I received a sad email last night with an obituary attached. My friend and colleague, Felipe, passed away Tuesday from a brain tumor. Felipe was one of my travel companions on my first trip to China when I taught English and dance. He had a huge heart, he was always open to the new experiences abroad and was willing to give anything a try. His favorite song while we were overseas was the Cupid Shuffle and absolutely loved teaching the dance to the Chinese students. He will be missed dearly. Rest in peace, Felipe.
Posts Tagged With: Backpacking
Last week, I decided it was time to get back on the water and go paddling. It has been months since our last kayaking trip and the 80-degree January weather is perfect for being outside. Marsha, our friend down the street, graciously loaned us her kayaks for two days while I mapped paddling routes that we’ve never explored before.
The first day, we were set to paddle Weedon Island – a marshy, mangrove-covered preserve on the west side of St. Petersburg (right on Tampa Bay). The kayak trail is 4 miles of loops, tunnels and swamps and we couldn’t wait to launch our boats!
The trail is marked with these special signs. They’re especially helpful deep in the mangroves when it’s very easy to get turned around. However, in order for the signs to be effective, I’d have to look at them and make note of what markers we passed…
Being the excited, impulsive person I am, I failed to check the tide charts before launching our kayaks. We ran a couple of grounds, had to pull the kayaks over oyster beds and eventually, we had to turn around and do the paddling trail backward – finish to start.
For Christmas, my parents bought me a new digital camera – one that’s waterproof and perfect for rugged adventures. Low tide was a great time to shoot pictures of the conchs and lightning whelks living in the sand.
The low tide also made for the easy stingray spotting! Unfortunately, they scoot away pretty quickly, so it was difficult to take good snaps. Plus, they seem to enjoy resting on the sand in the sun and we felt bad disturbing them.
We’re not avid birders but Weedon Island is a fantastic spot to see all kinds of native Florida birds. We spotted Roseate Spoonbills (they’re pink like flamingos with a platapus-looking bill), Great Blue Herons, Ibis, Egrets and many others that we had never seen before.
Because we didn’t have a map (nor did we take a picture of the map at the trailhead) and we were paddling the trail backwards, it was up to my [very good] innate sense of direction to get us on the trail and keep us from getting lost. While we were figuring out the numbered sign system, we stumbled upon a beautiful mangrove tunnel. The tunnel was so long and had such a relaxing current, it was like floating down a lazy river. We hardly had to paddle!
Once we made it through the mangrove tunnel, we finally figured out where we were and the numbered signs were easier to follow. (Before we realized we had turned around and were doing the trail backwards, it was so confusing to go from marker #3 to marker #37!) We decided to deviate from the trail a bit and check out Tampa Bay.
Back on the trail again, we spotted some more stingrays and various birds and oyster beds. The last part of the trail (which is really the first part of the trail, if you follow the markers in order) was our favorite – it was 1-2 miles of mangrove tunnels, one right after another!
We were the only ones in the tunnel for a long time and while we floated through the scraggly branches, we heard little noises coming from the trees…
Mangrove Tree Crabs were everywhere! What we thought were just knots in the bark of the mangroves were really dozens of crabs climbing the plants’ roots. THOUSANDS of crabs scurried around us as we floated through the tunnels. And once we realized how many there were, it gave us the jitters. After a bit of research, we later learned that the crabs are primarily herbivores. Thank goodness.. because there were a ton of them and only 2 of us.
I floated through the various tunnels with my mouth agape the whole time – in awe that something so amazing was just a few minutes drive from our house! We eventually made it through the last of the tunnels and back to the beginning of the trail (for us, the end of the trail).
It was a successful kayaking adventure. I was still riding the high from the amazing mangrove tunnels, convinced that nothing else could top the experience we had just had. Little did I know, the next day would go down as one of our TOP kayaking adventures of all time…
Today’s travel tip: Use a water bottle as a snack container – saves space, stays fresh, and is great when you have dirty hands!
This is a sweet shot I snapped of September’s Top Knotch Gear bracelet, the Peru, during the Color Run. Have a cool pic of your TKG gear? Post here or on our Facebook page for everyone else to see! Need some gear? Check out our store – we’re constantly adding new designs, cords and cool stuff so you’re ready for your adventures.
I bought this mug when we went to Yosemite National Park last month on our road trip. I just love drinking my morning coffee, thinking about future adventures….
Tip 1: Don’t want to carry your purse when you go out? Use a binder clip as a key ring/money holder. You can clip it directly to your money belt for safekeeping and not have to worry about toting around your purse or bag while you explore.
Tip 2: Use a plastic soap container as a camera case! Most containers are waterproof (or water resistant at the very least) and are just the right size for a digital camera.
Tip 3: One of the best parts of traveling is eating. If you go out to eat or hang out at a bar that has cardboard coasters, consider snagging a few – they make very original, super crafty gift tags… especially for beer drinkers!
On December 15, September and I will run a 5K race (3.1 miles) called The Color Run. Unlike many other races, The Color Run is about fun fitness with friends and family, not speed. It encourages people to be come out and be active through COLOR. At each kilometer of the race, volunteers douse racers with neon-colored powder. Participants wear white shirts at the starting line and by the end of the race, everyone looks like a tie dyed rainbow covered in yellow, orange, pink and blue ! (It makes for great pictures.)
In addition, if you’re familiar with Indian or Hindu culture, you may have heard of the Holi Festival or the Festival of Colours. This annual celebration in India commemorates the beginning of Spring and the defeat of evil. (While not an overly religious holiday in India, it does mark the death of the demoness, Holika, who was defeated and burned by Lord Vishnu. I.e.: good triumphing over evil.) The highlight of the Holi Festival, like The Color Run, is the brightly colored power thrown at people. There’s dancing, food, music and even a wickedly big bonfire.
Who would have thought that Festival of Colours half the world away would inspire a running event here in the states?! Very cool.
I found this infographic on Pinterest yesterday – 10 places to see before they’re gone. Most of the natural sites are either sinking or being destroyed by human activity but other places, like the Taj Mahal, may be soon closed to the public in an effort to save the architecture. Will you get to see any of these places before they’re gone??