Welcome Back

Summer is a pleasant time for much of the planet.
summer
Trees have grown their leaves large and are putting extra oxygen in the air. Animals are active, birds are constantly singing,  the water is warm and the fish are getting bigger.

Life is at a maximum in the summertime.

For many people, summer means traveling somewhere new. Whether it is to an exotic place in a country far away, or just a train ride to the beach, these months encourage new destinations.

For myself, it meant spending over a month in Southwest Mexico. I returned to Oaxaca.

Most of the time was spent working on projects that required a lot of solitude and reflection. Mexico provided that, my Spanish is limited and communication with others was rare. This allowed for full concentration on my work and the most productive month of my life.

For one week, I stayed on the beautiful Pacific coastline where I spent the mornings fishing with local fishermen, the afternoons surfing perfect waves, and the evenings attending parties on the beach. It was perfect.
THE AMAZING SURFING DOLPHINS
Fishing is an activity that provides relaxation–when you are out on the endless ocean in a tiny boat staring at the massive waves, watching huge whales and sea turtles swim around you, seeing schools of fish jump out of the water in a feeding frenzy–you feel tiny and at the mercy of the water.

When you hook a fish and reel it in, the excitement runs through your entire body during the fight. Then when you scoop it onto the boat and watch it flop around until you throw it on ice, your barbaric need to hunt is satisfied. Then when you cut the fish open, scoop out the guts, chop off the head, and slice off large filets of some of the best and freshest meat you will eat, you feel accomplished. When you eat that meat and it becomes a part of your body, you are that much closer to nature and your origins.
surfer-perfect-wave-teahupoo-tahiti
Surfing is the most thrilling sport I have ever done. There is nothing at all like riding down the surface of a wave that is over your head and crashing around you. The wave propels your board at over 25mph down a moving mountain of water and all of your senses, including your sense of balance are fully engaged.

The sun hits your skin and fills you with essential vitamins. The salt water soaks your body and provides the minerals you need and takes out toxins that have built up. You emerge from a surf session feeling full of energy and with a sense of accomplishment and confidence.

The week down at the beach made my work in Oaxaca much more productive. The time spent in nature gave me a peace of mind and drive to succeed. Nothing could have done this better.

What did you do over the summer? What new things did you see that inspired you?

Share in the comments below.

Mt. Marcy: The Highest Point in NY

On most maps of New York State, there is a little triangle located in the North East corner of the state. It is labeled ‘Mt. Marcy’ and the 5,344 ft. elevation is printed next to it.

I have been looking at that triangle an wondering about it ever since I started becoming obsessed with maps as a child.

Why aren’t there any other triangles on maps of New York? What is it about Mt. Marcy that allows her to be on the map and no one else?

It’s because Marcy is the tallest mountain in the state. There is no other point higher in elevation. When you are standing on top of Marcy, all of New York must look up in order to find you.

I had to go.

My plan was to go and visit the beautiful city of Montreal. Since Marcy was just below the border of Canada, this made for a convenient double-trip.

Montreal was incredible, the city is perfect for biking, wandering, and exploring. The women are beautiful and the food is exquisite. The atmosphere is the closest you can get to being in Europe without leaving North America. Most people in Montreal speak French, and the Eastern, French-Quebecois part of the city is devoid of most English.

montcrop

One of the nice citizens.

It’s always a good refreshment for your brain when visiting somewhere you don’t speak the language. It forces you to learn some new words, really pay attention to peoples body language, and communicate through the eyes. Just don’t be obnoxious and expect everyone to understand you: visiting here is an exercise in patience and humility.

After spending a few days enjoying the city, it was time to return to the U.S. I drove an hour south to Plattsburgh, rented a cheap room, and rested up for Marcy.


Waking up at dawn and getting prepared to hike makes a man feel like he is really doing something.

The coffee was black, the air was crisp, and the drive through the colorful mountains was inspiring.

autumnroad

You can see Mt. Marcy off in the distance before the turn-off in to the thick forest and up to the Adirondak loj.

It was Monday and there weren’t many people around at 8a.m. I got started and walked alone through the old forest.

marcybegin

The first few miles of the 15 mile round trip are relatively flat. Most of it runs along the side of a pure mountain stream that provides beautiful and peaceful views.

stream1

After the easy four mile walk to the base of the mountain, the terrain changes drastically.

There she is, Ms. Marcy

There she is, Ms. Marcy

 The next two miles up requires you to climb over boulders, scramble up rock faces, and jump down ledges. This is where you really start to sweat.

boulders

On one five foot drop down, I landed hard on my left leg and felt my knee take the impact. The pain had to be ignored and provided a boost of adrenaline and energy. This made me climb faster.

The last mile and a half takes you up in to an Alpine climate where the weather can go from sunny and calm to bizzard-like in minutes. Many people had warned me about this and the only precaution I took was putting an extra sweater in my pack.

warning

The Autumn view was beautiful past the tree-line. Since there were no trees to hold trail markers, people had built stone pyramids to mark the way.

pyramid1

Aiming towards them felt like navigating an alien landscape. The textured alpine plants and brightly colored moss that cover the rock give the mountain an otherworldly feel. The last half mile scramble to the top is over steep bare rock. I had to pace myself and allow for time to gasp for oxygen in the the thin air.

I hike alone.

I hike alone.

The peak comes up quickly at this point and at the very top there is a marker drilled in to the rock–it was installed by the USGS and noted the 5,344 ft. elevation and has an arrow pointing North.

usgsmarker

As the 360 degree view sunk in, that old feeling of accomplishment hit. My body ached, sweat poured out, there was a blister on my toe, and I was ravenously hungry.

And my spirit was soaring.

marcypeaks1

The view let me see the other high peaks of the Adirondaks: Algonquin, Haystack, Whiteface–they were all right there trying to compete, but looking weak compared to Marcy.

I reached the peak at 11:30a.m.–there were a few other hikers at the top and they were talking loud and being rambunctious. I wanted to be alone so I walked down the East face for a little bit until I couldn’t see or hear anyone and took off my clothes.

nakedmarcy

I sat in the alpine grass and scarfed down a half pound of sliced ham, a tomato, and a hunk of cheddar cheese.

It was the most satisfying meal of the year.

I lingered around a cliff edge for a while and let the sun and wind bathe my naked body. After putting my clothes on, I went back up to the peak–my knee was throbbing and I was not looking foward to the climb down.

marcypeaks2

There were three middle aged ladies from rural Canada who were hanging out and eating seeds on the peak. They were pretty funny broads, one told me how she built the perfect bonfire:

You gotta get the spinner out of an old washing machine, eh. Then you put it on some bricks, add yer wood, and light that fire right in the old spinner. The little holes in it will let the heat go right through and it looks real pretty with all the light coming through them holes.

I told her to invite me to her next bonfire and she said I was more than welcome. Then the ladies offered me a thermos of hot liquid. It hit the spot. After smoking a bit of their cigar, my knee was feeling much better and after thanking the nice old spinsters, I headed down.

IMG_6416

The way down was much quicker but when I reached the boulders, my knee flared up again and I had to go at a snails pace.

After the boulder-crawl, the flat ground that should have been covered in two hours took five. My slow pace did allow me to enjoy the incredible fall foliage and the pain running through my veins made the colors even more vibrant.

redyellow

There was one guy who passed by and asked if I was ok. I told him there wasn’t much else to do except trudge on. He walked with me for a bit and shared his experience as a Forest Ranger.

It was his job to keep track of the dozens of bears that roamed the area. Each bear had a GPS locator on it and every few weeks the Ranger would have to track each bear down until he had a visual on it.

And then he would charge the bear while screaming and blasting an air horn. He did this in order to keep the bears fearful of humans–they get pretty bold pretty fast and without scaring them every so often, they will come around sniffing for snacks.

I laughed hard at this and told him about how I’ve always wanted to be able to move silently through the forest without being seen by animals so I could sneak up on them.

He said that Native Americans used to play a game like that with bears. They would step as softly as they could and sneak up behind a bear that was eating, let out a war whoop, and punch the bear as hard as they could.

The sharing of these stories had me crying in laughter. I told the guy not to wait up for me and I would make it through and he shook my hand hard before going on ahead.

treeleaves

The leaves held many different colors in their veins, and the low sunlight shining through turned the forest in to a living painting.

trealeaves2

I wobbled on and enjoyed the slow pace and incredible vibrancy of the forest.When the loj was reached, I changed my sweat soaked shirt, switched shoes, and crashed into the drivers seat.

It was a long drive back home but the energy that climbing Mt. Marcy had provided was enough to keep me alert and feeling good.

If you ever have the chance, and are feeling up to the challenge, I encourage you to pack a big lunch, take a deep breath, and climb up to the top of New York.

Eclipse of the Mind

eclipsThere are certain events in life that can cause a change in you.

It could be a book that you read, a conversation with someone wise, a trip to another land, exposure to a new culture, a near death experience, or my personal favorite–being inspired by Mother Nature.

These can all cause your way of thinking to shift. The world will become a deeper place–not because it has changed–but you have altered your way of seeing things.

When you are young, you should be careful of the influences that go into your head.

Garbage TV shows, bad advice from friends, harmful influences, Facebook updates, and reading magazines will not make you stronger. They will keep you weak well into adulthood and maybe keep you crippled for life.

Allow quality information to enter your mind, let it form the way you are and help you turn into a powerful person who is a good influence on others.

Reading is the easiest and best way to develop when you are young but there are other ways as well.


Travel will open your mind to things you never knew possible.

My first trip abroad was when I was 16 years old. I went to Southern Spain and then took a boat over to Africa. In Morocco I saw true poverty, people fighting for daily survival, and a goat being sacrificed in the street–people were drinking its blood.

Holy men wove me a rug that they claimed was a flying carpet, kids were huffing paint in alleys so they could pass out–it was the only way the would be able to fall asleep.

That trip shocked me to the reality of this world. Most people are struggling to stay alive, most people are suffering, most of this world is hurting. That fact flipped a switch in my head that made me see everything differently.

The positive and fun sides of travel are well documented, I preach them a lot in other articles on this site, but you can learn from the harsh realities as well.


Nature will open your eyes to things that are invisible. There is an energy that runs though all life on Earth. Animals harness this energy with precision and skill–they have to in order to survive.

By observing animal life, you can learn how to tap in to this spirit and use it to your advantage–people will be easier to read, you will be more in touch with your true desires, and awareness of your surroundings will increase. Observe animals whenever you can and learn from them. They are the best teachers in the world.

Nature can inspire greatness in everyone. There is no better way to feel alive than to indulge in the natural world and try to understand how it works.


One of the greatest natural events you could ever witness is a total Solar Eclipse.

When the New Moon passes directly in front of the midday sun–it does not happen often, but it is completely predictable (down to the first and last second) and we know exactly where they will occur.

Imagine…during the middle of a bright sunny day, when everything is fully lit up, warm, normal–then blackness suddenly hits–the sun disappears. The source of all life on Earth is blocked out. Darkness surrounds you, the stars come out, all animals hide and go rest. Everything that you have ever considered normal is turned upside down and reversed.

This goes on for 3 minutes, just enough time to fully realize the impact of the situation.

Then the light starts to return–things go back to normal.

But you have changed.

When an experience like this occurs, it is impossible to think the same way you always have. You are changed because you understand how fragile life is. How close we are to death with every step. How much bigger the Universe is than yourself.

On August 21st, 2017 there is going to be a complete Solar Eclipse passing through certain parts of North America.

I am going to make the trip down to Kentucky to take part in the observation. It is an eight hour drive from New York, there is certain to be hundreds of thousands of people congregating, and everyone there is going to have the experience of a lifetime.

There are not many things in life that I would plan so far ahead for and make sure to attend.

This is certainly one of them.

If you can make it, I encourage you to go, become a part of a historical natural event that will change the way you think and have an impact on your mind that will last a lifetime.

Are you coming?

Sex Happens Under the Full Moon

The moon is impossible to ignore.

full-moon-30jan2010

Its influence has a pull on the entire planet. A literal pull.

Because the moon is so large, it has a gravitational force that attracts everything on Earth towards it. The Earth can keep all the mountains, trees, animals, rocks, and people on it because of its own gravity–but flowing water is affected greatly by the moon.

Every day, the ocean follows the moon’s pull. The side of the Earth facing the moon has high tides–water that has been pulled up by the moon’s gravity. When the Earth rotates away from the moon, the side that does not face it has low tide. This happens twice every day without fail.

inout-tideThis is very important for species of animals who live on the coast. Their entire lives depend on the moon and its pull.

Sea Urchin ovaries swell when the full moon comes out.

Fireworms rise during the full moon. The females emit a light from their tail that attracts males to them.

During full moons in Samoa, the people know that the Paleo worm attach themselves to coral and fill with sperm and eggs. Exactly one week after the full moon, the Samoan people go down to the beach and collect the detached Paleos for a delicious snack. The timing is always perfect.

Grunion fish time their spawn perfectly with the spring tide. Spring tides don’t have to do with the seasons, but they occur when the Earth, Moon and Sun are lined up. The combination of gravitational force from the lined up Moon and Sun cause the highest tides of the month.

Twice a month, the three are lined up.

Twice a month, the three are lined up.

The female Grunion washes up onto the shore and buries herself into the wet sand. Males surround her and spray their sperm all over the place, hoping to be the one to fertilize the eggs she lays. Exactly two weeks later, during the next spring tide, the baby Grunions emerge from the sand and get washed out by the extra large waves to begin their lives in the sea.

Corals send out clouds of trillions of eggs and sperm into the water during the full moon. They don’t do it at any other time of the month.

Our moon has an enormous effect on all life on Earth. Our ancestors worshiped it, wrote songs about it, contemplated it, and wondered what it meant for 1000’s of years. Now that we have used science to unlock some of its secrets, the moon can be appreciated even more.

What things have you wondered about the moon?

Explore Something New

There was interesting feedback from the last post. Many readers traveled during the summer and many shared some of their revelations.

Even if you were not able to visit somewhere far away, you can still feel a sense of adventure and awaken your mind to new possibilities. All you have to do is explore somewhere you have never been.

Where I grew up, there were not many options for public transport. So before I was old enough to drive, I rode my bike all over the place. That bicycle took me to secret places that I still visit today. (For a perfect example: click here).

A great thing about living in New York is that you can take a ride on the train and land in a neighborhood that seems like another country. New York City is the most diverse place in the entire world. That means you can meet people from every culture, sample any food you desire, learn from others who live in far corners of the globe, and expand your mind though interactions with foreigners.

The easiest place to start would be through food. Everyone needs to eat and every culture has a specialty:

  • Chinese dumplings: Joe Shanghai–deep in Manhattan’s Chinatown
  • Pizza: every neighborhood has its favorite joint. (Here is a good list)
  • Greek: go to Queens and indulge in traditional large meals
  • Crazy Chinese food you never knew existed: The Golden Mall in Flushing, Queens has some of the most bizarre things I have ever tasted. (Click for a guide)
  • Lobster Rolls: If you haven’t had lobster, you should go to the Red Hook Lobster Pound and try some.

Whatever you are in the mood for, all it takes is a quick Google search of ‘the best (insert delicious food here) in NYC’ and you can choose your destination.

I chose food to start with because it is the most accessible. You can also visit endless places around the five boroughs that will transport you to another world.

The amount of art, history, architecture, and culture would take lifetimes to see in Brooklyn alone.

So find something that interests you, do some research and explore a place you have never been.

Welcome Back

    Summer is a pleasant time for much of the planet.
summer
Trees have grown their leaves large and are putting extra oxygen in the air. Animals are active, birds are constantly singing,  the water is warm and the fish are getting bigger.

Life is at a maximum in the summertime.

For many people, summer means traveling somewhere new. Whether it is to an exotic place in a country far away, or just a train ride to the beach, these months encourage new destinations.

For myself, it meant spending over a month in Southwest Mexico. I returned to Oaxaca.

Most of the time was spent working on projects that required a lot of solitude and reflection. Mexico provided that, my Spanish is limited and communication with others was rare. This allowed for full concentration on my work and the most productive month of my life.

For one week, I stayed on the beautiful Pacific coastline where I spent the mornings fishing with local fishermen, the afternoons surfing perfect waves, and the evenings attending parties on the beach. It was perfect.
THE AMAZING SURFING DOLPHINS
Fishing is an activity that provides relaxation–when you are out on the endless ocean in a tiny boat staring at the massive waves, watching huge whales and sea turtles swim around you, seeing schools of fish jump out of the water in a feeding frenzy–you feel tiny and at the mercy of the water.

When you hook a fish and reel it in, the excitement runs through your entire body during the fight. Then when you scoop it onto the boat and watch it flop around until you throw it on ice, your barbaric need to hunt is satisfied. Then when you cut the fish open, scoop out the guts, chop off the head, and slice off large filets of some of the best and freshest meat you will eat, you feel accomplished. When you eat that meat and it becomes a part of your body, you are that much closer to nature and your origins.
surfer-perfect-wave-teahupoo-tahiti
Surfing is the most thrilling sport I have ever done. There is nothing at all like riding down the surface of a wave that is over your head and crashing around you. The wave propels your board at over 25mph down a moving mountain of water and all of your senses, including your sense of balance are fully engaged.

The sun hits your skin and fills you with essential vitamins. The salt water soaks your body and provides the minerals you need and takes out toxins that have built up. You emerge from a surf session feeling full of energy and with a sense of accomplishment and confidence.

The week down at the beach made my work in Oaxaca much more productive. The time spent in nature gave me a peace of mind and drive to succeed. Nothing could have done this better.

What did you do over the summer? What new things did you see that inspired you?

Share in the comments below.

The World’s Oldest Mating Ritual

There are still dinosaurs on this planet. Life forms that should not still exist but do anyway. Creatures that have survived meteor impacts, supervolcanoes, ice ages, mass extinctions, disease and humans.

Meet the mighty horseshoe crab–the most resilient and unchanged animal on Earth.*

Toughest living thing around.

Toughest living thing around.

On the last new moon in May–when tides are the strongest–I was joined by 12 adventurous biology students on a quest to observe the spawning of the horseshoe crab, our destination was Dead Horse Bay. This time every year, they come up to the beach in droves and pile up on top of each other, the females lay the eggs in the sand and the males fertilize them.

We started our journey in the forest. A wide path took us through some dense woodland and we observed robins, starlings, goldfinches, woodthrush, and catbirds all chirping, flying and feasting.

There was a large tent caterpillar nest woven into the trees and the remains of tiny caterpillar carcasses were suspended in the nest. A survivor was soon spotted and its blue and white striped hairy body was observed intently. It was a beautiful specimen but also an invasive one. The tents they create in the trees sometimes suffocate the tree and kill it.

Caterpillars have rituals too

Caterpillars have rituals too

After flipping a few logs to look for snakes we came across a particularly aggressive beetle. His jaws were wide open and ready to chomp down on anything that came close. My pen came near and he grasped on with all of his beetle-might and held until forced off.

Chomp chomp

Chomp chomp

Later on, on the way out of these same woods, we saw a furry forest creature having lunch, it lingered for a while, watching us watch him, until it was time to go.

Cute n Fearless

Cute n Fearless

When we hit the beach, there were dozens of plovers, ducks, and sandpipers hunting along the shore. When the group came close, the birds took off with a whoosh and escaped to calmer grounds.

All along the glass-strewn sand near the water were thousands of tiny black dots. Close inspection revealed that these dots were alive–periwinkle snails were everywhere. No one was brave enough to eat one but the group did try to avoid stepping on the little boogers.

A little butter, some garlic, and you have escargot

A little butter, some garlic, and you have escargot

It was low tide when we arrived so the mating session was not in full effect–the horseshoe crabs are most active at night during high tide–but we observed plenty of evidence. Crab shells were everywhere–some may have been shed from a molting horseshoe crab–but some were definitely dead and smelling like steamy rot.

That is the sight of something stinking

That is the sight of something stinking

After sniffing some stinky shells, one of the students down the beach started yelling. “Hey! Over here! We found one!”

The group ran over to find a fully intact crab who was laid out on his back. The tail was vertical in the air and it looked like he had been lying there for a while.

Use protection kids

Use protection kids

It is quite common for the crabs to get flipped upside down when they pile up in a big orgy, sometimes the piles go 10 crabs deep.

I picked it up by the sides of the shell–do not pick them up by the tail because it might break off–and the crab sprang to life. It whipped its tail up and down and its eight clawed legs sprawled out trying to grab onto anything solid.

After the crab was observed and passed around for all to see, we brought it to the edge of the bay and set it free.

It crawled about 10 feet into the water and then started acting strange.

He buried the front part of his shell into the sand and used his tail as a lever. Then the horseshoe alternated between arching its back and flattening itself in the sand. It did this for a full 10 minutes.

In my opinion, the horseshoe crab was still in mating mode when it was flipped over and upon being put right side up again, the crab continued its method of reproduction.

Two more large horseshoe crabs were coddled in that area of the beach and there was a peculiar thing about them. On the underside of their bellies, in between the legs and the shell, were dozens of organisms who made this their home. Clams, mussels, seaweed, snails, worms, and even sea sponges were living on the horseshoe crab. And on the top of the shell was something that looked like a newly forming coral reef.

Notice the clingers-on, not normal

Notice the clingers-on, not normal

This added tremendous weight to the animal and it must have clocked in at about 25 lbs. More than double the weight of a normal adult crab.

An entire ecosystem on her back

An entire ecosystem on her back

Our resident marine biologist, Mr. Benevides, was perplexed as well and noted that it was probably because the water around here does not support the normally abundant ‘cleaner’ organisms who feed off of the parasites that made the horseshoe crab shell their home.

In one of the thousands of jars that was scattered throughout Dead Horse Bay, there lived the strangest worm I have ever encountered. Normally I do not get creeped out by any animals, but the way this thing moved–it wriggled its body 10x more than an earthworm, and the way it looked–the ‘legs’ sticking out of the sides of the worm numbered into the 100’s–it could move through its burrow in the jar with surprising speed, and its size–the worm was close to 12 inches long, all these factors caused some significant spookage.

That did not deter me from liberating the alien creature from its glass-jar prison and letting him go. It immediately burrowed its its way down and in the sand it spelled out ‘thank you’ in worm letters.

Good bye buddy

Good bye buddy

Along the rest of the beach were no less than eight other horseshoe crabs that were left upside down and stranded from the nights activities. We set them all free, back to the ocean where they could continue to live their crabby lives.

Don't worry, we are here to help

Don’t worry, we are here to help

On the walk back to the bus stop, the group was full of life and smiles. Whenever animals mate, they release a plume of pheromones and energy into the environment. This affects everything in the area, other creatures are more active, senses are sharpened and the airborne energy can even have an influence on the way you think. We were all feeling this phenomenon on the ride back to the city and for weeks afterwards. A successful adventure in becoming a part of the worlds oldest mating ritual.

**Although the name implies, and I refer to them as ‘crabs’, the horseshoe crab is not a crab at all. They are more closely related to spiders and scorpions than any type of crustacean.

Dead Horse Bay

Ask Uncle Google how to get there

Ask Uncle Google how to get there

There are many reasons to visit a beach: swimming, surfing, fishing, beautiful people, relaxing–Dead Horse Bay has none of this–but it is one of my favorite beaches in the world.

Even though it is located within NYC, it is a remote place. The Q35 bus takes you to an isolated stop just before the toll bridge that goes over to Fort Tilden. Behind the bus stop are some trails that lead into thick woods. The woods contain a number of different species and the tweeting and singing of birds is constant. On the 3/4 mile walk through the paths you may see tent caterpillars, snakes, birds of prey, hummingbirds, and ticks…watch out for the ticks.

An angry beetle bites my pen on the trail

An angry beetle bites my pen on the trail

When you finally make it down to the beach the first thing you will notice is the glass. Glass is everywhere. Most of it is broken glass that has been worn down by the ocean so it isn’t very sharp, but there are some very old, and very intact bottles that you might find. Everything ranging from old whiskey pints, perfume bottles, bleach containers, mason jars, Coke bottles from the 1930’s, and jars marked ‘reuse of this bottle is a federal offense’.

They use sand to make glass--which eventually turns back to sand

They use sand to make glass–which eventually turns back to sand

Dead Horse Bay was used in many different ways during the development of New York City. The earliest records show that the Dutch Settlers used the area as a flour mill. They would use the tide water to turn the mills and grind flour.

Dead Horse Bay also used to be the site of fish oil factories, garbage incinerators, and of course–horse rendering plants. In the 1800’s and early 1900’s, many people used horses for transportation, the dead horses would be sent here to be rendered into glue and other chemicals. If you are lucky you may even find some horse bones on the beach at Dead Horse Bay.

Mixed in with the glass on the beach is every sort of object you could imagine: doll heads, shoe soles, toilet bowls, pants, torpedo shaped rusted things, abandoned boats, unidentifiable animals, and cheese graters are just the start. Dead Horse Bay was also used as a landfill for much of the garbage in NYC. The lids of the landfill broke and now all of the garbage from the early 1900’s spills out into the bay and gets washed up with the tide. No wonder it is such a treasure trove.

Surprisingly enough, it doesn’t stink on the beach here and it is home to many different animals. We visited during the height of the horseshoe crab mating season (a subject of a future article) and saw a dozen healthy-horny horseshoe crabs.

Very much alive

Very much alive

If you do visit this incredible place, be sure to wear some gloves and boots, bring a bag to collect goodies, use a camera and enjoy one of the most unique beaches in the world.

The Power of Water

A train travelling next to water is a perfect mode of transport for the curious passenger. The comfort of train travel is unparalleled–a sense of safety that the rails provide allows your mind to be at ease–stress is not a factor. Combine this mindset with the tranquil energy of water and you have a great place to think and enjoy the scenery.

Metro North trains that leave Grand Central for upstate NY provide this type of scenery. The Poughkeepsie line rolls right along the mighty Hudson River and the Harlem line runs right through a large portion of the Great Swamp.

If you want to get the most out of the ride up, make sure you sit on the left side of either train as it heads North from Grand Central. The side facing West has the best views of water.

My ride up the Harlem line this weekend was the perfect start to a couple of days that included a lot of time with water. I looked out over the Great Swamp and saw many types of birds: Great Blue Herons, Swans, Wood Ducks, and Red Tail Hawks were easily observed hunting and fishing.

The Great Swamp has an unfortunate name–the services it provides to New York City are priceless and essential. The swamp is actually a wetland area that covers over 6000 square miles. It is one of the largest wetlands in the United States. Not only does it provide habitat for many species of animals, but it filters much of the water that the residents of New York City need to survive. The slow moving waters are cleaned and purified by the plants in the swamp and much of the pollution that is in the water is either removed by the plants, or sinks to the bottom of the swamp. What is left is pure, filtered water that is then transported to New York City and its 10 million inhabitants.

Where water to make pizza comes from

The swamp is also a fantastic place to canoe or kayak. On this trip, I did not kayak through the swamp, but instead travelled down the 10 mile river into Connecticut. The river has class II and III rapids which make the ride especially fun. You have to be constantly alert while navigating the rapids. Each paddle also counts as a steering and speed check and you must be careful not to crash into any exposed boulders or fallen trees.

Easy in a proper kayak

Easy in a proper kayak

Most of the ride is calm and peaceful. The river moves at a pretty good rate so you can just drift along the current in silence and take in the atmosphere. Hundreds of ducks make their home on the banks of the river and they form huge flocks that float just in front of your kayak and don’t take off and fly until your boat is almost right on top of them. Birds of prey are all around in the tree tops and their haunting calls remind you that you are being watched. Large fish jump out of the water to catch flies every few minutes and they can startle you with a splash. Bugs are constantly flying above the water and on more than a few occasions I swallowed an insect or three.

Kayaking is a great way to immerse yourself in nature and surrender control to the river. I recommend taking a lesson first to learn the basics and then exploring some rivers on your own. The rewards are great.

The day after kayaking, I got to visit an old haunt of mine that is still a very potent environment. The stream was running quickly, sawing its way through the hard rock and creating hypnotising patterns on the surface. Small waterfalls produced a soothing sound and I let my mind wander as far as possible while staring at the running water.

Many goals came to mind during this time and it made me look forward to having time this summer to accomplish them. I thank the water I had the pleasure to interact with this weekend. In all of its different forms, it continues to be the most influential element on the planet.

Prepare for Adventure

Its deep into spring, there is a long weekend coming up, I am itching to get out of the city–its adventure time.

The plan is to take the train up to Dutchess county and go kayaking on the ten-mile river. Its an easy journey, a lot more beauty than danger, and being on the river is a soul refresher.

My view in 48 hours.

My view in 48 hours.

Travelling a lot has taught me a few things and an aspect that cannot be overlooked is the importance of preparation.

First off, you need to make sure of logistics.

  • Your destination (research the area: local food, famous sights, interesting areas, history, etc..)
  • Train/plane times (essential that you are not late)
  • How you will get around (car or public transport)
  • Roads (know them before you get there)
  • Map (google maps are great, but a lot of times there is no phone service in nature and in other countries)
  • Place to stay (I prefer relying on luck, but you will be at ease by booking in advance)

Then there is your personal checklist

  • Bag (make it as small as possible, weekender bags are ideal. Mine is below.)

    Boys, you bag should not have wheels. Carry it.

    Boys, your bag should not have wheels. Carry it.

  • Backpack (for using during the day)
  • Clothes (do not overpack, you usually need less than you think)
  • Dopp Kit (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, soap–keep separate from your clothes)
  • Nail clipper
  • A plastic bag (for dirty clothes)
  • Camera
  • A book or two
  • Small laptop (invaluable for travelers, you can get one for under $250)
  • Portable speaker (make hotels sound a lot more fun)
  • Phone and Charger
  • A pretty girl (get one with a positive attitude, they also provide warmth on cool nights)
  • A pocket knife (remember that you can’t bring it on a plane)
  • Lighter or matches
  • Towel
  • Pad and pen (take notes and make lists when you travel, they make the best mementos)

Thats about it, travel as light as possible and it will give you the freedom to enjoy yourself even more. Also, don’t forget the little things, I can’t recall how many times I have been frustrated because of forgetting a nail clipper.