New Beginnings in a Sunrise

I took the picture below one early Saturday morning from the balcony at my parents beach condo in New Smyrna Beach, FL. I love it, not just for its beauty, but for what it represents. The sunrise, to me, represents the start of something new.

You’re given 86,400 seconds every day, no more, no less. You get to choose what you do with them.

You can choose to be average
OR
You can choose to master what you do

You can choose to waste your day away
OR
You can choose to be productive

You can choose to stay inside your comfort zone
OR
You can choose to go out and find your adventure

The list goes on, but one thing stays the same…You only get 86,400 secons each day, how will you use them?

Maximizing Your Day Trips

Last week I posted a blog about how the girlfriend and I took a day trip up to Charleston, SC to see one of our favorite bands, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors open for NEEDTOBREATHE. That got me thinking about what made our trip so much fun.

Driving through Jacksonville, Florida

Here are some tips on how to make the most out of a trip to a new city.

1)      Have a broad plan, but don’t stick to an itinerary:

Make sure you know when you’re going to arrive, and when you need to go home, but leave out the specifics. Not feeling tied to a strict plan will enable you to have more enjoyable explorations.

2)      Don’t be afraid to be a tourist:

Go on that boat tour, bus ride, brew cruise – you can, you’re not from there! You may not think it’s super cool to be a tourist, but you’ll be able to learn much more about the city and its history in a short span of time by going on an organized trip designed for sightseers.

3)      Use your eyes and not your Google search:

When it comes to finding food, explore a little to see what looks good in person, and not on the internet. If there’s a big group of people outside a restaurant, chances are it’s going to be a good one – even if it isn’t on the first page of your Google search for “places to eat in ____.” This is a great way to keep an eye out for smaller and more local places that don’t have the marketing budget of the big guns.

4)      Try the local beer or wine:

Not only will this more than likely be delicious, it’s a fun way of “collecting” things from your trips. You can start a beer or wine diary, learn facts about different brewing/fermenting processes, and probably meet some jolly natives while you’re at it.

5)      Bring your hammock:

You never know when you may get the photo contest winning shot! Plus new cities + new views = new memories to capture!

It’s wise to have a generic plan, but don’t sweat the little stuff when you’re going to a new place. It’s always fun to explore and find new things, plus when you discover something yourself, you get to make the claim back home that you “found” it.

Happy Road Tripping!

A Day Trip to Charleston, SC

A couple weekends ago, the girlfriend and I took a day trip up to Charleston, SC (that’s right, I said day trip) to see one of our favorite bands, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors open for NEEDTOBREATHE. The show was phenomenal and the trip was amazing. If you’re ever in the Charleston area or planning a road trip on a budget, I highly suggest planning, but not over planning.

Georgia and South Carolina border

It’s always a good idea to know what your plan is for food and sleeping, but aside from that I found out nothing really matters. To save some money we decided to car camp and we brought snacks, sandwich fixins, and breakfast. We knew we wanted to see the city, but didn’t know how and we knew we wanted to eat at a “local” place, but we didn’t know where. 

Before we left I asked a few people for eating suggestions and got some ideas about things to do, but didn’t make things happen until that day. We got to Charleston around 1:30pm, pulled into a Walmart parking lot and started browsing the interweb on our phones trying to find stuff to do. We ended up going on the Charleston Harbor Tour and had a great time. Tickets weren’t overly expensive ($20 each I think) and we got to take a boat ride, see Charleston from the river and learn about the history. While the captain did a great job sharing and explaining the history, I feel like 90 minutes was only enough time to give us a snippit of all the history in Charleston.

 The Tattooed Moose in Charleston, SCAfter the tour was over we were pretty hungry (that’s an understatement) and saw a pretty cool, local looking place on the way to the boat. We stopped at The Tattooed Moose literally because of the name and logo. We did some quick research on our phones and found that people seemed to like it so we gave it a shot. It’s an awesome local bar/restaurant with a ton of beer selections and they carried Westbrook Brewing Co. IPA (I love IPA’s), which is brewed locally in Mount Pleasant, SC. The Thick Cut BBQ Brisket was moist and tender and the side of Duck Fat Fries (don’t judge) was the perfect combination. I think the most interesting thing that came with it was their sweet spicy green tomato pickles. I’m not a big fan of tomato’s, but this thing was awesome with so many different flavors and spices wrapped into one delicious food item. You just need to go there and try it one day to understand what I’m talking about.

Finally it was time for the show. I was most excited to see Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors. I’ve been a huge fan of his since 2007 when I first saw him at one of Young Life’s summer camp’s, Windy Gap. This is back when he didn’t have any neighbors, he was a solo act, and his wife Ellie was still teaching kindergarten. I was happy to hear a lot of their new stuff off their Good Light album along with Drew’s witty humor. For instance, he told everyone that he and Ellie brought their 6 month old daughter on this tour, she got to see 30 different states and Canada, too bad she won’t remember any of it. They ended their set with Fire and Dynamite off their Chasing Someday album and left the stage with a well deserved standing ovation.Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors in Charleston, SC

I’m not very familiar with NEEDTOBREATHE, so I wasn’t able to follow along with many of their songs. However, they have such a stage presence that they can keep you interested even though you have no idea what song they’re singing. When you got to one of their shows, they make sure you get your monies worth. Their set lasted just over 2 hours, no complaints here, but I was amazed that they could play such a long set. I feel like I’ve seen a lot of shows where the headliner plays for maybe 45 minutes to an hour and they’re done. Needless to say, I was thrilled that they played for over 2 hours.NEEDTOBREATHE in Charleston, SC

By the time the show let out, it was just after 11:00pm. We already had a long day, but decided to get a head start on the driving. We drove a couple hours until we came to a rest stop in Georgia where we pulled over and caught a few Z’s before waking up to get back on the road at 7:30am the next morning.

We had a great trip and I’d highly recommend spending some time in Charleston either on vacation or if you’re on a long road trip and want to make a detour. With the history and the friendly Southern residents, you can’t go wrong. Have fun and remember, plan, but don’t over plan.

A Weekend on the Florida Trail

This past weekend was one for the memories. My buddy Bryan and I had a great time backpacking the Northeast Section of the FloridaTrail from Clearwater Lake to Juniper Springs. We made some good decisions, some bad decisions, and came across some things along the way.

 Friday

Bryan boiling water to cook his mountain house meal

We got dropped off at the Clearwater Lake Trailhead around 7:30pm Friday night. We hiked through an amazing pine forest with palmettos and cacti. To my surprise, the trail was marked very well, went right past residential land, and was pretty wide. After hiking for a couple hours we set up camp, ate dinner, bear bagged our food, and hunkered down for the rainy night.

Saturday

The next morning we awoke to a semi-bright sky and got our first good glimpse of the amazing wilderness we were in and hiked through the night before. We packed up and hit the trail just before 7:30am. We continued through the pine forest and eventually came across a section of sandy pine scrub and then what looked to be like a jungle, walking across boardwalks that seemed like they would never end.

At about 10:30am we started running low on water and came across the blue blazes leading us to Alexander Springs. We received a warm welcome from the staff and began refilling our Nalgene’s, ate our lunch, and checked ourselves for ticks and new forming blisters. After about 45 minutes we were back on the trail.

We kept hiking and never got bored with our ever changing surroundings. We’d be in a wet jungle type area and then it’d switch to pine forest which would switch to the woods and would then become sandy pine scrub and would repeat itself in no particular order. The trail would at times be just wide enough for one person and sometimes wide enough for 3-4 people walking side-by-side.

It started getting really hot…go figure…evidently I wasn’t drinking enough water and started to zone out…I was the point person. All of a sudden I heard my buddy Bryan yell at me from behind. He asked me if I saw what I just stepped over; I looked down and saw a baby Pygmy Rattlesnake about 7 feet behind me. Needless to say, I became a lot more aware.

By 2:00pm our feet were killing us from the lack of support Chaco’s gave compared to typical hiking shoes/boots. We were also starting to run low on water, so we were keeping our eyes peeled for water sources. We took a break around 3:30pm and finished off the water we had, thinking it’d be easy to find a water source…water sources were clearly marked on the map and guidebook.

Our plan was to re-fill our Nalgene’s along the trail, but weren’t able to find any water sources. We were also planning on only hiking about 15 miles on Saturday and setting up camp along the trail in Farles Prairie about 10 miles from Juniper Springs, pick-up point on Sunday. By the time we got to Farles Prairie it was about 4:00pm, had limited shade, was dry as a bone, and we were out of water. We decided to dig deep, push hard, and grind out the remaining 10 miles to Juniper Springs.Bryan Hare hiking on the Florida Trail

By the time 6:00pm rolled around we were dehydrated, tired, and still about 5 miles from Juniper Springs. I took the point position again and almost stepped on another baby Pygmy Rattlesnake. We took a break for a couple minutes and it slithered on its way into the woods. We kept hiking and finally broke out of the woods onto S.R. 44 around 7:00pm. We had another 2 miles to go, which we could hike in the woods at a slower pace, with less and less light, or hike west along S.R. 44 to Juniper Springs Campground. We chose to stay along S.R. 44 and it took us about 30 minutes.

Once we got there, we had another warm welcome by the staff who invited us into the office to get some water and rest for a bit. We paid to stay the night…well worth it…and waddled our way over to our campsite, refilled our water, set up camp, and passed out.

Sunday

We woke up the next morning around 6:30am and could barely walk. Our legs were shot and we each had some pulled tendons in our feet. When we went to get more water some other campers asked why were waddling…it was that bad. My calves were screaming and Bryan had some cuts on his feet. Our ride picked us up just after 8:00am and we were on our way home.

It was an adventure to say the least. I’d definitely do that section again, but I’d change a couple things. I wouldn’t have gone so fast (we hiked 25 miles in one day), I’d wear hiking shoes, and bring a lot more water (we each carried about 1.5 liters when filled) due to the dryness. Overall we still had fun, are still friends, and are already talking about our next backpacking trip.

Learn from us and if you’re interested in doing that section and have questions, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

Happy Hiking!

What to Bring on the Florida Trail

My buddy and I section hiked the Northeast section of the Florida Trail, from Clearwater Lake to Juniper Springs, in the Ocala National Forest this past weekend. Since the Florida Trail is a trail like no other, I thought I’d share with you the things we took and some things we learned along the way.

National Scenic Trail: Florida Trail Trailhead Marker

Backpack and Water

You’ll of course need a backpack to carry all of your stuff. I prefer a backpack with an H2O reservoir built in and side pouches for a Nalgene. You’ll need to carry plenty of water with you since Florida can get extremely hot and water filling stations can be few and far between…we found this out the hard way.

Sleep System

I prefer to sleep in a tent and sleeping bag, with a sleeping pad, but if you don’t mind spraying on some bug spray and dealing with the bugs, a fly and foot print would work. A hammock with a bug net and tarp is always a viable option as well, but sometimes the trees can be spread out too far.

Footwear

Chaco’s tend to be my everyday footwear of choice. They give great foot support and I prefer sandals over shoes. However, we found out the hard way that they’re not ideal for long-distance hikes. Hiking shoes/boots would be best because of the extra support you get and the protection they provide.

Clothing

Always carry rain gear with you because storms can form in an instant. You can usually get by with shorts and a t-shirt, but make sure they’re anti-microbial and sweat wicking, of course. The winters can be mild and chilly so some long pants and a base layer is helpful as well.

Navigation

When you’re hiking the Florida Trail, make sure to buy the map for the section you’ll be hiking and the data book. Both are essential to keep you from getting lost and they do a great job of showing you where campsites, water, and civilization can be found. A compass is always a great idea to bring as well, along with a safety whistle, in case you get lost.

Oddities

Bring some duct tape. Sounds odd, but seriously, have you seen what duct tape can do? It can help you in almost any situation. You don’t need an entire roll, just wrap some of it around your trekking pole a couple times and you should be fine. I also bring a needle and thread to help with blisters.

Here’s a list of obvious things to bring that really don’t need any explanation:

    Bug Spray

    Sunscreen

    Headlamp

    Food

    Stove

    Flint/Fire Starter

    Water Purification System

    Hat and Sunglasses

    Toilet Paper

    Knife

    First-Aid Kit

Lastly, you should always plan ahead. Know the weather and dress appropriately, know what permits you need and precautions to take, like the dates for hunting season. Finally, make sure you tell people when you’re going, where you’ll be going, how long you’ll be gone, and when you’ll be checking in.

Bring these items, keep these things in mind and you should have a good time.

Happy Hiking!

5 Simple Ways To Continue Earth Day

Earth Day was on Monday and it got me thinking about the impact us humans have on the earth. We’ve modernized the world and made things a lot more comfortable and more efficient for us, so that got me thinking about the effect that we’ve had on the planet. It’s no secret that we pollute the world every day, but to offset that balance, I wanted to share with you 5 simple ways we can help conserve the planet.

1.     Use less plastic

Think of how many bottles you go through in a day, whether it’s soda bottles, milk bottles, water bottles, etc. They all add up. Rather than grabbing a plastic bottle while you’re at work or running errands, try to carry your own water bottle or glass.

2.     Conserve water

Water’s something we need every day, yet we take it for granted. We’re blessed enough to not have to walk to a watering hole to get our water every day. Here’s a few ways to help conserve water.

  •       Pee in the shower…try to hit the drain and don’t think about it
  •       Guys-stop up the sink while you’re shaving and rinse your blade in the sink, not under running water
  •       Only use water to rinse your toothbrush and mouth after you’re done brushing

If you really want to take it to the next step, take showers like my granddad said they back in the day when he was in the Navy. You’ll definitely save water and time with this method.

  •      Hop in without the water running
  •      Wet yourself down (don’t until the water gets hot)
  •      Turn off the water
  •      Lather up
  •      Rinse off

3.     Organize a car pool/use public transportation

This method may be a little more time consuming, but think of all the time you saved in number 2. Not to mention, you’re cutting down on the amount of exhaust entering the air every day, saving yourself some money on gas, and cutting down the need for oil.

4.     Cut down on energy consumption

Our lives are constantly in fast-forward that it seems like we always forget the littlest things. It’s as simple as turning off the light when you’re leaving the room. If you like to fall asleep with the TV on, put a sleep timer on it. You can also unplug electronics and cables that aren’t being used at the time. If you do these things, you may even see your electric bill get cheaper.

5.     Get involved

If you feel led to help preserve our planet, do something about it. I’m not talking about going vegan and joining Green Peace. It can be as simple as writing your Senator, State Representative, City Mayor, etc. about changes you’d like to see and give some solutions. Join a volunteer group that’s centered on environmentalism. You can even donate to environmental groups that you support.

An Easy Way to Get Out of Your ENO

We’ve all seen the cartoons where someone’s lying in a hammock and all of a sudden they get spun around really fast and shot out. Folks, it’s possible and here’s a “safer” way to do it.

Step 1

Lie on your back in your ENO and wrap the excess material of your ENO around your arms and legs. It helps to also spread your arms and legs outwards to create tension.

Lying in my ENO hammaock

Step 2

Start leaning to one side. It might be tough at first, but keep going and remember to keep pushing outward with your arms and legs.

Leaning sideways in my ENO hammock

Step 3

This is where it can get a little nerve racking. Roll over. Everything in your body at first is going to tell you to stop and lay on your back. As long as you have the excess material of your ENO wrapped around your arms and legs and you’re still pushing outward with your arms and legs, you should be fine.

 

upside down in my ENO hammock

Step 4

Breathe. You’ve probably never been in this position before, so calm your nerves; you’re almost there.

Step 5

Carefully remove one leg from your hammock and let it dangle or set it on the ground, depending on the height of your setup. This helps you get an idea of what you have to do with your other leg. When you feel comfortable, tighten your arms and shoulders and remove your second leg and place it on the ground.

Getting out of my ENO hammock, one leg at a time

Step 6

Celebrate! You did it! Now you can go show off to all your friends and show them a new trick you learned in your ENO.

Safely out of my ENO hammock

You can get in your ENO this way as well. All you have to do is follow these steps in reverse order.

A couple of things to note when you do this.

  •    Start close to the ground when you do this
  •    ENO says that you shouldn’t rig your hammock more than 18 inches off the ground
  •    If you don’t feel comfortable…Don’t do it!

Inspiration in Crazy Weather

It seems like most of the country is getting smacked with some sort of natural storm lately. We got nailed with a ton of wind, rain, and lightning on Sunday. As I was driving back from Jacksonville in a torrential downpour on parts of I-95, I thought back to when I was a little kid and how I loved playing in the rain.

Inspirational Life with Storms

Crazy I found this picture and saying online later that day. Anyways, I think it’s very fitting considering the recent events and odd weather patterns.

Cars, Bikes, and Transportation

Have you ever come home from work, started prepping food for dinner or for the next day and found you’re missing that one ingredient? Yea, that happens to me every so often too. So what do you do?

You probably:

Get in the car

Drive to the grocery store

Park your car

Shop

Pay

Load the groceries in your car

Drive home

Unload

Then, you get to cook/prep again

That’s a long list to get a couple quick things. Not to mention, you’re putting unnecessary miles on your car, causing unnecessary harm to the environment, and wasting gas.

When something like this happens to me, I like to take my bike to the store. It’s a great way to get outside, get a cardio workout in, and do a small part in helping preserve the environment.

I do realize that this only works if you have to grab a couple things. If you’re going full-blown grocery shopping, by all means, drive your car. If you only need to grab a couple of those last minute things or if you have to go somewhere that’s a short distance, why not take a bike?

What do you think about using a bike to get to the grocery store or go a short distance?