There are too many things for my brain to unload about this trip so I’ll leave it like this, with a buncha photos….
Saturday we drove to Monument Lake where we got hammered by skeeters, met John Kumiski Sunday morning and pedaled my kayak with an additional 300 lbs of weight to an island in the Everglades, broke my right foot on Monday, caught fish, got wet, ate fish, froze a bit, burnt a bit, got our faces savagely violated by noseeums, had some laughs, shed some tears, left zee island on Thursday and soap finally hit me by 11pm. This is our 8th year doing a paddle trip together. I love John and these trips have opened my eyes to so many things in life. They have helped me deal with the obstacles life hands me, giving me added strength needed to overcome anything, mentally and physically. River has been an added distraction but in the 8 years we have been taking trips, they have become less extreme. This would be Rivers first overnight extended island stay and he did awesome.
Here are some photos from my camera phone as I no longer carry a DSLR and don’t take many photos of fish.
It’s December, this is from October. I’m trying to write and post more but I’ve been pretty distracted. Anyway……………………
140 lbs, I had officially hit my lowest weight since, well, my lowest weight left back in my teens. It was a little odd because I could see where some of my stomach muscles never came back after my accident. I could never see it before because of body fat. The silver lining in zero fat is that you feel pretty damn sexy. I got sick like this before and in 2019 I spent a significant amount of time going to several doctors in hopes for an overall good bill of health and I obtained that with everything except a blood test that I slacked on. So, I got one when I returned from this trip along with another EKG and everything came back clean this week. My health will remain a mystery for now but when I saw my weight issues coming, I pulled the plug on life and took off to the mountains to relax and hang with my parents for a few days. I’ve since hit Publix BOGO on Ben & Jerry’s and put some weight back on and feeling normal again. A pint a day will keep the bones away. After having a dustnado tear ass through my tent one night while vomiting because I was dehydrated in the desert and doing shit that a person of my caliber should NOT be doing, I knew I needed change. It was a sleepless night, crawled into the fetal position and convulsing uncontrollably. I was also battling one of my worst urinary tract infections so I was over the world at that moment and envisioning what would make my life better. I manifested it and the image below paints the exact picture of what I saw when I was subconsciously asking for a way out. Buying a topper for my truck has changed my life. Coincidentally, it is part of why I cannot keep weight on because it burns right off. But it’s just sooooo rad and easy for me to leave whenever. This is when The Handicamper was born.
Diamond Lake, OR- Summer of 2019. Life suddenly got easier on this day.
We packed and headed out for a slow ride to NC and arrived in the mountains around 1am. It was cold which was nice because the skeeters sucked here two months ago. My parents live on the side of a mountain and the only flat ground there is the garage floor, so we sleep in my truck on one of my fathers lots above their home. It’s flat, you can see the sun and moon rise in the east and I can easily toss some landscape granite rocks in the truck to go. I believe the mountains are cursed so I’m not sure why I’m bringing rocks home. But hey, my place looks better each time I come home from NC.
After a good night sleep, we rolled outta bed and drove down to the house. I had called my father prior to coming and let him know he could tell mom I’m coming or not and surprise her. He opted to surprise her, so we did.
In August when I was up, I had run into a man at the gas station that was obviously on a similar path as I. We hit it off pretty well and he told me to stop by before I headed back to FL. I never did but it sat with me as unfinished business, so I went by his place this time and he wasn’t home. I only knew it was his home because of his truck so I left my card on his window with a note. He later called and we had a lengthy chat about life and much more. We had plans for the night so we headed off into the Cataloochee Valley to stay the night. Lonewolf is also a Shaman and suggested I pay attention for a sign over the night.
Only sign I saw. I embraced it and riding it deep.
This road was closed to cars and sucked for wheelchairs but I did a mile.
I’ve been wanting to bring River to Cataloochee Valley for a while now but I wasn’t going to bring him until we could stay the night. I had never stayed the night here and it’s been on my list for some time. The phone number is listed on a sign on your way in so I called and found a nice spot for the evening by the river. The repetitious visits in the evening have become not so memorable unless something exciting happens but the morning, oh man, I’ve never been here in the morning. It’s not exactly the best drive you want to take at 5am in the dark to see the sunrise here so get a campsite and stay the night. I don’t carry my camera with me anymore so it’s hard to capture raw beauty with a phone.
Feeling fresh, we explored the new day, got lost deep in the woods and headed towards Lonewolf after a much-needed Gigi Burger. River had about a dozen dogs to chat with along with some chickens and cats but he’s an old soul so he hungout with us in this shed. We drifted into a time warp while getting to know each other. It felt like we were talking for an eternity but when I gave him a ride to get his truck, I realized it had only been about two hours. There was a moment when I had to stop and take a photo because this was a memorable moment in my life and I was in full embrace. We bonded, I dropped him at his truck, we made a trade and parted ways until next time.
A few years back, I started incorporating drive time into pleasure time so turning off the highway on random roads and taking a 4-24 hour detour has only enhanced my life and allowed me to see more of our country. It is also a challenge to freestyle camp because you just have no clue where you’re going to sleep for the night. It could be an epic spot or it could be in the Post Office parking lot at 2am in a small GA. River left them a package in the grass, we were out by first light and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise drive through GA and back into our home base.
Last night I was cleaning up my office and found a thumb drive in a small bag so I checked it out and found this essay Steph had written about her first time sky diving. I wanted to share this with her family, friends and especially her sky diving crew. The photos below are of a trip we took to NC and visited the outdoor skydive simulator. They are the closest I could get to her actually sky diving. I’ve never featured a guest blog and could not imagine someone more deserving. Enjoy!
5 September 2009
December 19, 1998, the time had come. I had been living for two months on site at the airport, in a van, among Them; they had taken me in as one of their own. I had been saving money for two months to finally be able to experience this life-altering event that I had been hearing so much about. I was about to become “One of Them.” I was going to make my first skydive, and I had no idea what I was in store for, or how much it would change my life.
This year John Kumiski and I did a west coast trip that consisted of the following areas;
Deer Prairie Creek Preserve, Manatee River, Little Manatee River, Myakka River, Peace River, Cockroach Bay Preserve, Hillsboro River, Chassahowitzka River, Withlacoochee River, Rainbow River, and the Suwanee River.
Earlier this year I marked off 3 days on my calendar prior to summer camps starting. While the days remained marked off for months, I never planned on going anywhere. The week prior to the days marked, my buddy Capt Brian Sherman from Louisiana hit me up. He said he would be in Marco Island the next week and had never caught a snook. Well what a coincidence because my marked days magically had plans now.
I left on a Wednesday morning and the night before I ran out with friend Capt Alex Gorichky to do our bi-weekly trout listening study. On my way to him I stopped for a sub and in the parking lot was a woman that could not get her car started. I got her rolling before the storm dropped and when she asked what can she give me, I said a high five. I got that, a hug and a $20 that I tried to refused with no luck. That bought my dinner with plenty of change that I’ll get back to.
Words can’t express how I feel about the outpouring of support so I will simply say, I LOVE YOU & THANK YOU!!! I’ve been waiting on one last touch to write this blog but today I realized I won’t have Steph’s memorial bench until late Sept. So, once it comes in, with some help from her girlfriends, we will install it on the Indian River Lagoon’s edge at the end of Valkaria Rd for all to enjoy. Endless Windz owns that property and Mike has agreed to let me install it there. Steph liked to watch the sunrise from the location. I plan to install it on what would have been our 4th Anniversary, October 26th. Anyway, I’ll get on to my last adventure with her. Including are some random photos that don’t even scratch the surface of the cool things we did.
Friend Tammy Wilson and I had plans to hit the Econ in late July but I was about to come off of a six-day work week and I was ready for a break. To add, July was only going to be a bit hotter than June. Both Tammy and I had Monday off so we jumped at the chance and invited friend Dee Kaminski to join. We had a great little group and off we went.
I always have mixed emotions on bringing cameras with me. Documenting trips is something I love to do but there are times that I don’t get to soak them up as much because of the distractions caused by the camera. So, I brought them, couldn’t find inspiration to take photos, second guessed bringing them and then it hit, I saw an image. That’s really all it takes is seeing that first image and then it’s downhill from there.
It’s been a while since I attended a Heroes On the Water-Space Coast Chapter event. I’ve been working most weekends so my schedule has not worked out with the Sunday events. Fortunately, I didn’t have anything planned for Memorial Day and noticed there was an event so I put it on my calendar.
There’s blackwater in Central Florida that flows North in a small river named Econlockhatchee. It flows while you’re there and it flows while you’re not. If you jump in sometime and flow with it, I promise a most memorable time.
You first have to pick a crew. It may be small or large (preferably small) but either or, do not, and I repeat, do not journey into the Florida Everglades alone. The Everglades is home to some wild beasts, unpredictable weather and unforgiving circumstances. The crew should be friends, diversified with leaders and followers. Too many of one will leave you lost or in a fight. They must also like the outdoors because if they don’t, you may never hear from them again. This trip, my crew consisted of Jason Camusso, a somewhat new friend and two old skateboard buddies from many moons back, Chris Lehman and Matt Giles. Matt was with me in November when we paddled into the depths of the SW most area of the Everglades out of Flamingo on a 4-day trip. After that trip, I knew I wanted to squeeze in one more adventure before it got too warm again so I almost immediately planned this trip for February.