Off Yonder – Adventure Travel Stories - Seeing the world for what it is

Rafting the Roaring Fork
Upper Roaring Fork River, Roaring Fork Valley, Aspen/Snowmass, Colorado, United States

All that snow had to go somewhere, and one of those somewheres is the Roaring Fork River. Talbot and Michael of Blazing Adventures took our merry crew on a great ride. Normally scheduled for 2 hours, we were done in an hour and a half because the river was so full and the water moving so fast. Although the river was swollen and brown with all the surrounding hillsides running off with the snowmelt from a record snow year, our guides had already run the river a number of times, without clients, to be sure the course was safe. At fist, I contemplated accepting the wetsuit they provide, but I’m glad I did. As one of our guides mentioned, “the water in the river today was snow yesterday” and there was plenty of splashing, especially since I ended up in the front of the boat. But I did manage to sit on the same side as our guide, which meant a slightly dryer ride than what Bob got on the opposite side, as you’ll see in the video. Click the title above, or the “full story” link below to see the video. Enjoy.

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Kayaking & Stand Up Paddleboarding
Roaring Fork Valley, Aspen/Glenwood Springs, Colorado, United States

When the snows melt from the slopes and roads in Aspen and turns into water an opportunity to play is created in the rivers. Our adventurous group met up with Charlie MacArthur the founder and owner of the Aspen Kayak and SUP (stand up paddleboarding) Academy. We didn’t realize it at the time, though he had that humble air about him, Charlie is a bit of a legend. With years of waterbound experience under his belt, he had a calm, gentle though jovial approach to helping the many of us who had never been kayaking before or for those of us who haven’t been in a long while.

Click the title or “Full Story” below to read more and to see the video and photos.

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Review: Kokatat Meridian Dry Suit
Alaska, United States

Photo by Nathaniel Wilder - nathanielwilder.comPhoto: Nathaniel Wilder

After wearing a Kokatat Dry Suit for 15 days in the Arctic, it’s no wonder why Kokatat is the leader in the paddlesports attire field. This suit performed superbly, as expected: it kept me dry and warm, it was easy to put on and take off, and it was plenty comfortable.

A group of friends and I embarked on a 15-day journey down the Kongakut River in the far northeastern corner of Alaska from the Brooks Mountains to the Arctic Ocean in packrafts and inflatable kayaks. Granted, we didn’t hit much (if any, really) whitewater. At most we paddled through a very mild Class III. So, the risk of getting totally immersed in the water was slim – though, it did happen to 3 of the 4 packrafters. Ironically not to the one wearing a full dry suit (me)! The others on the trip were wearing various combinations of dry bottoms, dry tops and neoprene. As long as they stayed in their boat, they remained plenty dry, save their feet. Another score for the dry suit with booties: dry feet snuggled in toasty wool Teko socks for the whole trip.

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Arctic Rafting: Returned
Kongakut River, Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, Alaska, United States

After 15 days on the Kongakut river, we’ve returned to Anchorage via Kaktovik and Fairbanks. We nearly got stranded on Icy Reef on the shore of the Arctic Ocean as a big storm was moving in, but we managed to squeak out and make it home. Below are some photos and a satellite map of the area with the river route and some of our camps marked.

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Kayak Fishing
Kachemak Bay, Homer, Alaska, United States

After getting off the Kongakut, rest certainly was not an option! We’re in Alaska for crying out loud! So, after the 6 hour drive from Fairbanks to Anchorage, we unpacked the car, re-packed the car, loaded kayaks, dropped off rented bear barrels at REI and started the 4 hour drive to Homer.

With the summer solstice having just passed by only the overcast sky really made it seem dark, but we never needed flashlights, even while setting tents up in the rain about halfway to Homer. We must have pulled into the campground around 1am and slept until 9am.

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Arctic Rafting
Kongakut River, Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, Alaska, United States

KONGAKUT RIVER HEADWATERS, AK - Helio pilot Ken puts the seat back into the plane. The seat has to come out to access the cargo space avaliable in the Helio Courier.Like || Tweet || More Photos || Purchase Photo

Walls of ice 8 feet tall surrounded us for a mile long section early on the river. This was, in part, what I came to the Arctic for. To experience the unique nuances of the circumpolar region: ice lined rivers, mountains carpeted in tundra, migrating caribou, foraging bears, wolves on the hunt, and yes, even to see if the mosquitoes were as bad as everyone predicted. The Arctic gets regular play in the news and although I knew I was already in favor of protecting this fragile landscape from any industrial intrusion, I wanted to see and experience it for myself.

The seven of us were on the Kongakut River in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – 8.9 million acres established 50 years ago. In 1980 Jimmy Carter and other enthusiasts expanded it to today’s 19-million acres. The controversy between whether or not to allow oil extraction operations here is no secret. The pro drilling argue getting off foreign oil dependencies and an economic gain for the local economy. The con argue a disruption of fragile eco systems and that the surveyed estimate of how much oil could be recovered was but a mere drop in the bucket of US thirst for oil.

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Final Touches: Kongakut River
Fairbanks, Alaska, United States

Car TetrisThe trip is on. I departed PDX at 9.30pm in the dark and chased the sun down by flying north and arrived in Anchorage around midnight where, though it was overcast, it was still dusk out.

Nathaniel Wilder with Sune and Lindsay Tamm picked me up and we stayed up until 2.30am catching up on all the corners of the world we had been to since seeing each other last, fully aware that we had the next 18 days to do this on the river and that we should get some much needed sleep.

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New Gear & Prep for Alaska
United States

While I’ve spent some time on rivers, including a great 18-day trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, I have yet to experience an Arctic River like the Kongakut. I leave for that trip on 19 June and we’ll be on the river for 15 days or so. Follow the adventure LIVE (starting […]

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Boats and Burgers
Lima, Peru

Arriving at 1am on Friday in Lima was no deterrent from having a full weekend. After a nice sleep to 9am, Girogio’s father gave me a ride into the shop to see the boats he was building. Two 58-foot catamarans which have taken on a nearly finished shape sat side by side. One did not yet have the roof of the main cabin and aft deck mounted yet, but I got to see that get put in place. Giorgio and a crew of about 20 men, all of whom were pulled from their specific project on either of the boats came together to lift, move, flip and place the last lid on the boat.

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Floating the Continental Divide
Panama Canal, Colon, Panama

It was late afternoon when we motored from Shelter Bay Marina to the staging area in Bahia de Limon to await our pilot and extra line-handler. The past two days was a much needed rest after having just sailed over 1,700 miles from the Bahamas, around the western point of Cuba and due south across the Caribbean Sea. It wasn’t a lazy, sit by the pool with a frufy drink kind of rest. Rather it was a change from the ten days of being at sea where a constant watch is kept to ensure there is still wind in the sails, the course is maintained, the crew is rested and fed and collisions of any sort (with other vessels, drift wood, large containers or even land) are avoided.

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