Category Archives: USA

The Land Where The Ice Age Lingers: The Kenai Fjords of Alaska

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The next event, Event #3, took us 24 hours to complete. 24 LONG ALASKAN HOURS! 

None of us realized how long it was going to take; not even me and I’m the one who booked this thing. All I knew for sure was that we had to wake up freakin’ early for it. I’m talking around 1:30am (01:30) to drive from our geodesic dome in Eagle View to Seward, the location of Event #3. After the first couple of events in Denali, we drove five hours south to our new accommodation right outside of Anchorage to a geodesic dome I found on AirBnB. It’s someones home that we rented, located on a bee farm but central to everywhere we needed to go. It’s perfectly Alaskan!

Our unique geodesic dome style homestay we found on AirBnb.
Our unique geodesic dome style home-stay we found on AirBnb.
After settling into our wonderful new home-stay, I decided to break some news about Event #3 to the gang. Out of all eight events that I planned, this particular event took me the longest to organize based on how elaborate it was. I sat them down on the couches in the main room.

“We’re going to Seward to kayak through glaciers, icebergs, whales, seals, and all that stuff,” I began to say, almost with a tone of exhaustion. “It’s an all day thing and we have to be out the door at 1:30am in order to make it to Miller’s Landing by 6am, which means we should all go to bed around 7 or 8pm tonight. We are kayaking for eleven hours!”

They were astonished. They couldn’t believe or really grasp what we were about to do.

I decided to tell them so they could dress appropriately for the glacial chill we were about to endure and to mentally prepare themselves for the fact we were about to be kayaking for eleven hours in elusive waters where whales like to play. We spent the next hour looking up videos online of the area we were going to, the Kenai Fjords, but more specifically Aialik Bay. Everyone was brimming with excitement!

I woke up around 1am and rounded up the gang for our drive south into Seward. Leaving at such an early time gave me peace of mind for the drive. If anything were to go wrong during the drive, we’d have plenty of time to get it resolved. Plus, getting there about an hour early gave all of us time to snooze once more before our long haul into the glaciers.

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Event #3 of 8 – Glacier Kayak in the Kenai Fjords of Alaska

I woke up my car mates at 5:30am (05:30) to meet up with our guide, Ben, at Miller’s Landing. I’ve been in contact with him for the last couple days to make sure the weather was fitting and our dietary requirements were in order. We walked up through the fog and the mud puddled road to the cabin property, where we were able to check in and grab a light breakfast.

“Meet me at the dock behind us in just a few minutes,” Ben said as he walked off with a random assortment of boating equipment. Ben was an older man, I’d say early 50’s, with a single yoga-style tone to his voice. He’s been doing this for awhile and you could tell. He wasn’t the most enthusiastic guide I’ve ever had but still he was kind and most certainly knowledgeable.

I walked outside to the dock…the eerie dock where our small boat bowed out into the mist. Ben told us that this boat would transport us about 100 – 150 miles into the fjords. But where in the heck were we headed? I could barely see a few yards in front of me.

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We boarded the small transport boat and set off to Aialik Bay, wherever that was. On the way there, Ben said we could potentially spot whales and seals. I personally found the opportunity to catch a little more sleep. The drive back home was going to be exhausting, so any moment I could find to rest my eyes was absolutely necessary. Besides, the fog covered everything. I was still most anxious about actually kayaking through icebergs and glaciers, something that I’ve never done before. Same goes for the others.

This is the area of our event. Courtesy of Google Maps.
This is the area of our event. Courtesy of Google Maps.

The boat ride to Aialik lasted a little under two hours before we docked on one of the stone riddled beaches. We unloaded our kayaks and gear onto the shore. They were double kayaks while Ben had a single. We briefly went over proper packing and paddling procedures and what to do if the kayak flipped or if a wild animal approached us in the water. If anything, it’s important to remain calm because the last thing we would want is our kayak to flip. The waters here were the coldest I’ve ever felt in my life! If we fell in, our bodies would instantly tighten from the freezing sea and wouldn’t be able to function before we succumb to hypothermia. Thankfully we were bundled up and vowed not to flip our kayak.

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Aialik Bay Kayaking

It was just the five of us on that shore. There were a few other kayaks around but we lost them in the murky distance. It felt like a weird dream. The water resembled a milky steel and was as calm as you could imagine, but teaming with mysterious life right below and even above. There were only sounds of nature and a sense of tranquility among the isles in the short distance. The only nuisance were the pesky flying insects that swarmed the shores. How are these bugs so active in the cold like this? The shore was piled with smooth stones and plates of slate. The stones were the perfect size for skipping rocks across the liquid steel.

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Veronica was my kayak partner for this event. Katelin and Chris manned the other. We put on our skirts and packed our kayaks with our bags and food that Ben prepared and set off into the mist. Almost immediately we could spot many small icebergs that have just calved off from an approaching glacier.


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Aialik Bay Kayaking

The first glacier we approached, Aialik Glacier, was massive! Ben told us that it stretched a mile long, even though it didn’t look like it from where we were. We couldn’t get too close to it just in case ice started to calve off. From our distance, we could see humongous thumps of ice fall off and two seconds later we would hear a loud “thunder” followed by an intense surge of water spouting into the air creating waves that we could feel from our kayaks. It was too surreal!

As for the whales? We didn’t see any around, which I wasn’t mad about but still a little disappointed something monstrous didn’t pop out of the water. Only a few otters and seals. The cold didn’t bother them one bit. It started to take its toll on us though. Our pants were drenched from the water that was already in the kayak. Veronica and I had the same mental thought process.

“This is fun and amazing. We both aren’t fond of kayaking. We both hate being cold. Why is our kayak going slower than the others? Let’s get the heck out of here.”

We followed Ben and kayaked around the isle back to our shore where Ben would prepare lunch that he made at his home for us. We were all starving and were ready for whatever he was about to serve us. But first he set up a tarp between two of the kayaks to shield us from the drizzle. It barely made do.

As he prepared our lunch, Chris and I went further along the shore to break slates while Veronica and Katelin built a fire to keep warm.

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After a cold yet much needed lunch (pasta with veggies on a corn tortilla), we geared up to paddle around and through the inlets around us, which proved to be way more strenuous than we all anticipated. We basically paddled out into the open sea of nothingness, with the current along the shorelines of the isles.

Aialik Bay Kayaking

“Why is our kayak moving so slow?” I would continue to say. Veronica and I were baffled. We were kayaking at normal pace and usually in sync, but for some reason, the other two kayaks were always out ahead in the distance. Thankfully after paddling for what felt like hours into a void, Ben had us dock at an isle inhabiting bears and some of the mossiest forests I’ve ever seen. The forest floor was essentially a giant blanket of cushiness. Like a natural downy fabric softener. Nothing but a soft baby green moss…with animal skulls lying around. I could have slept right on the moss if it weren’t for all those skulls laying around. There was a resident murderer around here somewhere.

At this point, I began to feel miserable. I enjoyed everything we were doing but I was soaked from waist down. I didn’t wear the proper pants for this event and I was tired of kayaking forever. Veronica felt the same way. However, that miserable feeling went completely away when we kayaked towards this…

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There were chunks of icebergs everywhere, all coming from another large glacier called the Pedersen Glacier. At what first seemed like a dangerous maneuver through the icebergs turned into a real life game of Frogger for me and Veronica.  The chunks of ice flowed every which way, with some even turning right-side up in the water creating small shocks of waves that shook the surrounding bay. It was impossible for me to perfectly steer our kayak through the ice and eventually accepted the fact that were just going to crash into a few chunks. May as well have fun with it? I was laughing the entire way at Veronica’s expense, since I was doing all the steering and she was sitting in front, she had no idea what direction I was taking her. Add on the fact that there was an evil-eyed seal chasing our kayak and poking its head out the water, leering at us. We definitely pinballed our way through the ice chunks, much to our amusement. We were fine as long as our kayak didn’t flip and that stalker seal didn’t come any closer. We were eventually treated to the Pedersen glacier, which was smaller than the Aialik Glacier, but the challenge was welcoming and rewarding. Thousands of ice chunks and dozens of seals surrounded us. It was by far one of the most amazing sights in all of my travels.

Aialik Bay Kayaking
Aialik Bay Kayaking
We explored our surroundings on foot for about 20 minutes until Ben suggested we head back to our original beach. This leg of the trip would be the longest so far. We had to kayak all the way back, but this time against the current!

The current was so strong that at times it didn’t feel like we were moving. It was a little frustrating but we knew we had to keep paddling or else we’d be stuck out here forever. It took us about three hours to get back to where we needed to be and by that time we were beat. Cold, dead, and beat. Shivering beats. Once we docked we saw that our kayak had all the heavy bags and the heavy bag of storage water. “That’s why we were going so freakin’ slow!”

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Now all we had to do was wait for our boat to come pick us up. The boat was about an hour late but came in the nick of time. We were all soaking wet and freezing. As soon as we boarded, everyone changed into their dry clothes while I remained a still statue nestled in the corner of my seat until we got back to land. I eventually changed at the car, thankful that the day is over, but even more thankful that I was able to witness everything we saw in the Kenai Fjords. We were the only ones out there and had the whole bay to ourselves. We didn’t see any whales up close but we did see a couple of whales breach on the way back to Miller’s Landing. Now all we had to do was drive a few hours back to our geodesic dome and become enslaved to our dry warm beds. We got back to the dome at the same time we left, exactly 24 hours ago. But WELL worth it. This event gave us more than we all expected.

I told Chris, Veronica, and Katelin that we didn’t have an event tomorrow, but instead it would be a day of rest. “Event #4 takes place on Sunday when we fly to Juneau, Alaska” I warned them.

What they didn’t know was that I was about to pull the rug from right underneath their unsuspecting feet once again…


 

Blazing Through The Last Frontier: Denali National Park of Alaska

“We have two events tomorrow,” I began to tell the others. “The first event takes place in the morning.”

Then the questions hit me hard.

“What is it?” “What do we wear?” “Are you gonna prep us?”  “Just give us a hint!”

I was pretty tight-lipped as to what the mysterious eight events were and planned on not revealing any of them until the moment we arrived at the given event.

Veronica and Katelin wondering...What the heck is happening?
Veronica and Katelin wondering…What the heck is happening?

“Just follow my lead,” I would say to them. “I’ll let you know how to dress and what you should bring.” I wouldn’t let any of them go in unprepared. It’s the least I could do. However, for the first event only, I told them what we were doing to curb their anxious minds.

“We’re going white water rafting, bright and early in the morning!” I revealed to them. I wanted to lie and pretend we were doing something else completely different to throw them off, but decided that I’ve been lying to them enough lately already.

Event #1 of 8 – White Water Rafting in Denali National Park Alaska

Alaska has been blowing my mind with its mesmerizing landscape in every direction I looked. The spruce woods and mountainous ranges extend as far as the eye could see. Anything we chose to do here would be complemented with the background scenery. This place is a photographers dream zone. Our white water rafting through the rapids of the Nenana River, from the births of Mount McKinley, was about to be awesome!

We went to a shop just outside of Denali where we were suited up in an outfit to keep us dry in Nenana’s freezing cold waters.

The League of Eight Extraordinary Events

Our guides for this hike were three dudes by the name of Chicago, Peacock, and Derek. All three were non-locals and were up here in Alaska for the summer. As a matter of fact, most of the people who worked in these shops weren’t locals and were only here for summer work. Why? The winters here are the worst thing to ever exist and it was understandably so. Even during the peak summer season, although it didn’t snow, it sure did rain a lot. Actually, more of a drizzle that created an everlasting haze, but it added to the mind-soothing eeriness of it all. It drizzled the morning of our event, but none of us seemed to mind. Especially since the suits we were wearing kept our bodies snug and dry.

The League of Eight Extraordinary Events
Katelin, Veronica, and Chris ready for the first event.

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I’ve been white water rafting several times on previous trips. My first time was in Peru which was amazing. Then again in Thailand and Nepal. Nepal takes the prize as the best water rafting I have ever done, mainly because of the consistency of the high class rapids and the number of times our raft flipped. In order to have the perfect rafting experience, the raft has to flip and throw us off! I planned on asking our guide to make sure our boat f*%ing flips. Go crazy! I had high hopes…until I saw the other people in our raft. They were of the elderly type…the safety first, peaceful, ‘Heavens to Betsy’ elderly type. Still, I remained optimistic.

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The Nenana River flowed a muddy gray through the basin as our raft propelled neatly on top of the motions. We were given brief instruction about proper paddle commands and procedures before we took off. This was going to be about 11 miles of rafting, so my hopes of hitting some major swirls were high!

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Just like most white water rafting trips, the rapids eased us into itself before hitting us with the good stuff. We did get splashed in the face quite a bit, but only our hands and heads got wet. The dry suit we had on worked wonders and thankfully too because the water was really, really cold. Refreshing, but cold.

We hit a few rapids that ferociously rocked our raft. Not fierce enough for anyone to fall out, but enough to get decked with onslaughts of water blasts. I began to think we wouldn’t flip when I noticed our cautious guide avoiding all the higher class rapids, much to the delight of the elderly woman behind me. I had my water camera on me and whenever I stopped paddling to capture the thrills, she would indirectly make it known to me how everyone should be paddling. “Keep paddling! Everyone needs to be paddling!” She would say this everytime I plopped up my camera. She also did this when Katelin tried to do the same thing. “Everyone needs to be paddling!” Talk about a wet blanket.

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We paddled for a couple of hours before our guide decided to let Chris and I jump into the water.


It was crazy how dry I was and the cold didn’t penetrate one bit! I grabbed onto a rope to make sure I didn’t get swept away before being hoisted back into the raft. From there, it was smooth sailing as we approached a bank to get back on foot and the end of event #1.

White water rafting is always fun no matter the conditions. Even though it wasn’t as extreme as I had hoped, it was still mighty enjoyable and a great way to kick off this League of Eight Extraordinary Events!

Event #2 of 8 – Ace ATV through the Alaskan Wilderness

The second event took place on the same day but hours later, at 9:30pm (21:30). One would think it would be dark at this time but not here in Alaska. This time of year in Denali it doesn’t get completely dark until well after 2am (02:00). What better way to explore the wilderness late in the evening than on single rider Ace ATV’s?


Veronica, Chris, and Katelin didn’t know what they were doing until we walked up to the ATV Denali shop when it became obvious. We’re going for a ride!

The best thing about this tour was that it was just the four of us and two guides, no one else! So no waiting on slowpoke tourists or sitting through dumb tourist questions. We had this tour to ourselves. The guides preffered the smaller group too.

We each had our own Ace ATV to explore the Alaskan wilderness as we followed our guides through some pristine spots with excellent views and a story or two. The ride was excellent and way more fun than I anticipated.



It was well past 10pm(22:00) and still light as day outside which was really weird. We could see the sun attempting to set but it was taking forever to do so. Such a beautiful tease.

The second event ended the day on a thrillingly high note. Two extraordinary events down, six more to go!

My clueless friends are unware that things are about to get intense.

The League of Eight Extraordinary Events

The League of Eight Extraordinary Events - Adventure Born

What is the LEAGUE OF EIGHT EXTRAORDINARY EVENTS?

It’s two weeks worth of eight unique events that take place in a number of interesting spots spread throughout Alaska, one of the most adventurous places I could think of. No one really knows what the events are or what they encompass. As a matter of fact, the majority of the league is shrouded in mystery. Where will we stay? How are we getting around? What the heck is going on? Only I know all the answers.

How can you join the league? Well, you can’t just join the league. You have to know the right people (me) and you have to be super tight with those people (me). Also, those lucky participants are highly deserving and travel compatible. The League of Eight Extraordinary Events is something I imagined up for my friends and I to enjoy as we explore places we’ve never been, before I go solo into the unknown. I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska and now was the perfect opportunity.

Alaska, the Last Frontier, is by far the largest of the United States of America.

Size comparison of the State of Alaska compared to the lower 48 States
Size comparison of the State of Alaska compared to the lower 48 States.

A large landmass, the size of almost a third of the continental mainland made up of rugged mountain ranges and island archipelagos. Alaska is known for its wilderness of natural beauty, scenic parks, and bears. Lots of brown bears, polar bears, grizzly bears, wolves, and moose the size of trucks. Some of these animals may make an appearance based on the events I know we will be doing. I know what to do in case of an unexpected encounter but to be killed so early on this worldly quest because of unpreparedness would be a shame. With that, I prepared a printout for the gang on how to handle a bear or moose encounter. After a bit of research, a moose charging at you with those gigantic behemoth sized antlers sounded a lot scarier. Odds are slim that we’ll run into any of these animals in the wild, but you know…just in case!

While waiting in the Detroit Metro Airport, the group was still in disbelief as they tried to decipher any hidden meaning of the documents I gave them.

The League of Eight Extraordinary Events

We didn’t have a direct flight to Anchorage. Instead we had a long layover in Seattle where we were able to explore outside of the airport for a while.

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We returned a few hours later to catch some sleep before the final flight. It was mighty uncomfortable but that’s just how airports are.

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Once we finally landed in Anchorage, the time was about 8:10 am. We freshened up in the restrooms and went to retrieve our luggage. One of the biggest fears of a frequent traveler is to not see your precious bag loop around the conveyor belt. It’s only happened to me once and thankfully I’ve been fine ever since. We spotted our bags almost instantly as we approached the belts. Next, we headed straight to the rental car company where I had a ride waiting for us in reserve. We weren’t staying in Anchorage nor in any hotels. I had a little something more “Alaskan” waiting for us.

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I didn’t reveal right out the gate that we were heading just outside of Denali National Park, which was approximately a five-hour drive. Instead, they were able to figure out on their own that it had be Denali National Park, based on the direction I was going. I can’t keep everything a secret! Thankfully though, the linear drive was easy and full of awesome scenery; some of the most stunning scenery I’ve seen on a consistent basis on any given road trip.


The first of the eight extraordinary events won’t begin until the next day, which meant we had plenty of time to stop at will, explore, and soak in our surroundings as much as we could. Alaska is definitely the most beautiful state I have been to thus far.

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Just outside of Denali National Park is the town of Healy where our accommodation is located. I booked us Alaskan Spruce Cabins, secluded away from everywhere else nearby, and it was ours for the next couple of nights.

Events #1 and #2 take place the next day. The gang has no idea what’s in store for them!

The Greatest Lie I Ever Told

I’ve been lying to my friends for months.

“I signed the four of us up for a road rally that takes place over two weeks in August,” I told them. “Twelve teams of four will compete against each other looking for items, solving puzzles, and accomplishing physical challenges in the style of The Amazing Race.”

I told them that in December of last year (2015). They were pumped and up for the challenge!

“What do we bring?” they would ask.

I’ll give you a list of stuff to bring a month before we leave.”

“Can so and so come with us?

Nope, this road rally is only catered for teams of four.

“Where are we going?”

The rally starts in Cincinnati, Ohio and ends somewhere in the Florida Keys.

Over the next few months, I sent my three friends a packing list, the list of the other teams and all the rules, regulations, waivers, etc they would have to read over before the road rally begins on August 1st, 2016. Our team name?

The Gigantic Monkeys

We couldn’t decide on anything cool or clever so this is what I came up with. It’s a little random, but I knew the name of our team wouldn’t matter one bit. What they didn’t know was that there was a giant twist that would be revealed to us on the first day of the rally. This road rally wasn’t any ordinary road rally folks.

Why wasn’t this any ordinary road rally? Because there is no road rally! It was all just a giant ruse I planted to lure them in for something a bit more daring…something completely unorthodox…something I concocted entirely from scratch with an emphasis for adventure.  For months I’ve been giving them details about this fake road rally I made up all in my head and how competitive it was going to be and how each team would have their own camera man for when our documentary would be released on television after production of the rally was over. They believed everything I told them. But it wasn’t just those three I’ve been misleading, it was mostly everyone else too. You see, just like your babbling friends, my friends also love to gossip about anything and everything juicy. I purposely told them fabricated crap about the rally knowing full well they were gonna blab somehow–which is what I wanted them to do. I needed to create some authenticity to this mysterious “road rally” we were participating in to make it more believable. I want Chris, Veronica, and Katelin to be completely blindsided by the biggest surprise I will ever pull thus far (and I’ve pulled many of them).


Introducing, The Gigantic Monkeys!

Loyal readers of mine should already be familiar with Chris and Veronica. Chris has joined me on numerous worldly trips in the past and us along with Veronica went on another secret trip to Las Vegas, Nevada and San Diego, California.

Veronica and Chris are good friends of mine who joined me in the string of events I planned in Las Vegas and San Diego in July 2014.
Veronica (left) and Chris (right) are good friends of mine who joined me in the string of events I planned in Las Vegas and San Diego in July 2014.
Jamison, another friend of mine, was also part of that magnificent trip too but unfortunately couldn’t join us for this “road rally”. He has his annual family trip that is happening when this all goes down. With his absence, I needed to recruit a capable, yet worthy fourth member. Katelin, a good friend of mine and Veronica, fit the bill. I am the “Team Captain” for our group.

I made it clear to them that we won’t be flying anywhere, but that was a lie too. The moment they realize we are going to the airport and not road tripping somewhere is when I will reveal to them what is really going on.

Katelin and Veronica are best friends who have know idea what's in store for them.
Katelin and Veronica are best friends who have know idea what’s in store for them.
Months flew by and August 1st, 2016 crept closer with much anticipation…


Secret Revealed! (Sort of)

I’ve just gotten back home from my trip up north with the kiddos and my go-to traveling buddy Chris has flown up to Detroit from Philadelphia to group with us. This is the first time he’s ever been to Michigan, so I was inspired to show him around my hometown for a couple days before we began the trip.

Later, once we met up with Veronica and Katelin, we all had our bags packed, we put them in the trunk of my rental car and we set off! The true destination–the Detroit Metro Airport! I didn’t tell my cohorts that though. I made the excuse that I had to return the rental I already had, for a bigger rental for the road rally. They all agreed that a bigger rental, like an SUV, would be way more comfortable. Next, I gave them each a large envelope with a bold red ‘8?’ in the middle and their names written in the top right corner.

the league of eight extraordinary events
What’s inside these mysterious envelopes?
I told them weeks ago that I was mailed these envelopes from the road rally company with strict instructions to not open until notified. And for weeks we discussed what could actually be in them, why would they mail it to us if they didn’t want us to open them, and what could the ‘8?’ possibly mean? Could it mean that we have to drive through eight states? Are we the eighth team? They were puzzled. I was not. I knew the contents of what was inside.

I also mentioned to them that since we are finally together as a team, we must take a photo to send to the road rally company.

From L to R: Veronica, Katelin, Chris, and myself. The latter three have no idea that the road rally is a sham.
From L to R: Veronica, Katelin, Chris, and myself. The latter three have no idea that the road rally is a sham.
On the way to the car rental agency, my phone suddenly rang, reading “Cincinnati, Ohio” on the screen. When I say “suddenly”, I mean that I installed one of those free fake-call apps on my phone that I conveniently scheduled to ring on our way to the car rental.

“Answer it,” said Veronica as she was biting her nails, “it might be the Road Rally people!”

I turned the radio down and answered the call.

“Hello?” I said.

I made up a conversation in my head while my three teammates sat in anxious silence, with their eyes focused directly on the phone against my ear. My one-way conversation went along the lines of, pretending to speak to a woman that confirmed we were on our way to Ohio and that she told us to open the envelopes.

I “hung up” the phone.

“Open the envelopes!”

This is what they found inside:

The League of Eight Extraordinary Events

The League of Eight Extraordinary Events

The rest of the pages were pamphlets on what to do in case of a bear or moose encounter.

They couldn’t f*@4ing believe it.

The big road rally was a huge lie I told my friends to participate in something I created totally from scratch. Something unorthodox and adventurous, all at the same time. That something is called…

The League of Eight Extraordinary Events

Let me tell you all about it!

 

The Struggle Up Sleeping Bear Dunes

The Quest to the Seven Continents kicks off in my home state of Michigan, recently voted the number one state in the country according to thrillist.com. One of those reasons is the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in the Northwest corner in the lower peninsula of Michigan.

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Google Maps

Hills of loose sand that stretch up and down about 3.5 miles to the coast of Lake Michigan makes it one of Michigan’s most spectacular beauties.

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It doesn’t look like much from the start, but behind this dune are several other dunes, that only those who are determined will finish.

Before I left home for good, I promised a few of my nephews and nieces that I would take them somewhere cool. I knew of a few cool spots up north where they’ve never been that would fit the bill. Along with them, I recruited three friends of mine along with one of their daughters to help me chaperone (and cook) for the kids at the accommodation I booked for all of us.  I rented a 15-passenger van and we set off early Tuesday morning due North!

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Immediately after getting exiting our van, we were introduced to the base of the first dune and the start of a lengthy hike. We couldn’t see what was beyond the first dune, only the hope of a cool clear Michigan lake waiting for us. We were all eager to get there!

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Getting up the introductory dune was relatively difficult in itself, but once we reached the very top, we could see another set of dunes that extended beyond closer to the lake. I had no plans on quitting and told my companions that we didn’t come all the way out here to sit on a dune. We are going to make it all the way! Everyone was on board–some more than others.

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The sun lent itself to the max without any cloud cover. The sky was as blue as its ever been and the sand was hot to the touch. I began to realize that I may have made a mistake in not telling some of my companions a bit more detail about the dunes. Footwear is highly recommended! I came prepared with water shoes, which fit tight around my feet and had a flat, grippy bottom. They worked like a charm. Others wore sneakers that constantly filled with sand or flip-flops that broke mid hike resulting in bare-footing it the rest of the way. Painful blisters on the pad of their feet were the result. So if you’re planning on doing the climb, wear appropriate footwear!

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Noah and Riley, the youngest two of our crew, were troopers through the journey. Riley may have said that this was “the worst day ever in her life” and Noah may have wanted to stop and take a break every other minute, but both never gave up…even with their look of defeat once they finally reached the top of a dune…only to discover that there was a whole other, bigger dune that was hiding behind it.

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Midway through we broke up into smaller groups. Some were way up ahead, thoroughly enjoying the challenge. I was somewhere in the middle with the youngest kids, making sure they didn’t die of heat and exhaustion. And there was a group behind trudging slowly, but still trudging. We all just wanted that glorious lake!

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We all had a bottle of water at the start of the hike, but drank all of it or poured it on ourselves within 20 minutes of climbing. I began to worry some of the kids would start to suffer under the sun from exhaustion and no water, but I reminded them that there was all the water we could ever want just a little further ahead.

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Little Noah, who I thought was gonna drop where he stood, saw the final footing to lake Michigan and ran down the hill to the lake’s welcoming shore. Eventually, the rest of the gang joined us.

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We stayed there for maybe a half-hour and then trudged back, up and down and up from where we came.

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The hike took us a little over four hours to complete. We could have done it faster but we stopped a lot. There was no rush though, I thoroughly enjoyed it and didn’t find it entirely difficult. The views were excellent and the lake was a cool reward for such a hot and tiresome venture. The kids complained that they hated it, but once we were finished, they were glad to have did it.

Way to guys! Onwards to Petoskey, Michigan!