Sunday, July 13, 2014

North Anna River (Doswell, VA)

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The week before the float we accumulated eighteen people to join us down the North Anna River. At the same time, the water level was steadily dropping and I was curious to know whether this year's float would turn into a "walk" instead. When we arrived at the put-in we were glad to see some depth, although it wasn't exactly a swift current.

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Some participants dropped out of the float and some joined the trip at the last minute, which somehow landed us right back at our expected group of eighteen floaters. The mix of friends this year was great and a lot of new friendships were formed.

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I was looking forward to bringing my new dog Ruprecht along, but he was in a scuffle with Rebecca's Boston Terrier, Mr. Tuffy, and had stitches on his arm from the fight. We did bring along Rebecca's other dog Bailey. She was a hit with everyone, especially her goofy swimming style.

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Last year our float lasted roughly three hours. This time we saw the bridge for the take-out after five hours on the water. It was perfect timing, though, as evidenced by the single remaining beer in our cooler.

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Outer Banks (North Carolina)

Our friends Paul and Erin rented a house in Kill Devil Hills for the week and invited several of us to join them near the end of their stay. Naturally we obliged and by Friday night a total of twelve friends made the small cottage home for the weekend.

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We danced the night away on Friday night and spent much of the following day basking in the sun. The beach was a mere 100 yards away, so we took trips to and from the cottage throughout the day. Paul rented a sea kayak and entertained us all as he rode waves and wiped out heroically before our eyes.

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That night, while the rest of our crew played beer pong and got generally hammered, Rebecca and I snuck away to visit my Mom in Southern Shores. She and her husband John, quite by coincidence, had rented a house for the week beginning that weekend. We decided to stay there that night and return to the house in Kill Devil Hills the next morning.

When we returned the next day, everyone pitched in to clean the house and pack for the road. After departing the cottage Robin, Jasmine, Joey, Rebecca and I drove to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Once we parked and began walking to the beach, we discovered a stranded sailboat. We took a look inside and decided to set up beside the beached craft.

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Eventually we packed up and headed home. It was a quick, but enjoyable introduction to the sunny summer days that lie ahead.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Snowshoe (West Virginia)

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Our first trip to Snowshoe this season offered perhaps the best weather we've ever experienced at the resort.

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We loaded up a group of six in two vehicles and headed for our Slatyfork campsite on Friday night. When we arrived we were greeted by Jarrod, Chris, and Keith.

The next morning I woke early to prepare coffee and bacon for our crew and soon after that we were on the road, destined for the top of Snowshoe mountain.

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Three of us rode downhill on the lift-accessed trails while the other three in our group rode XC bikes on Snowshoe's Six-Thousand-Steps trail. We rendezvoused later and once again made the trek to our campsite in Slatyfork.

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Paul, Erin, Rebecca and I stopped by the Big Spring Fork on our way back to the campsite and braved the chilly water for a short bit before makeing our way up the fire road to our campsite.

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That night Paul and Erin served hobo packs for our dinner and we sat by the fire while the sun set around us. I was exhausted after receiving little sleep on Friday and riding all day Saturday, so I was proudly the first to retire to my hammock that night.

Sunday began much the same way as Saturday as Bailey and I woke first to prepare food and coffee for the group. We broke off into three groups that day and once again culminated at the vehicles that afternoon before loading up and making the haul back to Richmond.

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

James River (Richmond, VA)

This weekend Nat came for a visit from DC. He suggested we take a float from Pony Pasture to Reedy Creek on the James River, so I jumped at the idea!

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Nat brought three friends along and I assembled four more people to join the trip. We met at Reedy Creek around 2pm, consolidated gear in order to leave one vehicle at the take-out, and headed up river for Pony Pasture. Nat's crew was renting sit-on-top kayaks from Riverside Outfitters, so they were driven to the put-in separately.

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Once we hit the water we paddled quickly to catch up with them and eventually crossed paths under the Powhite Parkway Bridge, where we took turns jumping from the old bridge pillars.

After that we made our way down the rest of the river and eventually took out at Reedy Creek around 5pm. It was a quick, but enjoyable trip down the James on an especially warm and sunny day!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Merchants Millpond (Gatesville, NC)

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I remember seeing photos of Evan Venditti's trip through a swamp years ago and just thinking "What? That's possible?"

For whatever reason, the idea of canoeing through a swamp seemed like something only possible in the everglades. Even then it seemed a little bit dicey!

So I called the man, got info on where and when to go, and reserved a campsite as soon as I could!

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Rebecca and I headed to the park on Monday morning, arriving around 3pm. The visitor center at the park was impressive. It featured exhibits and info about the area's wildlife and history.

We decided to explore Bennetts Creek since the campsites were further away than the ones within the millpond.

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After portaging our boat to the put-in, we entered what seemed to be another world. The water was a dark, cola color and the green pollen floating on top created an eerie indication of the creek's slow, meandering path. Along our trip down the creek we spotted turtles, birds, and even a snake slithering beside our canoe. In the distance we heard some intense thrashing in the brush, which we decided must have been the sound of one of the park's infamous alligators.

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The first sites we reached were on land, with a small dock at the shore. We surveyed the area before pressing on to our reserved site which lay just around the next bend. Once we arrived at our reserved site, we noticed the lack of a fire ring and dirt to stake our tent into, so we decided to paddle back to the earlier sites. Since we were visiting the park on a Monday, we were the only campers present and simply took our pick of our favorite site.

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We gathered wood, started a fire, and cooked our dinner before watching the sun set from our small dock.

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The next morning we paddled up river to the put-in and actually made better time than the day before. This probably had something to do with the knowledge that constant paddling was necessary to counteract the slow, but ever-present current.

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The trip was just what I'd hoped for. An unusual experience in a setting like no other. I'd suggest the trip to anyone with but one piece of advice - go to the park EARLY or LATE, but not in the middle of the summer season as the insects are notoriously abundant and aggressive.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

RedBull Berm Burners (Richmond, VA)

After riding all day at Bryce, I was slightly regretting signing up for the RedBull Berm Burner race on Sunday. The two day event was part of the Dominion Riverrock Festival.

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The course was small, but after five laps it left each rider gasping for air. The format of the day was simple - each rider would complete five laps during qualification. The fastest lap would be used to determine the 16 advancing riders. After that, the riders would be organized into brackets and they would compete two at a time until a final winner was crowned. The age groups were thrown out, although the three fastest "old guys" were given a place on the board whether or not their times were among the fastest overall.

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Jesse Peters of Backlight Photography snapped shots of the riders all day (including the two in this post). His complete collection can be found on his main gallery.

Since the race was an amateur event (pros raced on Saturday), the mood was a bit more relaxed. We progressed quickly through the brackets and within a couple of hours the races drew to an end. Once it was all over, I placed 4th among the 16 riders that qualified.

After that, we wandered through the rest of the festival, watching the freestyle mountain bike and kayak events among others.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Bryce Resort (Basye, VA)

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This weekend marked the first downhill mountain biking trip of the season. Ian, Joey and I piled into Joey's Cherokee and headed for Harrisonburg on Friday night. Once we reached interstate 81, we began scouring the map for possible overnight camping spots and lucked out when we found a convenient area not far from the resort.

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The next morning we woke to blue skies and made our way to the resort after a quick stop at Hot Plates for breakfast.

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The park had a few extra features since we'd seen it last summer. The trails were also significantly better after a season of use.

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We rode the park until it closed at 5 o'clock and headed home that night in order to catch some of the Riverrock the next day.