I was super stoked to finally get a proper hurricane swell about three weeks ago. It had been so long! Too long! I was able to catch parts of 5 of the 8 days of that Hurricanes Earl and Danielle were gifting us and enjoyed a couple of really fun sessions with my buddies Aaron and Ryan inside Guana State Park in Ponte Vedra Beach. I took the GoPro out or “Super Tuesday” during Earl. Here’s a few pics from the morning and the afternoon that day.
On Labor Day, my wife, Gretchen, and I got our tourist on in Auggie. I have lived in Northeast Florida all my life and have NEVER been to the Fountain of Youth! 😳 I had heard that there was a pretty cool watch tower overlooking the Intracoastal waterway on the property so we decided to check it out, and to be sure, the views were spectacular! Highly recommended! The property is pretty big and there are a lot of other historical attractions on the site. A few peacocks hanging around, too. As far as the fountain, it’s inside a faux cave chamber. They have cups and let you drink from it. They say it’s from a spring but it definitely was NOT 72-degree spring water, more like 80-degree city water, lol 😂! But hey, we had to try! Also, my appearance did not become any more youthful, but ummm… maybe there’s a delay or something… I’ll keep everyone updated! I’m guessing a good, strong cup of black coffee would probably have a quicker, more immediate youth-restoring impact (maybe get rid of the bags under your eyes!) But don’t let my own cynicism affect your decision to give it a shot. You never know. It is a gorgeous place, and a beautiful sight to see.
Here’s another park we hiked while up in Alpharetta, GA, a really cool urban park hidden right in the heart of the city. It seemed like a really great place to just hang out and cool down, in or out of the water. What a wonderful natural amenity for the locals.
The same weekend we went up to Alpharetta, GA to see the Jack Johnson / Ziggy Marley concert, we ran up about an hour north to visit Amicolola Falls for some hiking. We had been here once before and it is such a gorgeous place. This state park features the third tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River. It’s only about 8 miles from the Appalachian Trail. We were loving the 70-degree temps after a brutally hot summer in Florida! Check this place out if you get a chance! Here are a few shots of the somewhat strenuous hike to the top of the falls. I’ll post some waterfall videos, as well.
Woot! Date night! My wife, Gretchen, and I recently made a quick trip up to the ATL (Alpharetta, GA) to catch a Jack Johnson / Ziggy Marley concert. It was an awesome show! Jack was great, as usual! He played new stuff from his new CD, Meet the Moonlight, many old hits, and also threw in some great covers- Jimmy Buffet’s A Pirate Looks at Forty, Sublime’s Bad Fish, Steve Miller Band’s Space Cowboy, and even The Cure’s Just Like Heaven! (Long live the 80s! … and the 70s and 90s, I guess! 😃) . Ziggy Marley was also excellent. He played some of his music and a few of his dad’s songs. Here is an encore acoustic performance of Jack Johnson’s song, “Home“. Below that is a dual shot of the front stage and back lawn of Ameris Bank Amphitheater. Beautiful venue! It holds 12,000 people, I think. The show was sold out.
I had one of the most surreal experiences of my life last weekend (and I’ve had a few of those) when I got to paddle out for a surf session with Tom Curren, one the most stylish and influential surfers in history, and maybe the only surfer in the world who garners as much or more respect than Kelly Slater. He is surfing royalty, revered not just because of the glory the 3x world champion brought to American surfing during his career, but the way he has always done … well, everything.
Described over the years as “shy”, “private”, “eccentric”, and “enigmatic”, Curren was a professional competitive force with a free-surfer’s soul who never seemed comfortable with some of pro surfing’s rigid commercial trappings, even while he could not help but completely dominate the sport with his prodigious talent.
He retired in his prime when he seemed to simply get bored of the pro grind- an internationally renowned popular cultural icon with too much artistry, creativity and counter-culture DNA to keep doing the same things over and over. With nothing left to prove, he traded in the world tour for touring the world, becoming part of The Rip Curl Search, and putting more energy into his music career (he’s also an accomplished guitarist/musician/vocalist who has released two albums).
Tom never did a lot of interviews and never seemed to let the public into his life too deeply even while countless fans like me still longed to watch his timeless style. In 1995, Rip Curl and film-maker Sony Miller (RIP) produced, “Searching for Tom Curren”, one of the best surf films ever made, that finally let the world get a little closer look at the soul of Tom Curren. I still have a rare, 25-year-old original copy of that VHS that I preserved over the years, that Tom signed for me when I met up with him in Cardiff, CA last weekend.
How this trip materialized was absolutely incredible. Call it irony, serendipity, karma or a just a great blessing … maybe a little of all of that.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an Instagram post about owning that original VHS copy of “Searching for Tom Curren”. The second I finished posting it and returned to my feed, I noticed a post from Rip Curl Ventura. I only follow the California shop (I’m in Florida) because my friend, Ehren Tresher, from New Smyrna Beach, used to manage it and I had visited him out there.
Their post announced that after 25 years, “Searching for Tom Curren” was finally being re-released in streaming and digitally-remastered formats, and noted that to celebrate the upcoming world premiere in Cardiff that week, that they were going to let 5 lucky people enjoy a two-hour surf-session with Tom. They said they planned to notify winners on the following Thursday for the event taking place Saturday morning. With such a short turnaround, I figured they were assuming the winners would be from California. But I also figured that if I had a full day to figure out travel arrangements, I could potentially make it, so I entered my contact information.
Fast forward to the following Friday. I had not received any notices, so I assumed I had not won. Oh well, you don’t know if you don’t go. Then… on Friday at 4 PM, I received a text from Rip Curl notifying me that I had indeed won and to show up at the San Elijo Campground in Cardiff at 9:30 the NEXT MORNING to meet and surf with Tom! 👀👀👀😂.
The folks from Rip Curl would later share with me that they had about 3,500 entries, that I had won entirely at random, and that the one-day delay in notifying me was due to the fact that among the original 5 winners who were selected, one could not make it and another did not surf and thought that the event, called “Camp Shred”, might include surf lessons. Of course, it didn’t, but Rip Curl wanted to fill the slots, and my name came up in the second draw.
Back to 4 p.m. on Friday … I could not believe it when I received the text! I didn’t even know if it was possible to get to California from Jax by early the morning, but I knew that if it was, it would be very expensive and logistically, nearly impossible, at best. I showed the notification to my wife, who was also in disbelief. At the same time, she knows the great value I place on life experiences, on seizing opportunities when they present themselves, and understood exactly where surfing with Tom Curren might fall in line on both of those lists for me.
So, she jumped online and started helping me look up flights. Now, this was the weekend of the Super Bowl, so you can imagine what the prices and lack of options for flights to San Diego and LAX looked like. Worse, I had to make a final decision FAST, also find a hotel room and rent-a-car, and get to the airport 45 minutes away, just to have a chance of making it.
Finally, we found a flight- at $675, the cheapest available, that was leaving in two hours. We are far from wealthy and I knew this was going to set back plans for a trip to El Salvador that I had been hoping to take, but again, I thought about it and realized this was an opportunity that say, at a charity auction, might go for between $5K – $10K, maybe more. Essentially, it was priceless. It is just not something that most would ever get the opportunity to do. So, we pulled the trigger.
I scrambled to pull my board bag down from the attic and threw my wetsuit, board shorts, and a change of clothes into an overnight bag while Gretchen continued searching for a car rental, and a hotel room in Cardiff. Within an hour, we were racing off to the airport and I made the last flight out of Jax, with about an hour to spare.
I arrived in San Diego at about 12:00 a.m. Gretchen had booked me a rent-a-car and a hotel room in Carlsbad, about halfway between the airport and Cardiff. Alas –as most, if not all experienced surf travelers have experienced at one time or another– I went to the baggage claim to pick up my board and waited… and waited… and waited… until one by one, all the people had disappeared… and all the carousels had stopped moving.
My board had not made it.
Livid, I protested with the airline service representatives. They tried to do what they could, but the reality was that there were no more flights coming in from Dallas (the American Airlines connecting city where my board had made it to). They assured me that it would arrive at 8:30 a.m. the next morning. I was due in Cardiff, about 30 miles away, at 9:30 am. It would be razor-close timing.
As a result of this delay, I had to cancel my hotel reservation in Carlsbad and try and find a room closer to the airport. Thankfully, it was a Saturday, so the early morning traffic would at least be lighter than on a weekday. But I still had to go pick up my car rental and try to find an affordable hotel room (an oxymoron in San Diego), that would take me in that very night. And, the clock was ticking.
After driving around downtown San Diego and calling and stopping at multiple hotels, most of which were full, I finally found one that would take me in for a few hours … for $175. I sat outside for a few minutes, pondering sleeping in my car, but I felt I had to get at least a couple of hours of decent sleep which wasn’t going to happen that way. So at 2:30 a.m., I bit the bullet and checked in.
At 7 a.m. the next morning, I got up and made my way back to the airport and at 8:30 a.m., as promised, my board arrived. I threw it in the back of my car and high-tailed it to Cardiff, arriving at the San Elijo Campground at around nine a.m.
Upon arriving, there was no parking to be found. As it turned out, there was an event happening there, a BIG one: “Camp Shred – The World’s Largest Board Demo”. ALL of the top board-makers were there and basically, you could demo any type of board you desired, for free. (In hindsight, I realized I didn’t even need my board – I would love to see one of these events in Florida!) Rip Curl had premiered the remastered version of Tom’s movie the night before and I was told that a lot of industry bigwigs were in attendance. They were also doing a second showing for the two-day event, later that evening.
I didn’t want to miss my session with Tom, so I parked in the only space I could find: a No Parking zone. I made my way down to the Rip Curl tent/campsite. I was greeted warmly with a big gift bag full of all kinds of Rip Curl swag, an invitation to help myself to their cooler, and assurance that Tom was in transit. I told their crew that I was from Florida, and about my crazy journey to get there. They could not believe it, but were super-stoked to learn about it! They told me their drawing was completely randomized and that they had no idea I was coming from Florida. They had only seen that I had confirmed I would be there.
Right behind me, the other four winners showed up, all from California, and not too far away. A couple were my age, a couple a bit younger. All were super friendly, and they also loved hearing that I had come all the way from Florida, with less than 24-hour’s-notice.
At around 10:30 a.m., Tom showed up with his wife, Maki. We had introductions, and after a little chatting, we put on our wetsuits and headed down to the beach. The waves were nice, waist-to-chest mostly, a little soft, but clean with good form. The break, a reef, was beautiful and they said a couple of whales had come through earlier. Due to the event (or maybe just due to it being California), it was packed, with about half of the people on longboards – men, women, and people of all ages.
Tom rode a CI twin-fin that looked to be about 5’5” with a unique pair of cutaway fins. His wife paddled out with us on a bodyboard. Due to the crowds, the good waves were hard to come by. I caught three, maybe going 15-20 yards each time, before cutting out. I had surfed twice all winter and was just happy not to fall in front of the champ.
Tom rode about five or six waves and as you might expect, ripped them all to shreds in a very nonchalant way while riding just about every one of them to the beach, each time. Like Kelly and other elite surfers, he simply seems to know where the energy resides in every wave and uses it to generate maximum speed and flow. His style was as effortless, as beautiful as ever, and a joy to watch. People noticed Tom but did not bother him, and he didn’t dominate the break the way I suppose he could have. Instead, he just found spots and waves, inside and outside, and made the most of each one.
In the water and after the session, Tom was as polite as could be– soft-spoken, and as humble as he always seemed to be from afar. He took the time to interact with each one of us there as a group, and individually. He told me he had just moved into a new home and said he hadn’t traveled much, recently. He perked up most when talking about music.
I mentioned that I had seen him play when he came through Jax years ago (at the Milk Bar), touring with Kelly Slater’s band. He said that was one of his favorite tours and concerts, and that he remembered Jacksonville and Jax Beach in particular, and really loved the area. I asked him if he had been involved creatively with the production of “Searching for Tom Curren” or just the subject of it, and he said it was all Sonny Miller’s creation, with the exception of some diffusion effects that he had suggested (to great effect, I would add).
When we got back to the beach and Rip Curl’s cliff-side camp, I asked him to sign my original VHS of “Searching for Tom Curren”, which I had brought with me for that purpose. He did, and also signed promotional film posters for my wife and two daughters. The folks from Nalu.tv, the company re-distributing the film offered up VIP tickets to the second showing of the film that night, but my flight back was that same evening. I thanked them, Tom, and the Rip Curl team for the once-in-a-lifetime experience, and headed out.
When I returned to my car, there were two tickets on it; one for parking in a no-parking zone and the other for entering the campground without a pass. My expenses were still going up, but honestly, I was just happy my rental hadn’t been towed.
Heading back to Florida, I had to fly Jet Blue from San Diego to New York, of all places, then all the way back down to Florida. There was a snowstorm at JFK, and it caused a three-and-a-half-hour delay on top of what was already a very long trip that spanned all night and well into the next day. I hadn’t traveled since the pandemic began and masking up on the planes and in airports for that long was its own challenge. I think I slept a total of four hours over nearly two days, arriving back home a couple of hours prior to kickoff for the Super Bowl. As you might imagine, I slept through most of the game, but I wasn’t too worried about it. I had just gone “searching” for Tom Curren, and I found him.
On Saturday afternoon in pumping 10- to 12-foot surf at one of the world’s most dangerous breaks, Kelly Slater made history … again. The 11x world champ won the Billabong Pipe Masters just six days shy of his 50th birthday. He took the final against 24-year-old Seth Moniz, a world-class talent, North Shore local and Pipeline specialist.
It was Kelly’s 8th Pipe Masters title and 56th event win of his illustrious career, one that spans 30 years, 832 heat victories and 31 perfect 10-point rides. He is the youngest world champ ever (age 20 in 1992) and the oldest ever (age 39 in 2011). He won 5-straight world titles from 1994 to 1998 and holds nearly every record of significance in professional surfing.
As word spread around the net about Kelly’s most recent – and possibly, greatest and maybe even last professional milestone (he referenced the “R” word) – images of his incredible rides and emotional post-heat interview began popping up on social media. If you are connected to surfing at all, you likely came across a few of them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
On Sunday morning, I even saw a post about it on LinkedIn. It garnered a handful of likes and made me feel good to see it there. But it also gave me pause to consider all those people for whom the post might have seemed trivial on the professional careers network, as well as others who might have noticed it only briefly on various other platforms while quickly scrolling through the news of the day.
For many, Kelly’s historic accomplishment may have been nothing more than a passing headline in their newsfeed, a novel tidbit about a vague personality in a sport that is too often associated with frivolous immaturity. But for those of us who surf, who through some serendipitous fortune have had the opportunity to witness the entirety of Kelly’s incredible decades-long career, it was and is something far more meaningful and consequential.
There is a poem by Samuel Ullman titled, “Youth”. General Douglas MacArthur used to keep a framed copy of it on his wall and often referenced it in speeches. In it, Ullman reflects:
“Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life … Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.
Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage, and power from men and from the infinite, so long are you young.”
I am not big on celebrity culture and I have never been one for hero-worship. But what are heroes? In their simplest form, they are people who do something more. They work harder, persevere longer, take more risks, and make greater sacrifices. They inspire us to change and to do more, ourselves.
As a 50-something who still surfs regularly (your average free-surfer, but I’m out there), who remains professionally and creatively inspired, and has never been willing to forsake my physical health, stop chasing my dreams or setting my personal goals one inch lower because that’s the expectation of culture for people my age; that’s what Kelly’s victory in the powerful surf at Pipe, his current World #1 ranking days before his 50th birthday (February 11th), and the entirety of his career, mean to me.
It is about optimism and the challenge of remaining true to one’s ideals.
For the greater part of my adult life, Kelly has been one who has inspired these things in myself and so many others– to pursue life with vigor and passion; set goals based not on what others think, but on terms you set for yourself, and to believe anything is possible, something more – far more – than most others might even be able to imagine. Yes, there will always be wins and losses, but why burden yourself with pre-conceived notions and limitations?
To Kelly, on behalf of myself and millions like me who have followed every step of your remarkable career, I say, Happy 50th Birthday. Thank you for your unyielding optimism and countless messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power played out across so many waves and oceans, and for so many years.
Thank you for your enthusiasm, your unfailing childlike appetite for what’s next, and joy for the game of living. Thank you most of all for a lifetime of inspiration and for holding fast to that wonder that lives in the center of your own heart, and in ours.
My daughter, Kaelyn, with Sage Erickson at the recent SuperGirl Surf Pro in Jax Beach a couple of weeks ago. What a treat it was to see the world’s best female surfers here for a WSL-sanctioned contest!
Kaelyn and I went and watched the contest on Saturday and made it a point to catch up with Sage.
The very first board I ever bought for Kaelyn happened to be one of Sage’s used boards. It was a 5′ 7″ Channel Islands that we found at the Surf-Station, which is a CI distributor. As a result, they occasionally get in old team rider boards. The one I bought for Kaelyn was beautiful, and featured some of Sage’s own hand-drawn butterfly art (Yes, Sage is a talented artist, as well- see the pic, below)!
At the Supergirl Pro event, we caught up with Sage and shared a pic of Kaelyn with her old board. She gasped, smiled, and put her hand over her mouth, then just stood there silent for a few moments gazing at it. She couldn’t believe it and seemed to get a real kick out of it! She said to Kaelyn, “Oh my God, where’d you get that? Who is that in the picture? Is that you?! That’s back when I used to ride for O’Neill!”
Needless to say, it was a thrill to get to meet her and share this memory with her. Apparently, the board was a good memory for her, too. Sage won her heat that day, but eventually went down in the Round of 16. Again, super stoked to see this event in Jax. The pier was producing, and the ladies were absolutely ripping, then entire event.
I was super stoked to have been a part of Kuti Loftus’s recent successful world record attempt for most consecutive waves caught last month. Kurtis broke the record by catching (638) waves in a single surf session over 31 consecutive hours!
Kurtis previously owned the Guinness World Record for the same, which he set 10 years ago (313 waves in 29 hours) as a fundraiser for the 26.2 with Donna: The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer.
His record was later broken by a surfer in California, so Kurtis decided to get it back, this time as part of a fundraiser for his own annual “Deck the Chairs” event, benefitting the Jax Beach Volunteer Lifesaving Corps.
A decade ago, I did a night surfing session with Kurtis and friends, as he went for his first world record. I wrote about that experience, here. This time, I served as an official, helping count and record waves until a little after midnight, at which point, local surf/weatherman, Tim Deegan took over.
Kurtis powered through a really pitch black night with the moon not rising until 11:00 p.m. Like last time, we tracked him t night, primarily using glow sticks. At age 60, Kurtis, who had put in a serious training effort to endure the challenge, BLEW past the old record!
Kurtis has been named a Jacksonville “Beaches Legend”, one of only 13 to be so honored. He’s an extremely talented graphic and fine artist/illustrator who also created the old South Swell Magazine, Deck the Chairs, and is now a (2x) world record holder. Legend, indeed!
Kurtis keeps me inspired by never wasting a moment of his time, always living life to the fullest, and doing so with a genuine attitude of gratitude for everything, and everyone. Here’s a couple of more late-night scenes from when I was out there.
Only in Florida … Yes, gators like to go to the beach, too!
My daughter, Kaelyn, and I had considered paddling out to catch a few waves on this day (6/30/21), but the tide was dead low and swell fading after work, so we bailed and I decided to go for a run on the beach, instead. It was probably a good thing we skipped our session because when I got to the beach, someone else was paddling out at our local spot inside the Guana Tolomato Matanzas (GTM) Research Reserve in South Ponte Vedra Beach, between Ponte Vedra Beach and Vilano / St. Augustine – a real-life ripper / shredder!
This was about a half-mile south of the northernmost entrance to the park. I felt conflicted. I wasn’t sure who the real “local” was in this case. I’m a 3rd Gen native of Northeast Florida, but this guy still wins! In all my years here, I have actually seen gators on the beach a couple of times and even a little one in the water. But I’ve never seen one this size (a medium-sized junior) just go waltzing into the ocean like this. If Florida wildlife makes you nervous or you’re planning a beach vacation here, soon, you don’t want to watch this video… but I’m guessing you will anyway, so enjoy!
Quick Update: So, it appears my gator video went viral. Shortly after posting it on IG, I started getting DMs asking about reposting it or in some cases, just tagging me. Coastal Republic was first, followed by a slew of others. Within the first week, I could easily see nearly half-a-million views on just the major channels, themselves, and not any of the thousands that mentioned friends to share it with them. Tim Bonython, the acclaimed Australian cinematographer who produces Swell Chasers, made Biggest Wednesday and is currently producing The Big Wave Project, who has captured some of the most amazing big wave footage ever at places like Shipsterns, Chopes and the Right, among others, message me to use it in his IG story. Discover Sharks (over 245,000 views!) posted it, Beach Grit, Reel Life Fishing, Everglades Holiday Park (production home of the tv show, “Gator Boys“), NSB Inlet, Reel Life Fishing, Sustainable St. Augustine, Memol Wildlife, among others. Big shout out to NSB/NCFL ripper and Creative Director/Digital Marketer, Matt Dayton for letting me know what was happening with the video, which was quickly getting reposted without attribution in some places, and speaking up to make sure I was properly credited when he saw it. Appreciate it, Matt!
For friends who surf, I thought you might enjoy this clip from Surfers of Fortune, a vintage 29-year old VHS surf film by Brian Bleak. You can no longer buy it. It’s not on DVD. You might be able to find it on YouTube. It featured the Quiksilver crew tooling around Indo. It is one of the films that inspired my own surf travels through the years. Incredible surfing. Amazing soundtrack. Beautifully and creatively filmed, and edited.
A few years ago, my precious copy of Surfers of Fortune got jammed up in an old VHS player. I tried everything to get it out or just get it to move but was unable to do it. But in my eyes, that tape was way more valuable than the player, so I took the machine apart, destroying it in the process to salvage the tape.
Recently, I hooked up another old VHS player to watch it for the first time in many years, and yes- it is as brilliant as ever.
I wanted to share this extraordinary clip of a young Kelly Slater surfing one of the most incredible waves anywhere in the world – Lance’s Right (aka Hollow Trees or HT’s) because it is still today, the single greatest display of tube riding I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot). It is complete mastery: entering, exiting, slotting, positioning, sitting, standing, drop knee, even critical drop-ins … switchfoot. Incredibly, 29 years later, at age 49, he’s still performing professionally in world-class, Tom Bradyesque-style. He may not be his 20-year-old self (shown here), but he’s still remarkably close. But enjoy this! (P.S. You may have to turn up your volume. This is a decades-old VHS that was subsequently recorded straight off my television set, so not the greatest quality).
Here’s another fun adventure we enjoyed over this past winter, during Coivd… skydiving. After going parasailing, the girls had mentioned how the “fear-factor” was no biggie, and that they’d like to try skydiving sometime. So, I called them on it and booked a tandem jump at Skydive City in Zephryhills, FL. Coincidentally, about 28 years earlier, it is where Gretchen and I had gone for one of our first dates while students at UCF in Orlando. Back then, on a total whim, we jumped in the car and headed over with a couple of friends. It was such a blast! Although we had not been skydiving again since then, we remembered how awesome Skydive City was! Their safety record is (still) spotless, their facilities fantastic, and their instructors are super cool, highly skilled and very accomplished. Best of all, they take you up higher than most places – over 13,000 feet so that you get to experience over a full minute of freefall at 120 miles per hour. The day that we went this most recent time was in January, and it was bitterly cold by Florida standards (40 degrees?). Not the norm! But it was also sunny, clear and beautiful! Gretchen didn’t go up this time– just Kendall, Kaelyn, and myself. Needless to say, the girls did great, just as they always seem to do whenever I challenge them. They had a blast and I imagine they’ll be headed back with friends, soon! This was an awesome Father/Daughter experience, one I’m sure they’ll never forget. I know I won’t!
Looking for a fun Florida “staycation” getaway? Check out kayaking with the manatees in Crystal River during the winter months when the manatees head into Florida’s springs to keep warm. Super inexpensive adventure and a chance to experience some pretty interesting Florida wildlife up close and personal. You can even jump in and snorkel with the gentle giants if you like (but no touching, of course). We used Get Up & Go Kayaking for the outfitters. They have crystal clear see-through kayaks and great guides who put you right on top of the manatees. Check ’em out!
So, if you go to Tallulah Gorge State Park and show up early enough in the morning to get one of the 100 daily permits that are issued to go beyond the end of the regular trail all the way to the gorge bottom, and you make that difficult hike, this is your reward. It’s a pretty unique experience and a fun one!
Highlands Aerial Park bumps up next to the Nantahala National Forest. The property has some beautiful scenic nature trails, worth exploring if you happen to go! Here are a few pics from our day there.
My daughter Kendall and I came across this fellow while hiking in Payne’s Prairie in Gainesville, FL recently. Ironically, I had literally just finished telling her seconds before, about how the area reminded me of other places in North Florida I’d explore as a child, and that we’d occasionally find rattlesnakes living in abandoned gopher tortoise holes. Then lo and behold, as soon as I finished that sentence, we came upon this good-sized rattler splayed out right across the trail. Great experience! You don’t see these guys as often as you used to.
The Blizzard Branch Syrup company in Middendorf, South Carolina makes pure cane sugar syrup using fresh cut sugar cane and a hand press. Sugar cane goes in. Sweet stuff comes out. Then it’s off to be strained boiled and strained again. Willy Wonka has nothing on these guys! I’m pretty sure this is where they recorded the sound effects for that movie, anyway. This is a great example of sustainable farming and agritourism. Interesting stuff! We had a good time romping around up there while visiting family in Hartsville, SC over the Thanksgiving holidays.