Monday, October 31, 2016

Notes From The Appalachian Trail Part 1

I Finally did it! After years of hearing about the travels of my brother and his son, I joined them on a quest to complete sections of the AT. Our original goal was up in Maine, but Hurricane Matthew changed our plans and we ended up at Standing Indian Mountain in North Carolina. That was plenty cold enough for me. The 3 1/2 day trip included 37 miles of hiking and 3 nights camping out in the wild. It was full of adventure.
Paul told me that I would hike hard and climb into my tent and sleep like a baby at night. I didn't realize that he meant I would spend all night crying for my mommy about my feet hurting. I think the first decent night's sleep I've had was the night after I got home from the trip. On the other hand, I loved the hiking, the meals, and meeting people on the trail. The main bonus of this trip was after a life of wishing I could hit the mountains when the leaves were changing color in the fall, I finally did it big time.
One of my first major experiences was staying in a shelter on the trail at night. The second night of the trip we shared a shelter with Pat, a very interesting guy that happened to be hiking in a full Scottish uniform, including kilt. I'm slowly finding that just plain hiking isn't good enough anymore. I was told along the way that someone hiked the whole AT last year in a Batman costume...but that could just be a legend.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

What Hurricane Matthew Took From Cocoa Beach, FL

Last week, Hurricane Matthew came very close to the eastern coast of Florida and the main feeling we had was that it could have been much worse. However, upon close personal inspection of the beach from Canaveral to the middle of Cocoa Beach, I found that the water is now running up into the sand dunes in many places, and the wind and wave action is not finished with the business of eroding the beach. This was not the hardest hit part of the coast, but it was enough to make changes that will be quite expensive to repair, if that is what the government decides to do. They are still experiencing extreme high and low tides and in the northern locations, there seems to be nothing left at high tide at all.
I discovered this Tuesday, 10/19,  making my first extreme hike as preparation for a journey on the Appalachian Trail. I did a 12 mile walk in my new hiking shoes and found that it truly ended up being more like hiking, as I was going up and down in the dunes instead of a smooth walk on a beach. The lesson learned was to always bring water and a snack. My plan called for a stop at Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral, but upon arrival, I found that the park store and the Jetty pier were closed.

Overall, the beach didn't seem doomed except for one thing: It isn't over. Since the previous week the wind had been coming from the east at over 15mph with accompanying large waves. It also appeared that there was no end in sight. The wind was coming from another storm system and all of this was adding up to continued erosion of sand from the coastline. The sand dunes did their job of protecting the buildings right on the beach, but you could easily see how one or two more hurricanes in the near future could finish the job that Matthew started...

It All Changed Overnight..

I almost spent a week at the beach without getting wet...almost. I woke up everyday to the one thing that is absolutely no good for a paddleboarder: giant choppy waves. Instead, I jogged, read, and practiced for hiking. But...Friday was predicted to change all that. I was pretty skeptical, as the surf websites were calling the waves all week as "fun". I don't think they fooled too many people because during my travels I saw less than five people out each day.
Friday was different. I woke up at first light to something that looked like a California surf photo from my balcony. Even at 7 in the morning, before sunup, there were people in the water. I watched them and they sat confidently on the outside of the break only to get clobbered by the huge cleanup sets that were coming in.
As we know in Cocoa Beach, the farther north you go, the smaller the waves are. This doesn't always work, but most of the time, it means if you go all the way to Jetty Park, you will find flat water. Jetty Park is not a state or national park and can charge whatever they want to get in. You might think they would be generous and charge a small fee to get in and then gouge you on the hotdogs and cokes, but you'd be wrong. They charge $15 to get in and THEN gouge you on the hot dogs and coke. I'd never actually knew about this, except that's what I had to do on Friday. The free park, Cherie Down Park (a city park) is nearby and was full to the brim, including cars sitting there with the engines running, hoping somebody might decide to leave....road rage IS possible at the beach too.
I figured that I was the only person in the world, outside a cruise ship passenger just let off the ship, that would be dumb enough to pay $15 to get into that park, but again I was wrong. The park was loaded with surfers and I soon found why. The waves were great and manageable. There was plenty of power and size, but the break was close enough to shore that I was able to bust through the shorebreak on my SUP and join that crowd that was just plain thrilled to have one more SUPer join the group.

I surfed until I had nothing left. I rode the big orange board and I then took out the smaller blue board and had a blast on both of them. The smaller board was the most fun I'd had on it to date. My knees were wobbling the whole time from trying to stay up, but Pam said that you couldn't tell from shore. One thing to know about SUP is that you really don't want to be in a crowd of surfers, falling off your board for no good reason.

We finally headed back to the condo and I spent the rest of the day on the balcony, Pam trying to read while I remarked on the abilities of the surfers in the water below. Mostly I noticed how calm and confident they looked until they fell and their boards went flying in the air. That's how you can tell the power of the waves, when the boards go flying.
Man, never thought I'd be surfing at Jetty Park again...and then to be so tired that all I could do was to sit and watch the waves stay good until dark...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fun On The Waves In Cocoa Beach: The New Brusurf 9'6" SUP

I've been riding Brusurf boards for a few years now, and was curious if there would be any changes in the new version of my favorite, the 9'6", and it appears to be a bit thinner and more pointed on the front. I was fortunate to have some decent waves on a trip to Lori Wilson park in Cocoa Beach recently and had a great time on the new board. The board also seems a bit lighter, so my best guess is that they are making small tweaks to the design without giving up any of the parts of the design that make this work so well for me in Florida. The stock center fin is quite a bit larger than on the previous model, which is a change that I made myself on my last board. This gives you quite a bit more stability front to back. No problem catching waves and no problems going fast enough to beat the break. The board also seemed to track well in flat water, although I haven't yet tried any long distance lake paddling.
I highly recommend this board to anyone up to 240 lbs. in flat water or Florida surf. It's light, stable and can get you a load of fun in the surf.