Friday, December 29, 2017


Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

On a crisp September day in 2015, explorers Dave and Amy Freeman climbed into their Wenohah canoe and paddled off into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on an adventure that would last for 366 days. Paddling, portaging, gathering firewood and hauling water became a way of life as they sought to bear witness to the land they so deeply loved, care for and hoped to help protect from the threat of proposed sulfide-ore copper mining on the BWCA's edge.

During their year in this northern Minnesota Wilderness, they camped at some 120 different sites, explored 500 lakes, rivers and streams, and traveled more than 2,000 miles by canoe, foot, ski, snowshoe and dog team. They saw the change of the season first hand from the migrating birds, the lakes icing up and snow falling to the return of spring flowers and the golden sunsets of summer. Before they knew it the earth had made that one full rotation around the sun and it was their time to paddle out of the wilderness after a year in the wild.

"The sounds of nature are so different than those of the world of humans," Amy Freeman told National Geographic when asked what she misses most since leaving the wilderness, "After a year in the outdoors your senses of sight, smell and hearing are heightened. Back in the city, we’re bombarded with stimuli. I’ve had to desensitize to not freak out."

My paddling year, unlike the Freeman's, was broken into like most of us, mini outings and weekends, trips to the lakes and rivers in between dreaming about trips to the lakes and rivers. I could be classified more as a fanatic than just plain enthusiast and consider a day that I don't get out on to the water as a day lost. But like most of us, my jobs, relationships and just plain having the time to paddle  So the over 130 days I went paddling in 2017 is quite an achievement for me and I could never do it all alone.

French-German humanitarian and physician Albert Schweitzer said, "In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit."

A passion for kayaking flows through the paddling community I'm connected too, like an untamed river. I'm so grateful this past year to paddle once again with likes of  Dan Crandall, Kim Sprague, John Weed, Paul Camozzi, Jason Bates and the rest the gang at Current Adventures Kayaking School and Trips and The River Store.
From first-timers to experienced veterans any outing with these guys will be a great day on the water in building skills and confidence. After paddling with them, you only have one question. When can do it again?

And speaking of the spirit, thanks to Bayside Adventure Sports for being another guiding light in my paddling world. I have many more adventures in-store for them in the coming year to some of our favorite spots and even a few new ones.

But mostly I couldn't do any of my kayaking without the support and encouragement from my wife Debbie who makes it all possible. She is always up for an adventure sharing my same passion for being outside on the water or hiking alongside it. I can't wait for our next trip.

I would also like to thank, Dirt Bag Paddlers & DBP Magazine Online, Canoe & Kayak Magazine, Paddling Magazine, AquaBound, American Rivers and NRS Web, for sharing my posts on their social media pages. It's always a fun Friday for me to post Outside Adventure to the Max. They help to spread the word about our weekly post.

A big thank you goes out to our 2017's guest bloggers Pete Delosa, Kate Hives, Lynn Halsted, Taylor Carlson, Scott Blankenfeld,  Eric Straw and Nigel Foster for their insights and views this past year. They have certainly make OAM better by providing thoughtful and compelling views into the world of paddling. We certainly look forward to future post from them in 2018.

And most of all, I'd like to thank the readers and followers of Outside Adventure to the Max. We hope you enjoyed our thoughts and pictures about our outside experiences in 20117 and look for to more in the next.  Happy New Year.

Friday, December 22, 2017


Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart. -- Washington Irving 

It was Christmastime and I was feeling a little homesick. And like always to forget my troubles I went kayaking. I was paddling upstream along the river bank when I came across the Storyteller. Wearing rubber boots, an old leather jacket and his trademark Fedora, he was up to his ankles in the stream stooped over panning for gold. He stirred his pan carefully after standing upright, then held the pan like a waiter holding a plate picking through the big chunks of his find with his other hand.

“Winter the most successful time of year for finding gold," he said as he noticed me coming towards him still sorting through his pan, "It was then and it still is now. Back then miners worked in freezing cold weather 10 to 12 hour days in leather boots, canvas pants, and a woolen blanket or coat. It was cold but if you were lucky you got gold.”

I beached my kayak along the shore and found a flat rock to watch him work.

"So how are you doing this holiday season?" he asked glancing up from his miner's tin. Seeing my expression he didn't let me answer before running calloused fingers through the sand and gravel again.

"Christmas was like gold in the mine camps," he explained, "Almost every miner took the holiday off, which was always a welcome relief. I think I'll take a break for a little bit too, besides my feet are getting cold in this water."

He waded out the water and sat down on the rock beside me. He was quiet for a moment while scanning his pan for anything before flecking its contents back into the river.

"They were predominantly young men who came out west seeking gold, so their Christmas celebrations were a mixture of unbridled carousing and lonely contemplation. They realized after getting out here that finding their fortune in gold was a lot harder than they previously thought," the Storyteller continued,"They found themselves in a harsh country a long way from home missing family and loved ones. And Christmas just reminded them of just how alone they were."

"One gold seeker named William," pointed out the Storyteller, "Found himself snowed in at his claim site far up along the river. It would not be much of Christmas for him he thought. Because of the drifting snow, he wouldn't be even able to make it to the gold camp to celebrate. The preacher there would offer some short Christmas message in the makeshift saloon. Then after singing a few carols, they would usher in the holiday by whooping it up and firing a gun or two into the air around the fire while a fiddler played a jig."

"Now, nobody called him Bill, " asserted the Storyteller, "It was always William. He came out here from someplace back east, maybe it was Wisconsin. He had been here for almost a year and so far hadn't had much luck and like many certainly hadn't struck it rich."

"He was spending his Christmas, alone and thinking about family back home while writing a letter to his sister Emma he wrote,

"Emma, It snowed hard all day yesterday and got so cold last night made it hard to keep a fire going. I wish that I could be at home today since it's Christmas. We could have a Christmas party. We would have the old gobbler roasted with a score of fat hens, pound cakes, pies, and lots of other good things. But the best of all would be the pleasure of seeing you all. Probably if we live we may be with you next Christmas. And signed it your loving brother, William."

"He wished he might be able to post the letter," the Storyteller speculated, "But back then especially in the wintertime,  the weather and the terrain made it difficult, he had all but given up on getting his letter out or even hearing from anyone back home till next spring. For William, it would be a gloomy Christmas indeed."

"Helloooooo," echoed through the canyon," proclaimed the Storyteller, "Happy for any type of company William grabbed his coat and flipped open the flap of his makeshift cabin door and went outside."

"The snow was gently falling through the trees where William could make out a figure in a Mackinaw jacket and wide-brimmed hat propelling quickly towards him. It was Snowshoe Thompson one of the most dedicated mail carriers of the Sierra Nevada."

"Snowshoe was wearing a pair oak skis carved himself," emphasized the Storyteller, "They were nearly ten feet long and weighed about 25 pounds. As a young boy in Norway, he had used them to travel quickly over the snow-covered terrain. As a mailman Thompson's skiing ability soon became legendary. He could rocket down mountain slopes at nearly 60 miles per hour holding his balance pole out in front of him, dipping it one direction and then the other, all while carrying a pack that could exceed 100 pounds of mail and supplies. It was said nobody could dance on the heavy wooden boards like Snowshoe Thompson."

"With his charcoal smudged cheekbones to prevent snow blindness and beard layered with ice" the Storyteller explained, " Snowshoe whisked himself up the cabin."

"God Jul! Happy Christmas! William!" He exclaimed skiing up to the entrance of the cabin."

"Now most the time," reminded the Storyteller, "Snowshoe would just throw the mail toward the house, and then glide out of sight, up and over a hill. But today being Christmas he was on a special trip to spread some Christmas cheer."

"Merry Christmas!" William called out to him," continued the Storyteller, "Come in and sit by the fire."

"But Snowshoe shook his head and said he couldn't stay long he had more deliveries to make. He pealed the rucksack off his back and set it in snow then open its flap and reached inside of it pulling out a package wrapped in a brown paper package tied with twine."

"I thought you might be snowed in up here," Snowshoe said to William with a thick Norwegian accent "I knew when I saw this package for you in town, I just knew I had to get it to you by Christmas. So here I am. "

"Snowshoe handed the package to William," said the Storyteller, "It was his first word from home since coming to California. He held it gently and read his sister's the handwriting."

"Open it would you now," said Snowshoe, "So I can see what you got for Christmas."

"William," sighed the Storyteller, "Carefully untied a string and unwrapped the package containing a knitted scarf and five folded sheets of paper. It was a letter from his sister Emma updating with news about his family back east. He quickly read the letter's opening lines."

"Dearest William
I hope this letter finds you well. I only hope searching for gold in California is treating you? With any luck, this will arrive by Christmas for I know this scarf will keep you warm. I hope it will remind you of home and how we missed you."

"William again asked Snowshoe to stay for a spell, But once again Snowshoe shook his head and said there is a storm brewing and he would like to make get his deliveries made before it hit," explained the Storyteller, "William quickly went into the cabin to retrieve his letters home and a couple of coins he had been saving to offer payment. Snowshoe took only one coin for the postage of the letters and turned down the rest before soaring off like an eagle on his skis."

"As William finished the last lines of letter saying,

"God bless you and keep you safe till we meet again your loving sister, Emma" concluded the Storyteller, "Snowshoe was just going over the hill."

"Merry Christmas Snowshoe Thompson!" hollered William."
"God Jul! echoed back.

The Storyteller then picked up his miner's pan and went back to the river. I found my paddle and went to my kayak.

"Hey kid," the Storyteller, called out to me my boat then with a slight pause then added "No matter where you are kid, Christmas will find you. Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas to you too," I said paddling away.

Merry Christmas to all of you from Outside Adventure to the Max.

Friday, December 15, 2017


Sometimes I arrive just when God’s ready to have someone click the shutter. --Ansel Adams

As a photojournalist in both print and broadcast media throughout of my news career, I spent most of my most life getting pictures. My news photographer experiences included covering major floods and fires, national, state and local politics, school shootings, and extreme weather conditions, such as tornadoes, blizzards, and droughts. My goal each and every day was to provide storytelling images or video to the folks reading or watching.

Paddling with Current Adventures 50+ class
Most of my career was spent pre-Internet, Facebook, Instagram and pre-computer. Believe it or not, there was a time I had to wait until the next day to see my published picture in the papers. No likes or favorites back then. It was just nice if someone glanced at the shot long enough to read the byline. Of course, if they hated it they would call the editor and complain threatening to cancel their subscription. Major dislike there.

Bayside Adventure Sports at San Juan Rapids
Like most young photojournalist, I followed the careers of globe-trotting and photographers and dreamt of working for Sports Illustrated or National Geographic. Traveling the world and taking pictures of my passion along the way, if only, right?

"It’s hard to remember where I am when I wake up some mornings," photographer Peter Holcombe said in a 2017 interview with Canoe & Kayak Magazine. Living with a camera in hand, Holcombe and family of three sold their Colorado home in 2014 and moved their family and business into a Winnebago RV, and hit the road with a trailer of kayaks and SUP board, exploring wild and beautiful places. Since then, they have traveled over 150,000 miles through 49 states, exploring most of the National Parks and chasing whitewater.

The Lower American River
"We have paddled in places we could have only dreamed about before," Holcombe told Canoe & Kayak, "Not only visit amazing places but get to “live” there and really experience what they have to offer. I often paddle or create images during the day and do the imaging work at night. This often means I work till midnight or later so I can get on another river the next morning. This pace is tiring, but I love it."

I can picture myself in the same way. Exploring wild and natural places is my passion. There is not a day I don't think about kayaking. Every time I cross any river bridge and look down I wish I was there. Every time I see a lake I want to put a boat on the water. Every day paddling brings a re-charge to my mind, soul and body.

High water in 2017

So as 2017 draws to a close, I look back at some of my favorite places and people I had the good fortune of kayaking with this past year. I'll be looking forward to even more in paddling days to come in the next year.

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Current Adventures Kids Classes on Lake Natoma
Current Adventures Kids Classes
Moonlight paddle on Lake Natoma
Lake Tahoe

An evening with Bayside Adventure Sports
Hiking at Sly Park
Rolling with Eric Allen on Folsom Lake 
Lake Natoma

Friday, December 8, 2017


Tis the season when use-boats start showing up for sale. Some are real deals that will have you paddling with a smile all into next year, while others are a sinking investment. Current Adventures Kayak School and Trips' Dan Crandall gives you some tips to buying what is right for you.

Figure out WHAT it is you want. Sounds easy but you would be surprised how many folks we see coming in looking for a new or used boat after they have bought something that didn’t suit their purpose or just straight up doesn’t fit. Knowing what you want, can take a bit of educating on your part. You should first consider where it is that you would like to go in the boat.

Ocean, river, calm & protected, calm but potential winds and whitewater. This is important because it shorten the list of boats that will work for you, if you share this information with folks who are knowledgeable about boats they will be able to pin-point a good starting point for you to begin your hunt. Think widely on what it might be you would like to do now and what you might want to do later. If you limit it too much you may end up with a boat that is great in one type of circumstance but not in another.

That being said, no boat will do everything well. You will need to make some compromises. Start with reading about types of kayaking you might want to do, checking out some of the manufacturer's websites where they describe kayaks that you think might interest you. Ask your buddies and other paddlers you see out what they like and dislike about the boats they are paddling.

All of this you should take with a grain of salt, as your friends may still be in the process of figuring out what they are looking for or have a bias, and as for the Manufacturers, they will tend to give wide and generous spec ranges for paddler weight and boat description trying to entice a bigger demographic.

An example of this would be a boat that has a weight range of 110-230 is going to paddle very differently for the folks on either end of the weight range. In general you want to be in the mid weight of a boat unless you don’t mind the boat being over sized or undersized and that will depend on your comfort and skill set.

When looking for a used boat fit is paramount, many kayaks have adjustable seats, thigh hooks, back bands and foot braces. However deck height and foot room is not adjustable so if a boat doesn’t have enough room it's NOT the boat for you. If you fit into the boat with enough space for the feet and legs, but it isn’t 100% comfortable that is usually adjustable by adding foam or upgrading a seat or back band.

You should ask questions if you are not sure if modifications can be made to make the fit better. To test fit, sit in multiple boats of the same category most companies make a boat to fit each niche… “recreational”, “touring boat” , “river running”, “expedition touring boats”, “creekboats”, “playboats”, “crossover kayaks” etc…

Most boats within a category will paddle similarly but the fit may be radically different, if a boat fits well on the show room floor definitely keep it in mind to test it out on the water to make sure it still fits well when in use.
Testing a boat on the water is always a good idea. If you can borrow, rent, demo, or take a class to try out the kayak if at all possible prior to purchase you should. Boats within a category will paddle similarly BUT there are slight nuances that may make a difference to your paddling style.

If you are newer to the sport or the type of paddling going out with a instructor or working with a shop that has a demo program can really improve your chances of picking a boat that will be right for what you are planning to do. Instructors and shop employees who paddle can help you determine what type of paddling you might want to do, they can assess whether the boat fits right, help you adjust it to optimal fit for performance and give you feed back that can be invaluable as you decide what to get.

Also, as stated above fit can vary on the show room floor to when you are actually using it on the river. When you test the used kayak on the water you will have a chance to compare the fit on the show room floor to the fit during performance. You can also get a better idea of what adjustments you are going to use most and you can take a look at the design and see if those moving parts are going to hold up to your standards of performance.
When you take a boat out to test it try and test it in the type of water that you are wanting to paddle. Trying a boat out on water that doesn’t resemble the conditions you will experience will give you a false idea of how the boat will perform.

By choosing the correct water you will eliminate boats that aren’t designed for those conditions narrowing the field to the right boat. We often see folks try to test boats in sub-optimal conditions for the design of the boat. For example taking a creekboat (designed for tight technical moves), out on a wide, higher volume river with minimal technical moves.

This person is likely to have a disappointing experience on the water as the boat may have great performance but there is no good way to test it, however if this is the type of water they want to paddle… well they probably got the feedback they wanted which is this isn’t the correct boat for this.

Another example would be testing a touring kayak for rock-gardening on flat-water… where it might be better to test it in light class I or II whitewater if you aren’t able to get it to the ocean tide pools. The balance of this boat may not be tested in the calmer conditions, and you won’t have the obstacles to try and test maneuverability.

Also consider going out in the boat for a bit of time, 15-minutes in the boat won’t tell you the same as 2-3 hours. If the boat is 10-ft-long and you are paddling for 15-minutes you may not notice how tired you will be if you decide to take it across a large body of water.

Once you have determined the type of paddling want, tested some boats on the water that fit the bill the last step is to look at the condition of the equipment to determine if it will hold up for the future.

Here are some tips:
  • Find out how the boat was stored. Ultraviolet light is the #1 damaging agent to a plastic boat. If the boat has been stored inside it will be in much better condition.
  • If the boat had been stored outside press the plastic listen for cracking or creaking. UV makes the plastic more brittle. Also look at the handles, decking straps, seat, & back band for sun damage these may need to be replaced if UV damaged.
  • Look for repairs to the boat, you ideally want a boat that has not been patched or reheated to fix a nose dent or bend in the plastic. Plastic generally turns white stretched out of shape so take a good look at the nose of the boat and along the sides, if you see white or plastic that looks out of shape you should be concerned.
  • Folds around the leg area of the boat and behind the cockpit are extremely dangerous and should be avoided as the boat could easily fold again in that area pinning your legs or you body in the boat. Nose damage can be patched and the boat can be used again but the boat is less likely to retain is shape if it hits another rock and your feet will be less cushioned against hits.
  • Other cracks in the plastic can be a problem anything that could cause the boat to leak is a bummer, anything that can cause the boat to break or fold is a concern. Look inside the boat at the outfitting if it is a whitewater boat you should know if the boat is designed to have front and back pillars of foam or plastic….
  • IF it is designed this way (most are) then those pillars need to be there or the boat won’t hold its shape in a pin. On touring boats you also should look at the condition of the foam bulkheads in the boat. This is the foam that partitions off the front or back of the boat creating a storage chamber accessed from a hatch on the top of the hull.
  • If these bulkheads are not attached well then that storage area will leak. A minor leak will be a bummer a major leak can be a safety hazard causing that area to fill with water making it harder to re-enter when capsized mid lake.
  • Look for scratches on the underside of the boat, there will be scratches lots of them, probably most are very shallow and won’t affect the boat at all. However if you find deep scratches that go into the plastic more then a 1/8 of a inch in a high wear area on the boat like under the seat there is a chance this spot will crack under constant high use.
  • Look for oil canning of the underside of the hull. This is where the underside of the boat may have undulations and look wavy. This can be fixed in some cases by adding foam under the seat or putting the boat out in the hot sun and pushing the surface back out.
  • Oil canning can make the boat handle differently then intended on the water having more drag. Oil canning can be caused by over tightening the boat on a roof rack or storage rack on a hot day, or over time if the foam under the seat compresses.
  • It's recommended once you own your own boat on hot days if you do not have cradles on your roof rack then flip your boat over and tie it upside down as this side is structurally stronger and tends to resist oil canning.
With any luck you are on your way to finding a boat that is right for you and getting out and paddling soon. Should you find that optimal boat on a steal of a deal and need some additional outfitting check out The River Store’s selection of foam, spare parts, back bands and more.

Current Adventures Kayak School and Trips 
PHONE: 530-333-9115 or Toll-Free: 888-452-9254
FAX: 530-333-1291
USPS:Current Adventures, P.O. Box 828, Lotus, CA 95651
owner Dan Crandall

Friday, December 1, 2017

WATERFIGHT: Hydropower Policy Modernization Act of 2017

California's South Feather River a spot for whitewater boating and hydroelectricity generation.   
   Photo by Gavin Rieser
Aimed at speeding up hydroelectric power projects in the U.S. the Republican-controlled House has approved a bill, called the Hydropower Policy Modernization Act of 2017.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, would define hydropower as a renewable energy source and streamline the way projects are licensed. Lawmakers approved the bill last month, 257-166.

Hydroelectricity production varies each year and is largely dependent on rain and snowfall. The power generated by rivers and streams makes up nearly 70 percent of electricity generated in Washington state and accounts for more than 50 percent of power in Oregon and Idaho. In California, hydroelectric power is a major source electricity. In 2014, hydroelectric power plants produced approximately 14,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity or 6 percent of the total in-state electricity generation. Nationwide, hydropower only accounts for 7 percent of electricity.

McMorris Rodgers, a Republican, says that figure could be doubled without constructing a single dam.

"As the largest source of renewable energy in the United States, we need to modernize the way we license and relicense hydropower," said McMorris Rodgers, "This legislation will do that."

McMorris Rodgers said she also hopes the bill would encourage additional hydro development at non-powered dam infrastructure -- potentially unlocking significant amounts of clean energy as many states continue working toward meeting their renewable portfolio standards.

Opponents say the bill turns over public waterways to industry at the expense of fishermen, boaters and Native American tribes.

The Kootenai Environmental Alliance calls the bill, "A devastating assault on our nation’s rivers and the people and wildlife that depend upon them. Its passage would end 95 years of balance in hydropower licensing, tipping the scales against taxpayers and in favor of huge utilities." 

The conservation group says the current law protects the public’s right to enjoy its rivers and is also compatible with responsible electricity production. It argues that the Hydropower Policy Modernization Act of 2017 would tip the balance toward industry and special interests while undermining the current hydropower licensing process, which is a key tool for protecting and restoring rivers impacted by privately and municipally owned and operated dams to the expense of the fish, wildlife, and the people that rely upon healthy water flows.

More than 500 hydro projects are expected to enter the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing process through 2030. These projects represent about half of all licensed plants under FERC jurisdiction, and about a third of all licensed hydro capacity.

The bill next goes to the Senate.

Friday, November 24, 2017


And so for a time it looked as if all the adventures were coming to and end; but that was not to be. --- C. S. Lewis

I was hoping to get one more day in. Just one more day on the water. An early winter weather gloom hung over the river valley. The first snow had come early in October, followed by another dusting a week later typical and Fargo-like. The temperatures were plunging each night to that mystical point where water becomes ice. My season of days paddling was quickly running out on the Red River.

“There is one thing I should warn you about before you decide to get serious about canoeing, " said paddling guru Bill Mason in one of my favorite all-time quotes "You must consider the possibility of becoming totally and incurably hooked on it. You must also face the fact that every fall about freeze-up time you go through a withdrawal period as you watch the lakes and rivers icing over one by one. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing can help a little to ease the pain, but they won’t guarantee a complete cure.”

When fall comes to the Red River Valley only the hardiest have yet to put away their canoes or kayaks for the season. The Red River was once again comfortable in its banks as its dark waters of flowed past the snow white covered shoreline creating a Christmas card like setting, insulated from the whir of traffic of the river's two cities.   

A thin layer of ice from freezing rain coated my bow and water bottle as it froze on contact. While an even thinner film of ice had formed over the water along the edges of the meandering waterway. The sound of reverberation of radio static and breaking glass echoed over the peaceful river as the kayak's bow broke through the ice, a reminder of my coming to end to that years paddling season as the river way slumbered into its winter hibernation.

Over the Bow is a feature from Outside Adventure to the Max, telling the story behind the image. If you have a great picture with a great story, submit it to us at

Friday, November 17, 2017


According to the Orange County District Attorney, it was no accident, it was a case of murder. A woman who admitted she helped cause her finance’s drowning death by removing a plug from his kayak before it to capsize on a during the Hudson River kayaking trip.

Angelika Graswald, center, stands with her lawyers,
Angelika Graswald
Angelika Graswald pleaded guilty last July to criminally negligent homicide, weeks before she was set to stand trial on second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the death of 46-year-old Vincent Viafore, of Poughkeepsie N.Y.

Viafore drowned while the couple was kayaking on April 19, 2015. Graswald, a Latvian national, admitted to pulling out the plug to Viafore's kayak before they set out on the river on a day when conditions were dangerous. She also admitted she was aware that the locking clip on one of his paddles was missing. She told them she was happy Viafore died, that she wanted to be free of him and knew she was primary beneficiary on two of his life insurance policies.

Vincent Viafore
Those admissions prosecutors said, constitute actions that are a "gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would have observed in the situation" and caused Viafore's death. In a statement at the time of her plea, David M. Hoovler, the district attorney for Orange County, argued: “By pleading guilty the defendant has acknowledged that Vincent Viafore’s death was not simply a tragic accident, but the result of this defendant’s criminal conduct.”

Her defense team said Graswald's statements were coerced by police during an 11-hour interview, that removing the kayak plug wouldn't have caused Viafore's kayak to capsize. Viafore also had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.066. and was not wearing a life vest or a wet suit and knew the springtime river waters were dangerously cold at the time.
“From the moment I was pulled from the water," said Graswald," They labeled me a defendant.”

Bannerman's Island on the Hudson River
In exchange for her plea, she agreed to a sentence to 16 months to four years in state prison,  the maximum sentence allowed for a criminally negligent homicide last week in Orange County Court in Poughkeepsie, New York.  Her defense attorney Richard Portale said he expects Graswald to be paroled by late December. She's been in Orange County Jail since her April 2015 arrest and the time she's served so far will count toward her time in state prison. A native of Latvia and a U.S. permanent resident, Graswald may then face deportation after her 16 months on parole are up.

And while many expressed outrage in the justice system in what they felt was to light of a sentence for the crime in the New York Times Comments to last week's story. Some kayakers who responded, they maintain it was a tragic accident that could have been avoided and believe there is little substantiation to Graswald orchestrating Viafore’s death. Saying the lack of suitable kayaks to the rough conditions of the water, no PFDS or spray skirts and Viafore’s kayaking skills had more to due to his death than the lack of a drain plug.
"It is clear to me that most people don’t realize that the drain plug of a kayak is near the TOP of the kayak at one of the ends," wrote Jim from Pennsylvania, "Not submerged below the water line. To use it to drain water, you have to take the kayak out of the water, flip it upside down, and lift one end before waiting a few minutes while water trickles out a hole smaller than a quarter. You could kayak around all day with an open plug and not take on any water. The notion that this woman sabotaged his kayak by removing the plug is nonsense."

Another writer emphasized the lack of items that should always be used to kayak safely. Betsy in Maryland wrote, "As a longtime kayaker, I’ve been following this case somewhat and really don’t understand why she plead guilty.  That guy didn’t drown because the drain plug was out of the kayak, he drowned because he was out on the river without a PFD, a spray skirt, and a wet suit during a time of year when the river water was cold, in a boat that wasn’t adequate for the conditions. All of those factors were in that guy’s control. He just made a series of very bad decisions. She didn’t sound like she was a very accomplished paddler, so I’m guessing that she had her hands full just trying to keep herself upright.

Angelika Graswald and kayak
While another writer stressed the couple experience and training in kayaking. "Clearly not very experienced," wrote Cook, S from Oakland, "Or not very smart. If he fell in he wouldn't have lasted long and it would have been very difficult for her to rescue him without prior training."

 Viafore's kayak model

And Pete from New York commented on the court's deficiency of understanding of the practice of kayaking in general "This story seems very odd to me. I am a class 4-5 whitewater kayaker with 5 years experience teaching. As said by other, the mistakes here would be going out without a PFD, going out in rough weather without a spray skirt and drinking before going kayaking. I just don't see any proof that a crime was committed here and I'm surprised that these pieces of evidence were even allowed in court."

So while the headlines screamed Kayak Murder, many in the paddling community speculate there is no way Graswald engineered Viafore’s death.  And think though tragic, Viafore’s death was of his own making.

"This entire process has been incredibly difficult for me," wrote Graswald to the court, I love Vince very much and miss him terribly. When we went kayaking that day my intention was for both of us to come home.”

Friday, November 10, 2017


Eric Straw and friend (pictured) paddle Minnesota's Boundary Waters. | Eric Straw
Photos by Eric Straw


I already miss the rivers. It’s true, even after just returning from paddling a natural body of water in every state. Fortunately, as I discovered on my Canoe 50 Campaign, I don’t have to venture far to find a river. None of us do. From Delaware to the Dakotas and from Mississippi to Montana, every state in the union has a place to paddle, explore, and discover nature anew.
From Delaware to the Dakotas, every state has a place to paddle, explore, and discover nature. I have a multitude of stories and takeaways from my half-year excursion. Fresh off the water, here are a few that stick out. First off, I believe, more than ever, that our riparian areas are proper focal points for protection and barometers for overall ecosystem health; they are worth seeing, they are worth protecting and they are — along with our diverse population — what makes our nation exceptional.

Pine Creek Canyon, Pennsylvania black bear.
Despite being from the suburbs, I grew up with a love for the outdoors. As a kid I collected wildlife sightings like baseball cards. For me, the only thing akin to finding a Ken Griffey Jr. rookie in a pack was seeing a rare animal in the wild. Both occurrences put me in a state of bliss only rivaled by an unguarded bowl of candy. Along this canoe trip, I remained enamored by chance encounters with wild animals; my first bear sighting is a prime example.
Paddling down Pine Creek Canyon, Pennsylvania, I floated under passing white clouds, above the glinting water and between the steep canyon walls cloaked in green. The evening set in with a warmth only a fine summer day can provide. Then I saw it — 200 yards down river — the unmistakable shape of a black bear. Trying to calm my excitement, I put on my zoom lens as the bear began crossing Pine Creek. In silence, I canoed downstream as the bear reached the opposing bank and began walking along the shore, towards me. Soon, I was only 30 feet from 300 pounds of fur, teeth, and claws. At a loss for creativity, I called out “Hey bear!” The lumbering creature stopped, turned and looked right at me before disappearing behind a wall of shaking leaves. I passed over the next riffle, dumb grin plastered upon my face. While the spell of baseball cards wore off long ago, I doubt the spell of wildlife ever will.

Eric paddling around the Florida Keys.
I didn’t plan this quest with the goal of reinvesting faith in the American People, but after the 2016 election, it became an enduring part of my canoe trip. In every state, I encountered strangers from all walks of life. After meeting hunters, vacationers, bikers, immigrants, fishermen, kids, and retirees, I came away with one thought — people are complicated, but mostly good.

In six months of driving back country roads, leaving my car overnight and camping alone, no one ever stole from me. On the contrary, the people I met offered kindness. Countless individuals provided help, rides, meals, beers, etc. On four occasions, strangers gave me cash out of the blue. One kayaker in the Florida Keys put a hundred-dollar bill in my hand. “Go get yourself a good meal and have a great trip,” were his only conditions. I’ve long touted the kindness of the American People, but even I was overwhelmed with the sheer volume of kind gestures during the course of my long paddle.
Now, like most of us, I have many frustrations with our political climate and the normalization of viewpoints that trend in frightening directions. On the nature side alone, I think it’s a shame that the mere word environment has become so polarized. It’s a shame professing a love of nature might somehow instigate a vicious political argument. It’s a shame people feel they need to be either on the side of the economy or the environment, as if improving either inherently destroys the other.

Cormorants at the mouth of the Mispillion in Delaware. | Eric Straw
Cormorants at the mouth of the Mispillion in Delaware.
But, after meeting with a broad swath of America and canoeing with people of all political persuasions, I can say this: we all don’t boil down to a choice between, what many regarded as, two poor options. Red state or blue state, I found that the American People, on a whole, do care about how they’re going to leave this land for their kids and grand kids. Whether it’s a turkey hunter in rural Virginia, an outfitter in Alaska, or a Paiute Tribe member in the high deserts of Nevada — people give a damn about their natural world. That should give us all hope.

Along with all the human interactions, the memories of the waterways I canoed will endure. Setting out, I was almost more excited about visiting the unassuming, low tourism budget states than the postcard destinations. Instead of finding mundane, unattractive water bodies, I was floored by the scenic rivers and unsung wilderness areas in states rarely noted for their natural beauty. In April, I swam in the clear black water stream on a Wild and Scenic River in Southern Mississippi. In May, I saw thousands of arctic migratory Red Knots gather by spawning horseshoe crabs at the mouth of the Mispillion in Delaware. In June, I surprised a family of river otters, playing in a shallow riffle, in the hills of Ohio. So on and so forth. My canoe quest was a never-ending showcase of American splendor in places you would and wouldn’t expect.

Classic beauty isn’t the reason our rivers deserve our respect and stewardship. Ecosystem health, human well-being, ad an array of non-aesthetic factors are as essential. But, boy does it help to stir hearts and open wallets when you realize how stunning our rivers are to behold. I’ve raised money for American Rivers throughout my journey because I believe our nation needs this kind of organization to raise the profiles of endangered waterways and protect natural places, from the unassuming to the majestic. I believe America’s rivers and wild lands are what make us exceptional and they’re worth protecting — grab a paddle and go see for yourself.

Eric Straw in a Texas based paddler on mission to canoe a body of water in all 50 states over 2017. He started last April on Brazos River and according to his November blog post has only 6 states left after paddling on Pyramid Lake in Nevada. You can catch up with Straw on his blog and read more of his state by state adventures at  and on Instagram @ericstraw.
You can also help Straw reach his fund-raising goal for American Rivers by donating here.

Outside Adventure to the Max is always looking for guest bloggers. Contact us at if you are interested.

Friday, November 3, 2017


The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.--- John Muir 

It's fall back time. This Sunday, Nov. 5 at 2 a.m., the time flips back an hour to standard time. Great if you are an earlier riser in this light switch from evening to morning. However, losing the hour at the end of the day always surprises me. I'm not ready for the darkness, as the sun seems to slam into the horizon before my eyes. Exploding into little bits before disappearing into the night.

“There are very few things in the world I hate more than Daylight Savings Time," said author Michelle Franklin,  It is the grand lie of time, the scourge of science, the blight on biological understanding.”

She is right of course as many who don't enjoy the practice of Daylight Savings will attest. We don't lose or even gain for that matter a dose of sunlight with the time change, we lose it astronomically as the sun approaches its southernmost position, aka the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

Still losing that golden hour at the end of the day seems unforeseen and unexpected for me. I can remember a fall paddle on the north arm of Folsom Lake. I had gotten a late start when I slid my kayak into the water on the south side of Doton's Point. The sun was already dipping behind some clouds and hovering over the horizon. It would be a race against it to see if I could finish before it set.

Now I had won the contest against the setting sun many times before while on summer nights camping. I would paddle out across the water watching that giant orange ball dissolve into the lake while I still have enough light to paddle back to the beach and light the campfire before nightfall. Twilight lingers in the summer, but not in autumn.

This time I was humbled. I didn't beat the night. I had paddled out too far and still had to come back. I tried to hurry back as fast I could. My fingers and feet tingled as I pressed into the foot pegs and paddle. But, no matter how fast I tried to paddle, the sun was gone and night had prevailed.

As a full moon arose over the foothills, I paddled back along the shoreline towards the lights of Folsom Dam.  The land and water amalgamated into the murkiness of the night. I can't say I was lost. I pretty much knew the lake and how to get back. But, without my headlamp, it was more like fumbling around in a dark bedroom trying to find the light switch. My truck was out there, I just had to find it.

The moonlight glistened on the water as I paddled up to Donton's Point. In the shadows, I could make out the silhouette of the truck's body parked along the beach. I was back at my starting point tired and a little relieved. I loaded up and drove away thinking, I better get an earlier start next time. It was only a little past 6 p.m.

That one-hour daylight switch from evening to morning as we fall back to standard time begins this weekend. We don't go back to daylight saving until Sunday, March 11, 2018, about a week before spring begins.

Fire Closes Boating on Oregon River

Photo courtesy of North Umpqua Outfitters
One of Oregon’s most popular rivers for rafting and kayaking will remain closed for an extended period following wildfire damage this summer. The Statesmen Journal reported that U.S. Forest Service officials said The North Umpqua River, east of Roseburg, will remain closed to boats for 23 miles until next spring or summer.

Forest Service officials said the decision was for safety after wildfires burned numerous trees along the stream sighting those trees will likely fall into the river during fall, winter and spring storms, creating dangerous hazards in what’s already a rapid-filled section.Local outfitters are frustrated by the decision and called the closure length unnecessary and arbitrary.

Photo Courtesy of Randy Lathrop
Canoe Rises from Hurricane

The New York Times reported after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma battered Florida, one Florida man came upon a what may have appeared to be a large piece of driftwood while riding his bike near the shore in Cocoa. it turned out to be an old cypress wood dug canoe. The boat could be hundreds of years old says state authorities, who are working to learn the canoe’s origins.

Friday, October 27, 2017


I am therefore a ready believer in relics, legends, and local anecdotes of goblins and great men, and would advise all travellers who travel for their gratification to be the same. What is it to us whether these stories be true or false, so long as we can persuade ourselves into the belief of them and enjoy all the charm of the reality? -- Washington Irving

A body of water can be a downright terrifying place. Looking straight down into its murky depths any sailor, fisherman or kayaker can't help but wonder what lurks below. Unexplored storm-tossed seas and our deepest unforgiving lakes expose our innermost fears. Add a blend of cultural folklore and eyewitness accounts and our imaginations and curiosity are sparked by an opportunity  into the unknown as we scan the water's surface for sea monsters

The centuries-old legends of lake creatures and modern-day tales of sea monsters are irresistible mysteries to us all especially when there is no way to disprove they exist. Science says they don't. But, seeing is believing. Here are few places you just might want to paddle (if you dare) this Halloween or anytime, for your chance to glimpse a sea monster.

Loch Ness, Scotland.

© Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The lake monster of all lake monsters, the Loch Ness Monster, or Nessie is perhaps the most famous of the lake creatures ever since gaining worldwide attention in 1933. Described as a dinosaur-like creature from the deep, it has a long neck and protruding humps coming out of the water.

"About 30 feet in length, and nearly 10 feet in height from the water to the top of the back." Val Moffat told NOVA about his face to encounter in 1990,  "It was a bright, sunny day, the water was bright blue, and it really showed up against it. It was a mixture of browns, greens, sludgy sort of colors. I looked at it on and off for a few seconds, because I was driving. Must have seen it three or four times, and the last time I looked, it was gone!"

 Lake Windermere, England.

Called Bownessie, the younger and less famous of Britain's sea monster lives in shadow its famous cousin, the fabled Loch Ness Monster in northern England. In 2011, two Brits told the Daily Mail that they spotted three or four mysterious humps emerging from the water while they were kayaking.
"I thought it was a dog," Tom Pickles said, "Then I realized it was much bigger and moving really quickly. Each hump was moving in a rippling motion and it was swimming fast. I could tell it was much bigger underneath from the huge shadow around it."
"Its skin was like a seal's, but its shape was abnormal," said his paddling partner Sarah Harrington it's not like any animal I've ever seen before. We saw it for about 20 seconds. It was petrifying. We paddled back to the shore straight away,"
But, not before getting a fuzzy camera phone picture.

Heaven Lake
Heaven Lake, China & North Korea

The lake is the deepest and the largest crater lake in on the China and North Korea border. It is also the home of Lake Tianchi Monster. The first reported sighting came back 1903 when a large mouthed and buffalo-like creature attacked three people. They were only saved after the creature was shot six times and retreated under the water. More than hundred people reported seeing two monsters chasing each other in 1962 while in 2007, a Chinese TV station shot 20 minutes of video of six unidentified creatures.
"They could swim as fast as yachts and at times they would all disappear in the water. It was impressive to see them all acting at exactly the same pace, as if someone was giving orders," said TV reporter Zhuo Yongsheng, "Their fins, or maybe wings were longer than their bodies."

Lake Utopia, New Brunswick Canada

Local legend that has span centuries, says that the lake is inhabited by a sea monster known as“Old Ned." It seems the monster has a dislike for canoeists. One of the first sightings came a long time ago when two Maliseet Indians were canoeing on the lake and suddenly a terrifying eel-like monster with a large head and bloody jaws appeared chasing them to the other end. 1891, a logger gave this description of a creature,  "It was dark red in colour, the part showing above the water was 20 feet long and as big around as a small hogshead; it was much like a large eel."
In 1996, you guess it canoeist spotted the creature again, measuring “30 to 40 feet” as it swam just under the surface, “up and down” not “side to side," as eels would swim.

Lake Champlain, New York, Vermont & Quebec

Champy is the American cousin to Loch Ness' Nessie. Described by Captain Crum 1819 in an account in the Plattsburgh Republican as a black monster, about 187-feet-long and with a head resembling a seahorse, that reared more than 15 feet out of the water. He claimed the monster also had three teeth, eyes the color of "a pealed onion," adorned with a white star on its forehead and "a belt of red around the neck."
In July 1873, Clinton County's Sheriff, Nathan H. Mooney, reported seeing an  "enormous snake or water serpent." A month later, the steamship W.B. Eddy had a close encounter Champy by running into it. According to the passengers on board, the ship nearly capsized, which prompted circus showman P. T. Barnum offered a reward of $50,000 for "hide of the great Champlain serpent. Ever since approximately 600 people have claimed to have seen Champy.

Lake Norman, North Carolina

Just last summer, a 35-year-old Mecklenburg County man told CryptoZoology he spotted a “dinosaur-like creature” while traveling on a boat with friends. He claimed the creature was about 10-feet-long and reminiscent of the mythical Loch Ness monster.
Sightings date back nearly 50 years on the largest man-made lake in North Carolina and have become more common in recent years. A few dozen witnesses have posted their sightings on, like this one from John Edds of Huntersville, “I was on a boat when a huge force from below knocked me overboard,” he wrote, “I got back on to my boat when I saw a Nessie-like sea monster swimming away from me. It looked about 15 feet long.” While another post came from a man and his girlfriend who saw the creature while jet skiing who wrote, “We both saw a large body come to the surface. It was dark, and shiny in some spots but was at least 14-ft long. We both were scared to death. She is now scared to swim there."

Lake Pepin, Minnesota & Wisconsin

The monster called Pepie is described as a large, serpent-like creature that lives in the shadowy depths of Lake Pepin, a lake occurring naturally at the widest part of the Mississippi River. First witnessed by river rafters in 1867, Pepie made an even a bigger splash four years later when the Wabasha County Sentinel, reported, “a marine monster between the size of an elephant and rhinoceros, moving with great rapidity.”
Sightings of the creature have continued over the years contributing to the local folklore. It is said that on a moonlit night in 1922, young Ralph Samuelson saw Pepie skimming across the lake and thought, “If a large aquatic creature can skim across the water’s surface, why can’t I?” which led to the idea behind the sport of water skiing and Lake City, Minn., is now forever known as “the birthplace of water skiing."
In 2008 businessman Larry Nielson made monster watching profitable by offering a $50,000 reward for conclusive proof of Pepie's existence as a ploy to garner tourism in the Lake City area. So far no one has collected the bounty.

Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe, Nevada & California

Tales of an up to 80-foot-long jet black serpentine creature dates back to the Gold Rush when members of area Indian tribes warned settlers about a monster dwelling in an underwater tunnel beneath Cave Rock in the famed alpine lake.

In 1865, I. C. Coggin a got first-hand look at the creature from a treetop.  In 1897, he told the San Francisco Call newspaper this chilling account.
“I heard a sound as if the dead limbs trees, willows and alders that grew in the canyon were being broken and crushed. Soon the monster appeared, slowly making his way in the direction where I was hidden in the tree top and passed on to the lake within 50 feet of where I was, and as his snakeship got by I partly recovered from my fright and began to estimate his immense size."

Not stopping there he continued with his eerie tale, "After his head passed my tree about 70 feet, he halted and reared his head in the air fifty feet or more. His monstrous head was about 14 feet wide and his large eyes seemed to be almost eight inches in diameter and shining jet black and seemed to project more than half the size from his head. The neck was about ten feet and the body in the largest portion must have been twenty feet in diameter."

The headline in the paper screamed Lake Tahoe's Big Serpent and the word of Tessie spread just like the saying, "There is gold in them hills!" Over the decades, off-duty police officers, fishermen, bartenders and kayak instructors have all reported seeing an unusually large creature swimming in the lake.

In the 1970's it is said that renowned, French oceanographer, Jacques Cousteau wanted to see for himself. In a mini-submarine, while exploring the depths of the lake he reportedly encountered something so horrifying that all he could not ever bring himself to talk about it saying, "The world wasn't ready for what was down there!"

Courtesy of The Daily Inter Lake
While there no hard evidence for the existence of these creatures, these lakes are vast and largely unexplored giving the possibility of their presence to make sense to us, considering the mysterious environment. Believers say that these creatures represent a line of surviving dinosaurs while the most of the scientific community regards them as a tall-tale without any biological proof.

So while these lake monsters have evaded our detection, they have captured our imaginations providing us with an opportunity to have an adventure searching for them.

A few other famous lake monsters: Bear Lake Monster, Bear Lake, Utah & Idaho, Manipogo, Lake Manitoba, Canada, Cressie, Crescent Lake, Newfoundland, Memphre, Lake Memphremagog, Vermont,  Nahuelito, Nahuel Huapi Lake, Argentina, Ogopogo, Okanagan Lake, British Columbia, Ray, Raystown Lake , Pennsylvania,Bessie Lake Eerie, Vermont & Quebec,  Storsj√∂odjuret, Lake Storsj√∂n, Sweden and Lake Van Monster Lake Van, Turkey.