Adventurer completes stand-up paddle of the Mississippi River

Adventurer Dave Cornthwaite completes stand up paddle of the Mississippi RiverBritish adventurer Dave Cornthwaite, who we first told you about back in July, has successfully completed his attempt to stand-up paddle the length of the Mississippi River, setting a new distance record in the process. Cornthwaite finished his journey last week when he paddled into the Gulf of Mexico, 82 days after he first hit the river.

Dave’s journey began in Lake Itasca, located in northern Minnesota, on June 19th. From there, he navigated out onto the river itself and started his voyage south, knowing that he had more than 2400 miles to cover before he reached his ultimate destination – the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, he faced some major challenges, including oppressive summer heat, swarms of mosquitoes, snakes, alligators, and a little tropical storm named Lee. As he neared his finish, he was also forced to contend with large ships and barges, which is not easy on a stand-up paddleboard.

Stand-up paddling is a sport that is quickly growing in popularity. Participants stand on a flat, narrow watercraft that is not unlike a surfboard and use a long canoe paddle to propel themselves through the water. In Dave’s case, the board was large enough to carry his travel and camping gear as well, allowing him to travel self-supported for days at a time. It is estimated that it took him 1.3 million strokes and 485 hours of paddling to complete the journey, which officially came in at 2404 miles in length.

With this adventure now over, Dave has already returned home to the U.K. where he is busy plotting his next expedition. The Mississippi paddle was the fourth stage of his Expedition 1000 project, during which he will be conducting 25 separate non-motorized journeys of 1000 miles in length or longer. He has already crossed Australia on a skateboard, kayaked that country’s Murray River, and ridden a tandem bike from Vancouver to Las Vegas. In the future, he plans to ride across Mongolia on horseback, paraglide through the Himalaya, and ski to the South Pole, amongst other things. Along the way, he hopes to raise £1 million ($1.5 million) for charity.

[Photo courtesy: Dave Cornthwaite]

Explore the Galapagos Islands on a stand-up paddle board

Stand-up Paddling The Galapagos IslandsThe Galapagos Islands have been inspiring adventurous travelers almost from the very moment that Charles Darwin first stepped ashore back in 1835. Upon his arrival, the famous naturalist discovered an array of unique wildlife there, which inspired him to write The Origin of Species and formulate his Theory of Evolution. Modern travelers continue to visit the Galapagos hoping to catch a glimpse of those same creatures while cruising through the Pacific waters 500 miles off the coast of Ecuador.

While relaxing at the local resorts and spending your day aboard a comfortable cruise ship is the perfect vacation for many, active travelers are often looking for a little more when they visit the Galapagos. With that in mind, adventure travel company Detour Destinations has designed a number of great itineraries that include hiking, snorkeling, mountain biking and kayaking around several of the 18 main islands that make up the archipelago. But a new itinerary offers a unique way to tour Darwin’s natural laboratory as visitors can glide along the coastline on a stand-up paddle board.

Stand-up paddle boards have seen an amazing rise in popularity over the past few years. Essentially, the sport puts the rider on a surfboard, but also gives them a one-bladed paddle, with a long shaft, that is not unlike those found in a canoe. Using that paddle, the rider can propel themselves through the the water and deftly steer through and around obstacles.

Using a stand-up paddle board in the Galapagos provides visitors with a number of advantages. The almost silent mode of transpiration allows travelers to get close to the wildlife that permeate the coastlines, which include sea lions, penguins, turtles, sharks and more. It also allows them to visit places that are not normally inaccessible through other forms of transportation, while the standing position affords a better view of the surrounding scenery than a kayak.

Active travelers whow want to explore the Galapagos in unique and adventurous ways should check out the various options that Detour Destinations has to offer. Even Darwin would be envious of these tours.

[Photo credit: Bill Ebbesen]

Five must-do adventures on Maui

Any trip to Maui from the mainland incurs a bit of jet lag. Once that subsides, and the Mai Tais have been sipped, its time to get out and discover all the adventure the island has to offer. Maui has over 120 miles of coastline and offers endless opportunities for water sports such as kayaking, diving, snorkeling, surfing, paddle boarding, and kite surfing. Land-based adventures usually involve hiking or cycling. The island is incredibly bike-friendly with bike paths found on most major thoroughfares. Some visitors even take to the air in small aircraft to see the island from above.

Helicopter tour of Maui and Molokai

No trip to Hawaii is complete without a helicopter tour. Magnum P.I.’s TC was the king of the island choppers back in the day, but now it’s Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. Blue Hawaiian is the only operator serving all four major islands in the Hawaiian archipelago. The tours of Maui are unparalleled, and for those who have never had the experience of flying in a helicopter, the eco-star and a-star class choppers offer a smooth ride. Watch the weather forecast (almost always the same) and ensure there isn’t a strong rain forecast.

If it’s jaw-dropping scenery you want, use Maui as your jumping off point and tour west Maui and Molokai by air. The waterfalls of Molokai drop over 3,000 feet to the ocean and have been used by Hollywood in such blockbusters as the Jurassic Park series. This tour lasts nearly an hour and takes the flier over west Maui and to the sparsely populated island of Molokai. Once there, the pilot will hover over immense waterfalls, slide up into the crater, and follow an ancient river meandering from the summits. Remnants of the huge man-made fishing ponds used for centuries by the locals can be seen from the air. Tour prices start at $138.95 per person.


Bike down Haleakala

By far one of the most popular adventure excursions on Maui is the bike ride down the 10,000 foot-high Haleakala. This is the larger of the two volcanoes on Maui and certainly the most visited. The upper portion of the mountain is protected as part of Haleakala National Park.

Starting early in the morning, and I mean 3 AM early, descenders are picked up by the tour companies and hauled up the slope in vans. Those who try this need to remember that the summit is near 10,000 feet above sea level. Early morning temps can drop into the 30s. Dress appropriately by wearing layers and don’t forget the sunscreen. Once the riders descend through the cloud layer they’ll find themselves humming down the twisty roads at high speeds in the blazing sun.

Several companies offer these trips and most offer very similar services. Shopping around will win you the best price. Many bikers end their trip in Paia a funky little town on the coast with a decidedly bohemian feel. Celebrate your accomplishment with a brew at one of the local haunts and get some hippie-watching in.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user gabriel amadeus)

Learn to stand-up paddle board

It’s easy to get the fever to be on a board once you’ve driven any stretch of coast in the Hawaiian Islands. Watching surfers catch a wave and ride its crashing edge in to the shoreline will have you asking yourself, “Could I do that?” Surfing takes quite a bit of dedication and practice, however, and a much quicker way for the land lubber to sprout sea legs and get up on a board is to try the sport of stand-up paddle boarding.

The sport is true to its name in that it requires a board, similar in shape to a surfboard, and a paddle. The paddle has a crooked end and is used to steer the rider – no fancy footwork needed. Decent balance is a must though. Finding your body’s center over the board and getting the paddle in the water as soon as you get up are the keys to this sport. Lessons are offered at Makena Beach and Golf Resort in Wailea. The lessons are given by staff members who adore the sport and have the patience of a saint. A one-hour lesson will cost $60 and will have even the most uncoordinated up and paddling by the end.

Take a boat to Molokini for world-class snorkeling

Snorkeling off the coast of Maui is a popular activity. There are many places to rent snorkel gear around the island and locals are willing to share some of the hot spots. “Turteltowns” are the name given to areas near the shore where turtles come to feed on plant life growing on the rocks. Be forewarned, snorkelers must keep a distance of at least ten feet from sea turtles at all times or they risk a fine of $10,000!

To get the most out of your snorkeling experience on Maui though, it is best to take a snorkel tour to the small island off the coast, Molokini. There are several companies offering this service. Or if someone in your group has boating experience the best way to go is to rent your own boat. There is only one company that rents boats to tourists on Maui and that is Sea Escape Boat Rental. They rent a Glacier Bay 2240sx which can accommodate 6-7 people. It helps to share the $140/hour price for rental. The snorkeling off Molokini is phenomenal. Huge schools containing hundreds and even thousands of fish team around its rocky shores each day. Sea turtles frequent the island and so do snorkelers. Arrive early to avoid the choppy waters that tend to flare up in the afternoon. Expect a crowd but spend most of your time on the right and left side of the crescent-shaped part of the island. This is where the fish like to hang out and do their thing. With Sea Escape you pay for your own fuel and snorkel gear is an extra $10 for each set.

Hike the hidden waterfalls on the road to Hana

Driving the road to Hana is a rite-of-passage for anyone living on or visiting the island. On the eastern side of the island, Hana gets much more rain than the western side and stays lush and green for most of the year. It is also on the steeper side of Haleakala which means dramatic dropping landscapes full of waterfalls. Hana is known for being remote — so remote, in fact, that getting there takes the better part of a day. There are serious restaurants, and Oprah decided to buy a home there. When you have to get away from the misery of being a gazillionaire you might as well do it in paradise.

The road to Hana is a twisted roller coaster ride along a rough coastline. There are several places where the road narrows to one lane and traffic has to yield in order for everyone to get through peacefully. If you get car sick easily, stay away. If you don’t have trouble with car sickness, and you want to see sweeping panoramas of undeveloped tropical coastline, hit the road. During the course of the drive you’ll find that there are several spots to stop and pull over. Many of these pull-outs have trail heads that lead to magnificent overlooks and to tucked-away waterfalls. Some are well marked, and some are not marked at all. The guidebook Maui Revealed devotes a section to the Hana Highway and uses mile markers to guide the driver to each of the sweet spots.

Maui isn’t a place that can be seen in a matter of a few days. It takes at least a week to adjust to the time difference and to the slow pace of island time itself. To really get the feel for Maui get out on the water, roads, trails, and into the skies to see what lies beyond the fences of the resorts. You’ll have plenty to talk about in the hot tub that night for sure.