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AdventureFlying

Five Days in Sydney

June 6, 2017 — by Casey Allen0

Sometimes I work hard – day after day operating long flights with hardly enough time to rest, much less do anything else, in between. Other times though, my job feels like a vacation. This was definitely one of those times!

AdventureFlying

Epic Motor Thermal Florida

January 6, 2017 — by Ian Ritter

Some days,

we get up, drink our coffee

Open our hearts to the goodness of the universe, and the universe graciously delivers.  I didn’t know it, but I was going to have one of those days. 

I didn’t go paragliding with the intent of thermaling, if I had, there would have been a cozy jacket on my body so that I didn’t turn into a popsicle at higher altitudes.  Instead, my mission was to just fly, to cruise around the trees, swoop through canals, and enjoy the perfection of life under a canopy.  But the world had other plans.

As my wing caught the breeze, and my feet left the ground, I noticed the vultures gracefully circling to the south.  In the middle of them, was a bald eagle and he looked like he wanted some company.  As I neared the group, they were obviously out-climbing me (a sure sign of huge lift.)  The moment I was near them, I hit the column of rising air, well, it felt like it hit me.  My wing shot far behind me, the feeling of air across my legs changed and suddenly, I knew my day was about to be amazing.

From that point, it was non-stop lift.  At one point, I even got directly on top of a towering cumulus that was climbing like a home sick angle.

This rising air is here almost all the time, but so few people ever get to experience just how powerful it is.  Thermaling towering cumulus is like surfing big, beefy swells; sketchy to get into, but once you’re on it, the ride is unforgettable.  So on this day, as I rode the rising, invisible waves in the sky, shivering like crazy, but smiling the whole time through, I felt so lucky to experience a little slice of the world that so few know.

 

AdventureFoodNautical Pursuits

Free Range Life, and Dinner too

September 12, 2016 — by Ian Ritter

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Let me start by saying I have some amazing friends.  friendsSeriously, I do.  Look at those beautiful animals!  I’m almost positive they were supposed to be at work and called in sick because I was in town.  So, yea, that’s a boat behind the truck and off we go!

The dude in the picture actually loaded my broken, bleeding self onto a stretcher to the hospital after a particularly memorable day back in 2007, but that’s a story for another time.  In this story, we are talking about how epic the Pacific Northwest is.

I have been extremely fortunate to be able to travel for my job.  With the whole, “I’m a pilot thing,” comes the “I can jumpseat all over the world for free thing too.”  It works out great for someone like me who loves nature and just being part of this little slice of heaven, earth.  IMG_9439Every so often, I am able to get out to one of my favorite spots called, “Neah Bay.”   It is situated at just about the tippy top of the North West, of the Pacific North West.  It is remote, but has a beautiful road that weaves along the rugged coast.  The whole drive is magical to me.  You pass old growth rain forests, huge snow-capped peaks, and can often see entire mountain ranges on the way there.  From my friends house, you have to endure 3.5 hours of those tortuous views that just leave you breathless and humbled before you arrive at your equally magical destination.

Because of how remote this area is, not to many people make the trek, so I was surprised to find this beautiful scene here on the shoreline, miles from anywhere.  IMG_9437It made me really happy to think that two people found this little beach, took the time to gather up all the shells and leave these hearts for someone else to find.  It was a  sure sign that it was going to be a killer day out there.

Our mission out here is generally to partake in some nautical pursuits which frequently involves spotting whales, seals, and hopefully catching some fish.  Today was a day of free diving the forests of the sea, the kelp beds.  The water was clear and cold (52 degrees), krill were everywhere and we even had a couple stellar sea lions check us out.  They were beautiful and peaceful, and also large and terrifying.  We were relieved they kept their distance, although you could tell they wanted to get closer.  We of course had a great IMG_9438time in the kelp, and even nabbed a few fish for dinner.  But the unique treat of the day (aside from the sea lions) was an ocean scallop I spotted on a rock.  After a few dives, I was able to stuff him in the wet suit and add him to the dinner list.  img_9454

We of course had an amazing drive home, through the same stunning views and arrived back with time to cook up dinner.  These are the best pictures I got of the adventure, next time, I promise to take more.

AdventureNautical Pursuits

Sailing The British Virgin Islands

August 29, 2016 — by Casian0

IMG_0162We absolutely crushed this trip. It was late October and we were sitting in a small cabin in East Tennessee. Ian was on call for work and I had come to visit and do some motorcycle riding through the amazing autumn foliage of the Appalachian Mountains. We had done an incredible amount of planning for a sailing trip to the BVI, but our schedules hadn’t lined up with the availability of a boat. Before heading out on a morning motorcycle ride we stopped in a coffee shop and I got a phone call from the sailboat charter company. A boat was available, but the notice was extremely short. The saleswoman knew we probably wouldn’t want to book it, but she decided to check anyway. Within five minutes we had pulled the trigger on a week long sail in the BVI. The next day we flew home, grabbed our gear, and took off for the warm turquoise waters of Tortola. IMG_0899

Adventure

Remarkable Places: Dominica

August 26, 2016 — by Casey Allen0

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Every so often when I am traveling, I become overwhelmed by the uniqueness of an area with a strong sense of place. Back in the summer of 2011 I started my first airline job and was based in Puerto Rico. We would carry passengers from San Juan to other islands in the West Indies. The island that quickly became my favorite destination was a small Windward Island called IMG_2122Dominica. As Caribbean Islands go, it felt unique to me – untamed and relatively untainted by tourism. It has the nickname “The Nature Island” because the majority of it is still covered in mountainous rainforest. I relished the legs that we flew to Dominica, at the time mostly for its challenging and scenic approach to landing (see separate post with video). Only once, on a rare set of days off was I was able to spend a little time exploring the island and doing some hiking; but it has since been high on my list of places to revisit.

On this trip, I went to Dominica to meet my friend Shiv, who was doing some business at the medical school located on the island. It was planned as a short stay of only two days, but Shiv and I have a motto when we travel together – Make it happen! We try to avoid giving excuses for why we can’t do something and instead find unique ways to make great things happen. This trip, that involved Shiv making a last minute flight change so we pack in both SCUBA diving and an all day hike to a boiling lake.

IMG_6046For me the highlight of the trip was the hike to Boiling Lake. The lake, which is actually a flooded fumarole (an opening in the Earth’s crust that emits steam and gas, in this case heating the overlying water) is the second largest of its kind in the world. The only way to reach the lake is an 8.1 mile hike, potentially as spectacular as the lake itself. We took the advice of the locals and hired a guide, as the trail is not well defined and it would be very easy to get lost. Starting at 1,690 feet of elevation in the Titou Gorge, the path undulates and winds through a rainforest with huge tropical trees before descending to a river where we stopped to eat some breakfast.

IMG_2161After the river the trail climbs steeply up a ridge that peaks at 3,168 feet. At the top we were standing right at the cloud bases, being hit by the unobstructed force of the trade winds coming off the Atlantic Ocean. The temperature was cool – about 18C, and felt refreshing combined with the breeze. It’s fascinating to me that this mountainous island creates its own weather. The northeast trade winds get pushed up the steep terrain where the moist air is cooled to its dewpoint, forming clouds and often rainshowers that feed the lush vegetation on the leeward side of the island. Looking off in the distance we could see steam rising up from the trees surrounding the boiling lake.

IMG_2170The trail continued along the ridge before descending into what is called the Valley of Desolation. Almost all of the vegetation quickly disappears and is replaced by rock and loose gravel covering small streams of hot water and sulfuric gas.

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Past the valley another climb through a forested area leads to the lake. The sight of the lake was like nothing I had ever seen. The water was a pale blue and was vigorously boiling from the center of the lake. Great amounts of steam were rising up from the water and being blown towards us by the wind. The effect was a bit ominous and I joked that it seemed a perfect location for a ritualistic sacrifice! We found a large boulder to perch on and ate our lunches while we watched the water boil.

IMG_6077On the hike back we stopped for a few moments and relaxed in a heated pool. Aside from the lush scenery, one of my favorite parts was the feeling of solitude. During the whole nine hour hike, we only passed two other people on the trail.

Click on the photo gallery above to see other parts of our stay in Dominica.

 

Adventure

One Fine Day

August 17, 2016 — by Casian

Summertime in Florida means brutal heat and good paragliding weather. Combine that with some old tires that need changing and you get a damn good time.