passionate about spending every weekend swimming with and videotaping apex predators. “We bring people on these shark dives who are hesitant at first, after the dives they can’t wait to go again.”

Asked about the intimacy of these dives, inspired by the presence of bait, which is what the sharks are really after, Smith said of the potential danger factor:

“Sharks are beautiful and intelligent animals. They know the difference between the divers and the bait. I feel totally in my comfort zone when surrounded by these awesome sharks.”

For most shark fans this week, the comfort zone is a living-room chair, watching the actual “Shark Week.”

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10 tips for rafting the Grand Canyon

Posted: 12 Aug 2014 05:00 AM PDT

Rafting the Grand Canyon to Kanab Camp; photo by Kara Hudgens

Rafting the Grand Canyon to Kanab Camp; photo by Kara Hudgens

Rafting the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River is a bucket list adventure for most outdoor and travel enthusiasts. Colorado paddlers must reach Diamond Creek in 16 days from Lees Ferry, and trying to figure out what to see and do in those 224 miles can be tough. Here are 10 tips to get the most out of your trip of a lifetime.

Drink four Nalgene bottles worth of water a day
The Grand Canyon rests in the heart of the Arizona desert, and the dryness sucks moisture from your body fast. Drink twice as much as the generally recommended 64 ounces a day for a good desert minimum. During long paddling or hiking days, drink five or more Nalgene bottles worth of water. Add a little salt with the water to help it “stick” to you.

While rafting down the Grand Canyon, you see this view of the Colorado River from Nankoweap Trail; photo by Kara Hudgens

While rafting down the Grand Canyon, you see this view of the Colorado River from Nankoweap Trail; photo by Kara Hudgens

Bring salve for hands, feet, and elbows
Not to be confused with simple lotion, salve heals cracked skin and prevents blistering, which is almost guaranteed in the Grand Canyon if you don’t have salve on hand.

Take the first day slow
The Grand Canyon’s climate is drier and hotter than most people will ever have experienced. Chances are you’ll also have been running around nonstop the previous two days preparing for your trip’s river launch, so you’ll start with a low energy tank. Take the first day or two easy, nurse any headaches, and keep the fluids up to bounce back quickly.

Go with someone experienced and knowledgeable about the Grand Canyon
Join either a guided trip or people who have gone a few times. These people know the best camps and the coolest hikes. They can explain the geology and talk about the anthropological history. They also share the funniest stories of past mishaps and adventures.

Hike the Nankoweap Trail, Matkatamiba Canyon Trail, and Deer Creek Trail
These are the premier hikes of the trip. Hike these and as many of the canyon’s other trails as you can.

Night hits Grapevine Camp at mile 82 while rafting down the Grand Canyon; photo by  Kara Hudgens

Night hits Grapevine Camp at mile 82 while rafting down the Grand Canyon; photo by Kara Hudgens

Try your hand at rowing
People just come alive when they help push the rafts down the Colorado River. You develop a deep connection with the river and its history as well as a sense of pride in contributing to the team. Depending on your and your team’s comfort level, you may even row through a rapid or two.

Get iced lemonade and send a post card at Phantom Ranch
Write a quick note to loved ones on post cards. A big stamp on the front labels them as “Mailed by Mule from the Bottom of the Grand Canyon,” which they’ll likely get a kick out of. The cold, ice-filled lemonade is just glorious. You might also find other surprise pleasures of home at Phantom Ranch.

Have a beer bag to drag in the river behind the raft
This is one of the simple pleasures of the trip. The water hovers around 42 degrees Fahrenheit, making water, beer, and any drink nice and cold.

rafting down the Grand Canyon

Two team members row into Horne Creek Rapid while rafting down the Grand Canyon; photo by Kara Hudgens

Sleep under the stars
Gaze at the Milky Way’s white stripe and count how many shooting stars cut the night sky. Watch as the canyon rim’s black silhouette shifts with the rising desert moon. The Grand Canyon’s nighttime show complements the hustle and bustle of its daytime scenery.

Leave no trace
Keep up with all your trash and stay on all the trails. The Grand Canyon is a delicate desert ecosystem that receives little rain to break down or wash away any transgressions you make against it. Leaving as little impact as possible on the river and surrounding landscape preserves this treasure for others—including those loved ones you take down on your next visit—to enjoy.

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Playgrounds: Relax at this adventure hut

Posted: 12 Aug 2014 04:00 AM PDT

Opus Hut

Roughing it Opus Hut style. All photos by Allen Krughoff/Hardcastle Photography

There’s no way to top Opus Hut. This minimalist, off-the-grid, self-sustaining lodge sits high atop Ophir Pass, between the southwest Colorado towns of Telluride and Silverton, in the jaw-dropping vertical San Juan Mountains.

Opus Hut

Adventures from Opus Hut take off from high in the San Juans.

“I searched over a 20-year period for the right land,” says Opus Hut owner Bob Kingsley, who moved to the area after guiding in the famous Tenth Mountain Hut system outside Steamboat Springs, Colorado. “Purchasing the land took two years, and I built the hut over the following five years.

Opus Hut

Mountain biking is a popular summer excursion right from Opus Hut.

The dramatically situated backcountry mountain hut is open year-round, but notoriously massive snowfall in the range adds extra effort—and intrigue—in the winter. Go in the summer to mountain bike, hike, fish, swim in alpine lakes, and photograph amazing wildflowers and mountain peaks.

“A one-mile hike to the west of the hut leads you to one of the most spectacular viewpoints in the San Juans,” says Kingsley.

Opus Hut

Just one of Opus Hut’s “rooms with a view.”

In the winter the only access to Opus Hut is one of two trailheads (the pass is not plowed). Brave a winter stay to experience some epic backcountry skiing or snowshoeing. Mellow slopes flow right from the hut or the adventurous can head to Paradise Basin for unmatched chute skiing. Or just curl up with a good read and a cup of tea in one of the country’s most over-the-top mountain settings.

Opus Hut

Ronja, “Queen of the Mountain,” watches over Opus Hut.

Those who don’t want to go it alone in either season can request a local ski, hike, bike, or herbalist guide to customize the adventure, and according to Kingsley, double the quality of it. Speaking of customized, resident hut keepers (Kingsley splits time with six others) can accommodate any food preferences, and all meals are made with an eye for natural and local products.

Opus Hut

Simplicity is part of the charm at Opus Hut.

“We have an herbalist guide, massage therapist, a helicopter pilot, and we all do it because we love it and love being here,” he says. “Local hut keepers also help guests with history questions as well as orienting those who need help finding their way around.”

Opus Hut

Sleeping quarters at Opus Hut are primitive, but comfy and clean.

Opus Hut amenities—think solar power, wood-burning stoves, and indoor composting toilets—are intentionally sparse, so come with an open mind and bring a sleeping bag liner or cozy sheets, a small towel for the sauna, hut slippers, headlamp, trail food, and a light pack with clothing layers that are suitable for changing mountain conditions. You can rent a bed, private room, or the whole hut for a group outing. Nightly meal packages include an après-ski soup snack, dinner, and breakfast. More details at www.opushut.com.

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New York’s biggest stars? Humpback whales

Posted: 11 Aug 2014 12:36 PM PDT

humpback whales

Humpback whale surfaces for a view of the Empire State Building; photo by ©Artie Raslich/Gotham Whale

Two weeks ago, we profiled the stunning humpback whale feeding display occurring close to shore off Monterey, California. Enthusiasts are still watching in awe as the giant mammals lunge upward through vast shoals of anchovies to ingest thousands of the small fish in a single gulp.

But humpback whales are putting on a spectacular exhibition in nearshore waters off New York and New Jersey, too, gorging on schooling menhaden.

humpback whale

Humpback whale with Freedom Tower in background

The East Coast phenomenon is unique in that more whales are showing up, and staying longer than in previous years, according to the research group Gotham Whale, because water flowing into the Atlantic from New York Harbor is much cleaner than it used to be.

The cleaner water is believed responsible for luring more bait fish to the area, and as a result humpback whales are no longer compelled to migrate farther north to feeding grounds off Cape Cod or Maine.

“The river used to bring nothing but pollution, but in the last five years or so there is cleaner water, more nutrients, and less garbage,” Paul Sieswerda, director of Gotham Whale, told the Guardian. “My boat captain says New York is the new Cape Cod.”

humpback whale

Humpback whale lunge-feeds on menhaden

Gotham Whale, which runs public whale-watching trips aboard American Princess Cruises from Breezy Point, photo-cataloged 29 individual humpback whales feeding in New York waters from the beginning of the spring/summer feeding season through the end of July 2014.

That’s compared to 43 whales for all of the 2013 season, 25 in 2013, and only five in 2011.

Mendy Garron, a marine mammal specialist with NOAA, told the New York Post: “Humpback whales are in the North Atlantic this time of year for feeding. Increase or longer presence in certain areas usually mean that there is an abundant food source.”

humpback whale

Humpback whale reveals baleen used to separate food from water

Menhaden, referred to by many local fishermen as bunker, average 6 to 8 inches long, about the same size as large sardines.

Artie Raslich, Gotham Whale’s staff photographer, said the increased abundance of menhaden and has lured other predators such as blue fish, striped bass, and thresher sharks.

More great white sharks are being spotted, too, and this could be the result of an increase in seal populations.

A harbor seal colony off Staten Island, for example, has increased from 10 in 2006 to about 66 this year.

But the humpback whales, which can often be seen lunging upward and sending thousands of menhaden scattering to avoid capture, have claimed the spotlight.

“Every day there’s a show out there,” Raslich said.

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In case of a mountain lion encounter, do what?

Posted: 11 Aug 2014 11:13 AM PDT

Mountain_lion from wikimedia commons 2

Mountain lion encounter in Colorado is diffused when a woman sings opera really loudly. Generic photo from Wikimedia Commons

A woman being stalked by a mountain lion in Colorado took a very different step to defuse the dangerous situation—she started singing opera as loud as she could.

Kyra Kopenstonsky, 40, of Placerville was hiking alone on Coltrains Trail at Down Valley Park last week when she heard a twig snap and spotted the mountain lion 10 to 15 feet away, according to KUSA-TV and the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office.

Kopenstonsky did what you’re taught to do during a mountain lion encounter. She grabbed a tree limb and made herself look bigger, and attempted to back away from the mountain lion. This wasn’t working, however. Here’s the story from KUSA-TV:

“I would back up and it would creep forward, so I’d stop,” Kopenstonsky told KUSA-TV. “Eventually it sort of crouched down, like part way. So, I start backing up down the mountain, which was really steep. And then it got up and walked toward me. At the closest point, it was 8 feet away.”

It was at this point she decided to do something different.

Mountain lion encounter in Colorado is diffused when a woman sings opera really loud.

Mountain lion encounter in Colorado is diffused by opera sung by Kyra Kopenstonsky. Photo: Kyra Kopenstonsky

“I don’t know why, I just started singing opera really loud,” she said. “It kind of put its ears down and just kept looking at me, and it sort of backed away. Then, it came around the bushes and came towards me again and crouched about 10 feet away.”

But eventually, the mountain lion lost interest and wandered off, ending the 30-minute ordeal and allowing Kopenstonsky to make it safely down to the trailhead where two deputies were staged. A sheriff and six deputies had responded to her 911 call.

San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters said in his 34 years as sheriff there had been dozens of mountain lion sightings, but this is only the second stalking incident reported.

“We’re glad this turned out to be nothing more than a frightening experience for the hiker,” Masters said. “She was obviously educated as to what to do in this unexpected situation.”

When experiencing a mountain lion encounter or heading into mountain lion country, the Colorado Department of Wildlife recommends the following:

Travel in groups, keep children close by, and make plenty of noise to lower your chances of surprising a lion.

If you spot a mountain lion, do not approach it, especially one that is feeding or with kittens.

Allow the lion a way to escape. Most mountain lions will try to avoid confrontation.

Face the lion, try to stay calm, do NOT run, as that may stimulate a lion’s instinct to chase and attack.

Stand upright, grab a large stick if possible, and raise your arms in an effort to appear larger, and back away slowly.

Sing or speak in a firm voice to help demonstrate that you are human and not prey.

If you have small children with you, pick them up.

If the lion becomes aggressive, wave your arms, shout, and throw objects at it. Do not turn your back to the lion or bend down.

Mountain lion attacks are extremely rare. In fact, there is a greater risk of being struck by lightening than being attacked by a mountain lion. If attacked, fight back.

You might also try singing opera really loudly.

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Is this the country’s most dangerous hike?

Posted: 11 Aug 2014 03:00 AM PDT

dangerous hike

Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park offers thrills and views, making it one of the country’s most dangerous hikes. Photo by Johnie Gall

National Parks may feel tame, but hike the steep and craggy Precipice Trail in Maine’s Acadia National Park and you’re sure to get the adrenaline kick you’re looking for. Located on the east face of Champlain Mountain, the walk is widely considered the most dangerous hike of Acadia. While it’s not a technical climb, the steep vertical drops and exposed cliffs make it extremely hazardous. (The hike is no joke—two years ago a 22-year-old woman fell to her death here.) Sometimes the only way to stay on the hike is to grasp a primitive iron ring or pull yourself up a metal ladder jutting out from the sharp granite. Tackle this trek, and you’ll look at National Parks in a whole new way.

The stats: 1,058 feet final elevation, 1.6 miles round-trip, budget 3 hours, no dogs, and children under 5 feet, 2 inches may not be able to do this hike.

Getting there: From Bar Harbor, Maine, follow the Park Loop Road along the eastern side of Mount Desert Island—while the National Park entrance is technically farther down the road, you’ll need a park pass to use the Precipice parking area. The trailhead sits obviously at the edge of the parking lot.

dangerous hike

Check out a map before you tackle this dangerous hike to take the right trail back to the parking area. Photo by Brandon Scherzberg

What to bring: Sturdy hiking boots, weather-appropriate hiking clothing, a hat, sunglasses, a small pack with plenty of water and food, a camera, a small first aid kit, a cell phone.

When to go: Harsh Maine winters make this trail too dangerous during the winter and early spring seasons, and much of the spring and early summer the trail is closed off to protect nesting Peregrine falcons and their chicks. Call a park office to find out when the trail opens up, typically in early August.

dangerous hike

Primitive metal rugs offer hand-holds on steep granite, making this dangerous hike a little less dangerous. Photo by Brandon Scherzberg

What to expect: The trail kicks off with a steep, flat boulder that requires you to trust your boots and depend on friction to cross—a good deterrent for less-able hikers and a taste of what to expect later in the hike. From there, you’ll follow the clearly marked trail through the woods, up a few rock scrambles, and to your first set of rungs. The trail emerges on to a steep ledge that winds back and forth up the mountain, with some ladders and long rungs peppered in along the way. The top of the mountain offers plenty of beautiful vantage points and lunch spots. You’re allowed to follow the trail back the way you came, but we suggest making it a loop for a safer experience.

dangerous hike

This dangerous hike does have its perks, including wild blueberries that grow all over the summit of Precipice Trail. Photo by Brandon Scherzberg

Do: Pluck a wild Maine blueberry to snack on toward the top of your hike.

Don’t: Lose your balance or take your hands off the metal rungs for a picture unless you’re secure. If you take a tumble, it may be your last.

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Joshua Ploetz canoes the Mississippi for PTSD

Posted: 08 Aug 2014 05:27 PM PDT

Joshua Ploetz paddling down Mississippi River to bring awareness to PTSD and to

Joshua Ploetz paddling down Mississippi River to bring awareness to PTSD and to “Paddle off the War.” AP Photo/Gerald Herbert used by permission

As former Marine Joshua Ploetz rounded a bend of the Mississippi River in New Orleans, paddling a canoe with the names of fallen comrades written on its side, a surprising but welcomed sight greeted him.

About 100 uniformed Marines, including those playing music, were there to welcome him to New Orleans, show support, and thank him.

Joshua Ploetz is greeted in New Orleans by about 100 uniformed Marines. AP Photo/Gerald Herbert  used by permission

Joshua Ploetz is greeted in New Orleans by about 100 uniformed Marines. AP Photo/Gerald Herbert used by permission

Ploetz, a veteran of two tours to Afghanistan and a victim of a roadside bomb, has been coping with post-traumatic stress disorder for the past eight years, according to the Associated Press.

He lost friends on the battlefield and later to suicide.

Civilian life proved difficult, from failed relationships to employment hardships.

Joshua Ploetz greets a Marine in New Orleans. AP Photo/Gerald Herbert used by permission

Joshua Ploetz greets a Marine in New Orleans. AP Photo/Gerald Herbert used by permission

Feeling lost, Ploetz decided two years ago that he would canoe the entire length of the Mississippi River. He created a Facebook page called “Paddle off the War” and dedicated his adventure to raising awareness for PTSD.

On May 19, Ploetz, 30, began paddling in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, where the river begins as a narrow creek, and 71 days later, on July 28, he reached the gulf, where he read scripture beneath a rainbow. His 2,320-plus-mile journey was complete.

“What an adventure,” Ploetz wrote on Facebook on July 28. “No words can describe the last 71 days…I want to say thank you to all the people that helped me out along the way. I am truly honored to meet some many people that make this country so great. Semper Fi.”

Always faithful.

Canoeing the length of the Mississippi was designed for Ploetz to paddle away the demons of war, or at least tame them some. It seemed to work.

“It slows life down so you can appreciate things in life,” he told AP. “All you have to do is think about things that you may not want to think about, things that just appear or things that you should think about, and you kind of work things out in your head.”

Joshua Ploetz wrote the names of fallen comrades on the side of his canoe, which he paddled down Mississippi. AP Photo/Gerald Herbert used by permission

Joshua Ploetz wrote the names of fallen comrades on the side of his canoe, which he paddled down Mississippi. AP Photo/Gerald Herbert used by permission

Ploetz spent 49 days of actual paddling, resting the other days. He met friends along the way, including Aleks Nelson, a kayaker from Duluth, Minnesota, who joined Ploetz about 10 days into the trip and accompanied him the rest of the way. Gerald Herbert of the Associated Press chronicled the journey with photos, which were released on Thursday.

“You’re going to have your hiccups in life,” Ploetz told AP. “You’re going to have your troubles on the river or troubles down the line. But just keep paddling, you’ll make it through it. Find that person you’re going to talk to or find the next person that’s going to share that story with you, or go to New Orleans where it’s going to pump you up to go to the end.

“I kept pushing on and made it to the gulf. That was where my goal was for myself. I hope that more people can connect and find the river that they need to paddle down.”

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Adam Walker first Brit to finish Ocean’s Seven

Posted: 08 Aug 2014 01:59 PM PDT

Adam Walker gives two thumbs up after completing final leg of the Ocean's Seven, swimming across the North Channel of the Irish sea. Photo by Jim Ryder (Stranraer) used by permission

Adam Walker gives two thumbs up after completing final leg of the Ocean’s Seven, swimming across the North Channel of the Irish sea. Photo by Jim Ryder (Stranraer) used by permission

Marathon swimmer Adam Walker became the first Brit to complete the Ocean’s Seven, long-distance swimming’s equivalent to the Seven Summits of climbing.

Walker, 36, swam the North Channel in the Irish Sea on Wednesday, covering the 21-mile stretch from Ireland to Scotland in 10 hours, 45 minutes despite encountering numerous lion’s mane jellyfish. He was stung several times by the largest known species of jellyfish, which is capable of growing to 6 feet, 7 inches with tentacles stretching over 100 feet.

Adam Walker was stung several times by a lion's mane jellyfish. Photo by Dan Hershman/Flickr

Adam Walker was stung several times by a lion’s mane jellyfish. Photo by Dan Hershman/Flickr

“What I was not prepared for was quite how big they can be,” Walker said. “However, after a few stings, you realize their bark is worse than their bite!”

The jellyfish weren’t enough to prevent Walker from becoming the fifth person to swim seven channels on seven continents, and only the second to do so without any failed attempts.

“I just can’t believe that I’ve finally done it,” he told the News Letter of Northern Ireland. “I am ecstatic to finish seven out of seven swims on the first attempt.

“This swim was the last of the hardest seven ocean swims on the planet and to know that I am the first British person ever to succeed is a truly amazing feeling.”

Walker began his quest for the Ocean’s Seven by swimming the English Channel in July 2008. Here’s a complete list of his seven channel swims:

English Channel: July 2008, 11 hours, 35 minutes

Strait of Gibraltar: July 2010, 9 hours, 39 minutes

Molokai Channel: July 2012, 17 hours, 2 minutes

Catalina Channel: October 2012, 12 hours, 15 minutes

Tsugaru Channel: August 2013, 15 hours, 31 minutes

Cook Strait: April 2014, 8 hours, 36 minutes

North Channel: August 2014, 10 hours, 45 minutes

Adam Walker during his swim across the North Channel in the Irish sea. Photo by Jim Ryder (Stranraer) used by permission

Adam Walker during his swim across the North Channel in the Irish sea. Photo by Jim Ryder (Stranraer) used by permission

When we last wrote about him in April, Walker had completed his sixth channel swim with the aid of a dolphin pod, which scared away a shark in New Zealand’s Cook Strait. He’s also endured a painful sting from a Portuguese man o’ war suffered on his crossing of Molokai Strait in Hawaii.

“My biggest low was the Hawaiian swim, where the pilot said three navigation systems were down and we were a bit lost at sea, so I spent three hours going backwards, then sideways, then I got stung by the man-of-war, then right at the end I got chased by a tiger shark when my anti-shark sonar unit ran out of battery,” Walker told 220Triathlon.

“But it turned into a massive high when I was standing on the beach after I’d gone through it all, saying to myself repeatedly, ‘Pain only lasts a minute, success lasts a lifetime.’ I knew then no other swim was going to be as bad as that; I was in so much physical pain. The stings are like third-degree burns—I pulled two tentacles off my stomach, and I lost feeling in my spine.”

Adam Walker was stung by a Portuguese man o' war on his Molokai swim. Photo by Jim Ryder (Stranraer) used by permission

Adam Walker was stung by a Portuguese man o’ war on his Molokai swim. Photo by Jim Ryder (Stranraer) used by permission

The highlight, of course, was the dolphins swimming with him and scaring away the shark, especially since the charity he has been raising funds for throughout his Ocean’s Seven quest, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, deals in part with dolphins.

All in all, it was an achievement worth cheering about.

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Canoe & Kayak Awards winners go the distance

Posted: 08 Aug 2014 12:57 PM PDT

Canoe & Kayak editor Jeff Moag, left, hands off the 2014 Expedition of the Year Award presented by Nexen Tire to winner Aleksander Doba and award presenter Mick Hopkinson at the Canoe & Kayak Awards

Canoe & Kayak editor Jeff Moag, left, hands off the 2014 Expedition of the Year Award presented by Nexen Tire to winner Aleksander Doba and award presenter Mick Hopkinson at the Canoe & Kayak Awards

The paddling community gathered in downtown Salt Lake City Thursday night to celebrate the past year’s most inspiring paddlers, adventures, and expeditions, as well as the sport’s most worthy philanthropic causes at the 2014 Canoe & Kayak Awards presented by NRS. And after 9,200 votes, an all-star cast of presenters announced the deserving winners, nominated by their peers and selected by readers and everyday paddlers.

In a year defined by expeditions that went the distance—across Baffin Island, down the entire Amazon, through the Caribbean—it was Aleksander Doba’s 5,400-mile voyage across the Atlantic Ocean that earned the third-annual award ceremony’s marquee Expedition of the Year Award presented by Nexen Tire.

Doba, the bearded adventurer from Poland, crossed the Atlantic again (this time by plane) to accept his award in person to the night’s most raucous cheers.

“I’m not old; I’m 68 years young,” an ecstatic Doba joked in broken English before fellow Polish friend and exploratory kayak legend Piotr Chmielinski took the stage to translate Doba’s feelings of gratitude.

Distance also defined the night’s Spirit of Adventure award, which went to Janet Moreland, the first woman and first American to paddle her country’s longest river system with her 3,900-mile, 223-day “Love Your Big Muddy” source-to-sea kayak journey down the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

“Don’t give up on your daydream!” Moreland implored the audience, hoping her adventure would inspire others.

Canoe & Kayak Awards

Spirit of Adventure presenter Piotr Chmielinski hugs winner Janet Moreland at the Canoe & Kayak Awards.

Moreland wasn’t the only female winner to inspire the packed crowd of 300. Sage Donnelly, a 14-year-old phenom who’s made her mark in freestyle, downriver, and slalom competitions, took home the Female Paddler of the Year Award presented by Shred Ready.

On the men’s side, race savvy also carried weight for voters as reigning Green Race winner Pat Keller took home the Male Paddler of the Year Award presented by Shred Ready amidst a stacked and tightly contested field of nominees.

A pair of heart-felt presentations bookended the evening. First, expedition kayaker and decorated Marine veteran Cody Howard presented the philanthropic Paddle with Purpose award to winner Team River Runner. Then to close the evening, Idaho whitewater icon “Rapid” Rob Lesser—the recipient of last year’s Lifetime Achievement Award—presented the 2014 honor to the late Jaime McEwan.

In a stoic yet emotional acceptance speech to close the ceremony, McEwan’s 1992 Olympic slalom partner, Lecky Haller, paid tribute to a friend he described as a true “renaissance man,” who taught him “to feel good about your performance even if you don’t win the race.” Lecker closed the speech by thanking McEwan for his “lifetime of service to our little way of life,” bringing the crowd to its feet in standing ovation.

In addition to Lesser, Howard and Chmielinski, awards presenters included whitewater pioneer Mick Hopkinson as well as two stalwart chargers continuing to push the sport forward in Evan Garcia and Louise Jull. Nominees as well as some of the biggest personalities in the sport came together once again to celebrate the best in paddling and in one another.

Special thanks to the sponsors: NRS, Nexen Tire, Shred Ready, Level Six, and Danuu Paddle Gear.

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Lion snaps off wing mirror as if it were a twig

Posted: 08 Aug 2014 11:26 AM PDT

Lion attacks a car in the Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa. Photo from Newsflare/Caters News used by permission

Lion attacks a car in the Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa. Photo from Newsflare/Caters News used by permission

A lion in the Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa walked up to a stopped car full of filmmakers and began clawing at the back side window, as if it wanted to break into the car and eat the occupants. The apex predator at the sanctuary then clawed at the front side window. Unsuccessful, it resigned itself to making a statement about being the king of jungle, easily snapping off the car’s wing mirror as if it were a twig. Watch the video provided by Newsflare/Caters News Agency via the U.K. Mirror Online:

“He’s really trying to get in,” one passenger says at the beginning of the video.

“Are we rolling on this?” another asks.

“Oh yeah, I’m rolling,” replies the videographer.

You also see others holding up GoPro cameras and a smartphone, shooting video.

“Uh-oh,” one says as the lion starts fiddling with the mirror.

Lion sniffs the wing mirror on the car before snapping it off like a twig. Photo by Newsflare/Caters News used by permission

Lion sniffs the wing mirror on the car before snapping it off like a twig. Photo by Newsflare/Caters News used by permission

Instead of driving off, the calm occupants in the car just watch as the lion does its damage. Finally the driver decides it best to hit the accelerator, with two lions giving chase.

Incidentally, the Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary is currently home to lions, spotted hyenas, and black leopards. It strives “to provide a self-sustaining African carnivore sanctuary for the purposes of wild species preservation through education, awareness, and funding,” according to its mission statement. “The sanctuary aims to maximize efforts towards keeping carnivores in their natural habitats.”

In their natural habitat, lions definitely let it be known they are the kings of the jungle, as these filmmakers discovered.

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Florida cops nab cat-eating Burmese python

Posted: 08 Aug 2014 09:55 AM PDT

Burmese python

Port St. Lucie police display Burmese python that had been preying on cats; courtesy photo

Pet owners in Port St. Lucie, Florida, can rest easier knowing that a 12-foot Burmese python that had been preying on neighborhood cats has been captured.

Police located the 120-pound snake Friday morning after responding to 911 calls from residents complaining about a large snake that was eating cats.

It’s not known how many cats the python had snacked on but police sergeant John Holman, responding to one of the calls, found a dead cat in an empty lot, and later discovered the python in waist-high brush, according to WPTV.

Burmese python

Sgt. John Holman poses with suspected cat-killer

The sergeant called for backup and police teamed to capture the massive reptile, whose fate remains unknown.

Burmese pythons are an invasive species in Florida, and represent a threat to native wildlife (and pets).

They were first detected in the early 1980s, and became firmly established in parts of Florida—particularly the Everglades—about 10 years ago.

Burmese pythons are among the largest snakes in the world. The largest captured in Florida measured more than 17 feet.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission states on its website that some pythons were likely introduced by irresponsible pet owners who set their snakes free after they had become too large to care for.

But several were introduced when a breeding facility was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1986.

Burmese pythons prey on several small mammals, birds, and small alligators.

It’s now illegal in Florida to acquire the snakes as pets, and the state has several control measures in place in an attempt to keep the reptiles from proliferating even further.

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How one woman ditched her job for a life of adventure

Posted: 08 Aug 2014 09:00 AM PDT

life of adventure

Emily Bell, who ditched her 9-to-5 for a life of adventure, is on the verge of launching her own adventure magazine with Ben Saunders. Photo courtesy of Bell

Emily Bell’s story begins like a lot of people’s: She earned a “safe” job in financial headhunting and spent the next two years sitting behind a desk in a suit and heels. But that’s, perhaps, where the similarities end: In a broad leap of faith, Bell handed in her resignation, moved in with her parents, and spent the next few years pursuing a life of adventure, including anything and everything that made her feel alive and earned her enough cash to get by. There was no savings plan, no security—just Bell and an unrelenting habit for saying “yes.” The Londoner became the first woman to kayak the length of Great Britain and the first to paddleboard down the length of the Missouri River—all this despite that she’d never tried either activity before in her life. Other odd jobs included organizing a month-long music festival during the World Cup, cleaning houses, wedding planning, and even appearing on a game show in France. Now Bell, 29, is on the verge of launching her own adventure magazine with partners Ben Saunders and Port magazine—and that’s just the beginning. Here’s an update on Bell and what she’s got planned for the future.

You spent 60 days paddle boarding on a river, another stint kayaking the length of Great Britain. Do you ever get tired? Scared? Want to quit? What do you tell yourself in those moments?

I am scared of the water, so yes, I get very scared. But I also love the water, so I decided to do these to trips to try to conquer my fear. It didn’t work, but I’m glad I didn’t miss out on them because of my fear. There were many moments where we were scared, cold, and tired on both trips, but you just have to keep going. I was supporting swimmers on each, so maternal instinct kicked in, and I had to stay positive and keep going for them. The kayaking trip was the hardest thing I have ever done. It took four-and-a-half months (arriving in freezing cold November) instead of two months, and every day was difficult and hard. I am very stubborn and knew I had to get there, otherwise everything I had already gone through would have been for nothing.

life of adventure

Emily Bell became the first woman to paddle the length of Great Britain—something she did even though she is afraid of water. Photo courtesy of Bell

You are something of an expert in spontaneity—tell me a few of the craziest things you’ve ever said “yes” to.

Well, I said yes to paddleboarding the Missouri River and didn’t even know what a paddleboard was. Two weeks later, I was on a plane to America to start. I said yes to kayaking Britain having never kayaked before and was suddenly standing at Land’s End. I said yes to presenting a 31-day music festival in Cape Town and moved there for nine months a day later. I said yes to representing the U.K. on a game show in Paris and spent the next two weeks living in France competing every day dressed as a frog, someone from Mexico, and an obese person on a BMX bicycle! I also decided to run Hadrian’s Wall this weekend and am off tomorrow to do it without any plans or training!

What are some things you want to cross off your bucket list before you kick it?

Oh, my goodness—so many. I definitely want to climb some big mountains. I need to do a polar trip of some kind. I’m keen to row the Pacific, as that would allow me to face my biggest fear again: water. I want to do some ultramarathons in the desert, jungle, and Arctic. I really want to bicycle around the world. I will definitely paddleboard the Thames—I think that will be the next one. I’m keen to kayak the Caledonian Canal. There are so many places I want to visit and things I want to do I sometimes get overwhelmed.

How do you add adventure into every single day?

Every day, I try to get outside as much as I can. Even since creating my own career, I can still spend so much time stuck behind a computer screen. I try to go for a run before work and do boot camp after work. I try and fit in yoga, cycling, and wild swimming where I can.

life of adventure

Emily Bell has become an expert in saying “yes,” leading her to a life of adventure. Photo courtesy of Bell

What are some items you never leave for a trip without?

Aquapacs are amazing. I use them for all my trips to keep everything safe and dry. The iPhone case, iPhone bike mount, and iPad case alongside the duffel bags, dry bags, and daypacks are all invaluable. BAM Clothing makes the softest clothing from bamboo. And mini cheddar [crackers] are my must-have—and lip balm. I can’t live without that.

If we came to hang out with you for the day, what would you take us to go do?

Meet me in Oxfordshire, where I spend most of my time. Get up and go for a run through the fields and climb along the hay bales. Back for a big breakfast of homemade smoothies, granola, and eggs with piles of newspapers. Then pack an amazing picnic and get on the bikes and cycle along the river Thames. Go for a swim in the river, eat a picnic on the banks of it. Cycle back. Stop in the dreamy local pub for a pint of cider. Then back home for a game of tennis on the village court. Then drinks in the garden and yummy supper followed by lots and lots of silly games. That is pretty much a day with the Bell family.

What’s your favorite piece of advice or words to live by?

“You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy.” I love anything from Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild.”

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Don’t miss extra special Perseid Meteor Shower

Posted: 08 Aug 2014 03:00 AM PDT

Perseid Meteor Shower_TravisBurke

The annual Perseid Meteor Shower will coincide with the super moon this weekend. Photo by Travis Burke

If you’ve never taken the time to watch a super moon rise, on August 10 you’ll have your chance for a special event. The full moon will be at its nearest point to Earth in orbit, making this “super moon” appear 30 percent brighter than usual and 14 percent bigger. And this year, the super moon takes place only two days before the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower.

The Perseid Meteor Shower happens every August, and it’s known as one of the most spectacular showers of the year. It’s called the “Perseid” shower because the meteors seem to emanate from the constellation Perseus, although the true source of the meteors is debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet, which rides a 133-year orbit around the Earth.

The best place to view any celestial event is outside of town in an area free of light pollution, meaning this weekend could be a great opportunity for a spur-of-the-moment camping trip. And while the super moon will make the meteors more difficult to see, many sky lovers view this year’s Perseid Meteor Shower as an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.

For best meteor viewing, astronomers recommend scanning the sky in the pre-dawn hours of August 11, 12, and 13. Also, if you happen to live near one of the country’s many National Parks, most offer full-moon hikes starting Saturday. Check out NPS.gov to find out if one is offered in a park near you.

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