Monday, July 28, 2008

Fear and Excitement

It's with a mixture of fear and excitement that I am writing today's post. For weeks, I have been debating whether to let anyone know (0utside of our family and staff) that Becky and I are taking off on another long hike. We are scheduled to start the Colorado Trail (479 miles from Denver to Durango) around the 18th of August.

First the excitement: We have the opportunity to take 5 weeks to hike one of the most beautiful trails in the world. The trail travels through 6 wilderness areas and 8 mountain ranges on it's way to Durango. We'll witness summer fading into fall as we hike. Most of all, we're going to experience the freedom and simplicity of life off the grid. Our days will be in tune with the rising and setting sun. Our comfort will be dictated by the weather and the mileage we have to cover. Our life will move away from grey area decisions to the black and white reality of life in the wilderness.

Now for the fear: At the beginning of any journey, there's always the nagging worry of problems that can arise. You know the discomforts you'll face: hunger, cold, heat, bugs, lightning and mileage. You just don't know what level each of these discomforts will rise to. My biggest concern right now (and the reason that I was hesitant to let anyone know we were going to hike the trail) is with my fitness.

Ever since we returned home from the Appalachian Trail (has it been two years already?!!) I have been haunted with pain in my right knee. As this trip grew nearer, I had two incidents with the knee that led me to getting an MRI. The MRI led me to having surgery to repair a torn meniscus. This was 3 weeks ago. I am just getting up to speed for walking the neighborhood and park, but I honestly have no clue what will happen when I subject it to a backpack, mountains and miles to cover every day. My doctor only chuckled when I asked him if he thought I would be ready to hike 500 miles 6 weeks after surgery.

That said, there's no way we're not going to give this a shot. I have often told people that the definition of adventure is setting out on a journey that you cannot predict the success or failure of. For Becky and I, this journey is an opportunity that we are so thankful for. We are ready for a time of introspection, inspiration and exhilaration. Without the difficulty, I don't think these factors can root themselves fully to your core. That's what wilderness travel is all about.

We invite you to travel along with us by following our trail journal. The link is: Then scroll down until you see the "2008 CT" Link on the left nav bar.

Note that we will update the journal every 5-8 days along the way, so keep checking back. I plan on journaling our thoughts, difficulties and (with some luck) victories. Our start date is around the 18th of August. We look forward to sharing our journey with you!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Kayak Fishing - Texas Style!!!

It appears that the South Texas coastline has survived the Cajun invasion of kayak fishermen. We just got back from a fantastic kayak fishing trip to the Rockport area. Our group consisted of me, Becky, Wes & Chris Franciol, Michael Pears, Cheryll and Bud Guilbeau and Mike McDaniel. When we left Lafayette on Friday afternoon, we didn't have a clue as to what to expect when we arrived in Rockport.

Kayak fishing in Texas is very different from the fishing we've done here in Louisiana. First off, most of the waters we fished was very shallow (8-18 inches) and very clear. Our method was to quietly paddle into the flats keeping a keen eye out for bait fish breaking the top, and for redfish moving and feeding in the shallows. It took a little practice to be able to pick out tailing reds from other fish moving in the water. Becky (as usual) was the first to catch a fish - staking out in an area where a cut flowed into a lake.

Later that morning we came on a lake with about 8 or 9 inches of water. We got out of our kayaks and quietly waded towards some movement we had noticed. Tailing Reds! We were throwing very light 1/8 ounces spoons and plastic DOA minnows rigged weightless and weedless, so we were pretty limited on the distance we could throw our lures. We stalked until we were close and then threw. My line went right on top of the pod and they scattered. For a split second, I thought I had scared them off. Then I realized that I had a redfish peeling line off my reel like crazy. A few exciting minutes later Mr. Redfish was at my feet. Wow! What a feeling!

Later that day, Chris Franciol reeled in a nice flounder. To help her out, I grabbed the flounder with my new ($120) Boga Grip. Our guide wanted a photo of us, and just after she snapped it, the flounder flapped and the Boga Grip with the flounder attached fell into the waist deep water. I groaned thinking of my Boga Grip being gone (not to mention Chris' fish!). Captain Sally said "Feel around - I don't think that flounder could get far with the Boga Grip on it. I thought this was pretty hopeless, but I started feeling with my hands in the waist deep muddy water. After a couple of minutes Chris thought the flounder had just touched her foot - so I headed that way. By now (of course) all my supportive team mates were laughing their heads off at me. I had the last laugh though when suddenly I felt the rope that I knew must be attached to the Boga Grip. With a flourish, I pulled the Boga AND the Flounder out of the water. Everyone laughed, cheered and another picture was taken for posterity. Funny part: After this picture, the flounder flapped again and escaped the Boga. I guess he earned his freedom.

That night our group headed out to eat at a small local spot right on the bay. Everyone (except me) thought it was hilarious to watch me falling asleep sitting up at the table waiting for the food to come. Hey- it's tough on a guy to do hand to hand combat with an escaped flounder! After dinner, it was off to bed.

The next morning we were at the dock for The Skimmer at 6am. The owner of the boat (dubbed by Michael as "Cap'n Ron") met us and helped us load our gear and kayaks for a run out to San Jose Island. The sun was just coming up as we cruised across Aransas Bay. We arrived and all of us jumped into waist deep water off the back of the boat. The kayaks were offloaded along with all our fishing gear. Before long, we were fishing the flats of Fence Lake and the estuaries that run towards South Lake. We fished till around 2pm in crystal clear flats - casting to fish we could see swimming and feeding, catching several nice redfish as we went.

Too soon, it was time to meet The Skimmer and Cap'n Ron to head back to Rockport. On the ride back across the bay, I couldn't help but to think about the way that Kayak Fishing can open up portions of the natural world that we wouldn't likely have visited. We had the adrenaline of catching fish, but we had that good tiredness that comes with paddling hard for 2 days, seeing lots of birds, enjoying our fellow paddlers and meeting some really interesting new folks. Kayak Fishing truly does lend itself to weekend explorations all over the gulf coast - and maybe even across the nation and the world. Believe me - we'll be back!!!