KAYAK CAMPING WITH A 7-DAY VEGAN MENU

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The chefs hard at work on Vegan Burritos

Vegan. Gluten-free. Paleo. Pescatorian. Vegetarian. There’s a lot of dietary preferences and restrictions to consider these days. It can get a little confusing, not to mention overwhelming. Now throw a 7-day camping trip into the mix!

Vegan menu

Someone who is vegan does not eat any animal product whatsoever. No meat. No dairy. Here are some foods that vegans do eat:

  • Legumes (Beans, Lentils, Peas, Peanuts)
  • Vegetables and Fruits Galore
  • Nuts, Nut Butters and Seeds
  • Whole Grains (Barley, Brown Rice, Millet, Bulgur, Buckwheat, Oatmeal, Whole-wheat Bread, Pasta, and Crackers)
  • Hemp, Flax and Chia Seeds
  • Tofu, Tempeh and Other Minimally Processed Meat Substitutes
  • Calcium-Fortified Plant Milks and Yogurts
  • Seaweed
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Sprouted and Fermented Plant Foods

Whether you’re a guide who has to prepare all of the meals for your vegan guests, or you’re going camping with a vegan friend for the first time, there’s no need to feel overwhelmed with menu-planning. There are many online resources with recipe ideas out there. It’s also easier than ever to find vegan products at grocery stores. Plus, I’ve included a vegan menu for a 7-day camping trip!

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Hearty Bean Salad

The menu link (above and below) is the exact menu that we used on a recent 7-day sea kayak camping trip in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The group consisted of two omnivores (we eat practically everything), one vegetarian, and one vegan. This particular vegan is not fond of the substitutes available, such as vegan cheese, condiment, and meat substitutes. But if you are vegan or have to prepare food for a vegan you might look into these. Some of them are quite delicious! Tofu and tempeh (fermented soybeans) are typical vegan and vegetarian additions, which we did not utilize. There are many meals on the menu that you could easily add these.

Keep in mind accessibility of certain foods due to geographical and seasonal factors (i.e. we weren’t delighting in many tropical fruits that are much easier to find for my trips in Panama).

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Doing the dishes

Omnivore Additions

There were a few meals that I added cheese and salami for myself and the other non-vegan. The vegetarian only added the cheese. You could also add smoked or canned fish if that’s available. It’s extremely easy to accommodate for different preferences while at the same time providing nutritious and filling vegan meals. To get the extra calories that we were getting from adding cheese and salami, the vegan supplemented with extra dried fruit, nuts, and vegan snack bars. Nobody went hungry on this trip!

This menu is for 6 breakfasts, 7 lunches, and 6 dinners, and includes some snack ideas.

Vegan menu

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Beautiful Heather Bay, Prince William Sound

I hope that you have found this helpful. I certainly learned a lot and have many more vegan meal ideas from this recent camping trip. Please share your meal ideas with others. What worked? What didn’t work? There’s no excuse to not eat like royalty out there:) After all, we’re not backpacking!

WHAT A TRIP: 7 Days Paddling from Columbia Glacier to Valdez, Alaska

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7-Day Glacier Island-Columbia Bay-Valdez Itinerary

Map of Itinerary

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Jack, Sarah, Miki, and I proudly sporting our Anadyr Adventures hats!

The Opportunity

When my manager asked me if I had any interest in leading the 7-day kayak camping trip to train the 3 new guides we’d be welcoming this season to Anadyr Adventures (the company that I guide for), I didn’t have to deliberate. I gave an enthusiastic “Yes, of course!” What an amazing opportunity. This trip happens at the start of every season (early May) and teaches the new guides paddling and camping skills, as well as introduces them to all of the areas in northeast Prince William Sound where we guide our clients. In addition, it’s an incredible trip that gets them excited to be working in one of the most spectacular paddling destinations in the world. Let’s begin!

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Tranquility in Shoup Bay at 11 PM, Prince William Sound, Alaska

The Itinerary

Roughly 70 miles this itinerary starts in Irish Cove, in the northwest corner of Glacier Island, and quickly rounds Iceberg Point. It follows the entire coastline of the south side of this rugged and beautiful island, which is a wildlife lovers’ paradise. This is where I had 5 Orcas surface directly underneath our kayaks in a camping trip in 2017. The south side is also where Tufted and Horned Puffins spend their summers, alongside hundreds of Steller Sea Lions at their haul-out. The Sea Lions often accompany us around the island, as they leap and twist around our boats.

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Steller Sea Lion haul-out on Glacier Island, Prince William Sound

After Glacier Island we made the 4-mile crossing to Elf Point, the southeast point of Heather Bay, where we camped for two nights. During the day we paddled the beautiful and serene Heather Bay to get into Columbia Bay, a highlight of this itinerary (and one of our most popular day tours). Columbia Bay is where icebergs float that have broken off (calved) from the face of Columbia Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier in Prince William Sound. This glacier experienced much fame during it’s catastrophic retreat in the 80s and 90s. The glacier has since slowed down this retreat, however it still pumps off lots of interesting ice sculptures for us to marvel at.

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Sunrise at Elf Point, Heather Bay

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An ice-free Columbia Bay

This year brought an interesting surprise. Where was all the ice in Columbia Bay? There was none to be found! Usually this bay is filled with ice for us to paddle around. Apparently, the ice was stuck further up the bay, where it was blocked behind a constriction filled with chunks of sheet ice. It was a shame to not be able to introduce the new guides to paddling around ice on the training trip, however, days later the ice broke out of the constriction and Columbia Bay was once again filled with ice.

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Columbia Bay often looks like this

With 3 nights under our belts we headed east, paddled around Point Freemantle and spent a night in the lovely Sawmill Bay. This is one of my favorite stretches of coastline and we were lucky enough to paddle it during the lowest tide of the month. At a negative tide, the rocks were covered with life and we were delighted with thousands of different kinds of Sea Stars and seaweeds. This is also where Jack got “high-fived” by a Sea Lion. If you come to Valdez, ask him about it:)

The paddle from Sawmill Bay into Shoup Bay goes through the Valdez Narrows and along a coastline filled with glacial waterfalls. We spent our final two nights in the Shoup Lagoon, with a gorgeous view of Shoup Glacier. We paddled up to the face, where we explored and I explained how much the glacier has changed since last season, as well as historically (Shoup has gone through a couple of advance/retreat cycles in recent history). And of course took the obligatory jump shots!

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The face of Shoup Glacier

What Did We Eat?

I have to mention how good we ate out there! One of the points of the training trip is to practice our backcountry cooking skills. Each of us had to provide meals for the group. No one was disappointed or hungry on this trip. Due to dietary preferences we enjoyed a vegan menu (meat and dairy options on the side), which I will write a separate blog about with recipe ideas.

Make It Happen!

I’ve paddled this particular itinerary a few times. It’s a winner:) This is an incredible trip with lots of opportunities to experience wildlife, glaciers, and to be awed by the remote ruggedness and beauty that Prince William Sound has to offer. However, if seven days scares you off or doesn’t fit with your schedule, have no fear. This corner of the Sound has many amazing trips to offer; overnight excursions to Shoup Glacier, or longer trips to Mid-Prince William Sound’s Unakwik Inlet to see Meares Glacier. All that you have to do is check out my other Alaska itineraries and contact me to start planning your trip-of-a-lifetime. See you on the water!

 

SAY HELLO TO YOUR NEW KAYAK INSTRUCTORS IN VALDEZ, ALASKA

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Beautiful day to hit the water in Kachemak Bay, Homer, Alaska

I’m a kayak instructor now!

Along with 4 of my kayak guide work mates, I’ve been sworn in as an official Level 2 ACA (American Canoe Association) sea kayak instructor. Our swearing-in ceremony involved many cold dunks in Kachemak Bay near Homer, Alaska. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of these frigid dunks. Just take my word for it. Brrrr. Good thing I packed enough warm layers to last me a month for our 4-day course. Having 3 sleeping bags helped too:)

The ACA is the leading organization in the U.S. for all things paddle sports. Whether you are looking to get certified as an instructor, or simply want to learn and develop skills (canoe, sea kayak, SUP, raft, white water kayak, surfski, rescue, adaptive paddling), check them out here.

I’d also like to give a special shout-out to Levi Hogan, our wonderful instructor and new paddling friend. Levi and his wife operate Turnagain Kayak (located in Hope, AK), who specialize in outfitting groups for paddling in South Central Alaska, as well as kayak instruction. Levi is a BCU (British Canoe Union) 5 Star Sea Kayak Leader and ACA Level 4 Open Water Coastal Kayak Instructor Trainer. . . he’s kind of a big deal. For those of you who don’t know what the stars or acronyms mean, essentially Levi is a badass kayaker and loves to share his skills and knowledge with others in the courses that he offers. I highly recommend him as an instructor.

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View from our campsite on Right Beach, Kachemak Bay, Homer, Alaska

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Aidan and Jared making lunch on a sunny day, Kachemak Bay, Homer, Alaska

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We only have a little bit of gear. . . Homer, Alaska

Five of us returning guides for Anadyr Adventures (Valdez) piled into a company van and took off on a fun road trip to Homer. It’s impressive that we didn’t end up killing each other in the van. Just kidding (?). We love each other. We spent 4 days with Levi camped at Right Beach in Halibut Cove (Kachemak Bay, less than an hour water taxi from Homer), working on refining paddling skills and teaching each other. Forward, sweep, reverse sweep, draw, sculling draw, low brace recovery, T-rescue, self rescue, towing, scoop rescue, Hand-of-God rescue. . . these are all paddling strokes and skills that we practiced and taught to each other. We also taught each other about paddling topics, such as cold water immersion, communication and signaling devices, weather and tides, and paddle and kayak design. Good stuff!

 

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On the drive to Homer, Alaska

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Black-Legged Kittiwakes fly around Gull Rocks, Kachemak Bay, Homer, Alaska

I’m super excited to practice and teach to others the paddling skills that I’ve been developing over the past decade. As much time as I’ve spent playing and working on the water as a sea kayak guide, it’s great to take the time to slow down and go back to practicing and refining foundational paddling skills, such as the forward stroke. After this course, I feel better equipped to teach the subtleties of these foundational skills to beginner paddlers.

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Gorgeous May sunset over Kachemak Bay, Homer, Alaska

Paddle with certified instructors

. . . Which brings me to Valdez, Alaska. There are two sea kayaking companies in this beautiful coastal town. One is Anadyr Adventures, for which I am going into my 7th guiding season. Anadyr has been in operation since 1989, and is the leading tour operator when it comes to kayaking. In addition to myself, this year Anadyr welcomes back 4 returning guides, of which 3 are returning for their 4th season! That’s pretty impressive. I’m not going to say anything negative about the other kayak company, as we have a friendly and professional relationship. However, they tend to have almost all-new kayak guides each year. This says a lot about Anadyr and the level of experience, commitment, and passion that the guides have. There is a reason that we keep coming back to paddle in Prince William Sound with the same company. Simply put, we love it! For Anadyr guides, especially myself, kayak guiding is a lot more than just a summer job. Paddling is a huge part of our lives. We do it for work. We do it for fun. We talk about it all the time. And most of us are planning on continuing to work towards higher-level kayak skills and instructor certifications. So, come join us. Come paddle with certified kayak instructors in one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places in the world! Check out these amazing kayak camping itineraries for an unforgettable Alaskan adventure. We’ll see you on the water.

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We like to eat good. . . Alaska salmon with a tarragon butter sauce

TRAVELS IN PANAMA: ISLA COIBA, The Largest Island in Central America

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Isla Coiba, the largest island in Central America, is a spectacular paddling destination

I want to kick this blog off with a cool video that I took snorkeling with a sea turtle. What an amazing experience! (If you’re reading this in an email, it looks way better on my website.)

Hello everyone! I’m back in Philadelphia with my family, basking in the afterglow one experiences after months of travel, sharing photos and telling stories of my recent adventures in Panama. One of the most memorable trips this past season was a 4-day/3-night sea kayaking and snorkeling trip to Coiba National Park, located on the Pacific. It is one of my favorite places to explore in Panama. I’ve traveled pretty extensively throughout the country and Coiba is a place that I return to every season. Each visit I discover something new and wonderful. It is a bio-diverse paradise, brimming with life and opportunities for adventure. A must-see if you travel to Panama! A sea kayaking and snorkeling tour is highly recommended, as it is surrounded by one of the largest coral reefs on Americas’ Pacific coast. Plus, it’s pretty cool to say you’ve been to the largest island in Central America (194 sq miles), and the biggest uninhabited island on the whole Pacific coast! Coiba is worthy of quite the accolades.

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White-headed Capuchin Monkey in our campsite, commonly seen on Isla Coiba

 

 


A Fascinating Past: Penal Colony turned Bio-Diverse Paradise

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Located in the Gulf of Chiriquí, Coiba National Park is a marine reserve comprised of 38 islands, including the largest, Isla Coiba, where our kayak and snorkel trip took place. It is actually part of the same underground Coco Ridge mountain chain as the Galápagos Islands. Isla Coiba was established as an offshore penal colony in 1919, under the dictatorships of Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega. It housed more than 3,000 political prisoners, known as “Los Desaparecidos” (Missing Persons). It was said that being sent to Coiba was like a death sentence. The last convict was released from the prison in 2005, the same year it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Paddling in the mangroves, Isla Coiba

To give you an idea of the biodiversity that awaits you, Coiba is home to 147 bird species, 760 species of fish, 33 shark species (including the Whale Shark), and 20 species of whales and dolphins, as well as many endangered and vulnerable species (Loggerhead, Leatherback, Hawksbill and Olive Ridley turtles, Tiger Sharks and Crested Eagles). Because it remained untouched and undeveloped for so long endemic species evolved on the island, including the Coiba Island Howler Monkey, the Coiba Island Agouti, and 21 species and subspecies of birds. In fact, Coiba is the only area in Panama where the Scarlet Macaw is found in significant numbers. Check out this lovely article with gorgeous photos of some of the flora and fauna on Coiba, as well as conservation information. Coiba is worth protecting. Check it out!

 

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A spectacular place to snorkel and practice underwater handstands, Isla Coiba


Our Trip: Santa Catalina to Isla Coiba

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My home-girl, Liz, and Captain Kiri, joined us for a day of snorkeling, Isla Coiba

Coiba is about 25 miles (1.5 hour boat ride) from Santa Catalina, a small laid-back beach community in the Veraguas province. I come here every year to visit friends and adventure on the ocean (and sometimes get washing machined in the surf between catching small waves in the whitewash). I take a bus from Albrook Transportation Terminal in Panama City through Santiago to a town called Sona, where there is a bus switch to Santa Catalina. It is worth spending a few days here if you like relaxing by the beach, swimming, surfing (SC hosts international surf competitions, and has great options for beginner to advanced surfers), stand-up paddling, and yoga. Santa Catalina also has a number of Scuba/snorkel businesses, and is where tours to Coiba can be booked. I’m friends with the owner and guides of Fluid Adventures Panama, the sea kayak company in Santa Catalina, and was thrilled to have their help in the trip logistics. It certainly always helps being friends with local tour operators. Kayakers are such friendly folks:)

 

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A gorgeous day for a paddle, Isla Coiba

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Sunset paddle, Isla Coiba

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Los locos kayakistas
Nemesio, me, and Kira, Isla Coiba

My travel companions were Kira, fellow sea kayak guide and la otra chica loca (“the other crazy girl”), who I had the pleasure of adventuring with in Panama the past few months, and Nemesio, who I guide kayak trips with in the San Blas Islands (Guna Yala) on the Caribbean. As a kayaker I must say how amazing it is to go on a kayaking trip with fellow kayakers. We camped on the same beautiful white sand beach for three nights and paddled to different islands and along the coastline during the day. We probably spent more time out of our boats with them tied around our ankles while we snorkeled, as we did sitting in them:)

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Snorkeling is as easy as hopping out of your boat (then you have to get back in), Isla Coiba

 

 

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This photo is not zoomed in. . . I was actually this close to this sea turtle, Isla Coiba

The snorkeling on Coiba is absolutely amazing! My good friend who guides there says it’s like snorkeling in an aquarium, as there is an incredible amount of life to discover under the water (rays, reef sharks, turtles, tropical fish of all colors, sea stars). We were as happy as clams to spend hours each day hopping out of our boats to snorkel. We also took full advantage of the fact that we were guides on vacation and enjoyed lots of relaxation. . . lounging around on white sandy beaches, lounging around in hammocks, lounging around in the tent. . . you get the idea. Actually, I spent more time in the hammock while Kira worked to open coconuts with her bare hands. She was so determined. Good thing she had Nemesio to teach her the ways. This video is pretty hilarious.

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Getting some hammock time in, Isla Coiba

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After lunch siesta, Isla Coiba

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Kira displaying her pride and joy of opening coconuts with her bare hands, Isla Coiba

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Beautiful coastline to discover ~ Great for paddling, Isla Coiba

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Sunset-to-Moonrise paddle, Isla Coiba

Sea kayaking here is spectacular! Contact me if you’re interested in a trip to Coiba. There are lots of options for different types of paddling, and one can often choose a more (or less) conservative path. There are calm and protected bays, beautiful mangroves to explore, lots of small islands to circumnavigate, secluded beaches, and fun areas with rock gardens and swell for the more experienced paddlers. And it’s just so easy to hop out of your boat and snorkel!

 

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Join me on a paddling and snorkeling trip to Isla Coiba

I hope that you have enjoyed this virtual trip to Coiba National Park, and that it has inspired you to visit this gem of a place in the beautiful country of Panama. Until next time, happy and safe adventuring. Thanks for reading!

I leave you in the same way that we left Coiba Island, with dolphins leaping joyously out of the water to our delight. Chao!

 

JOIN ME IN CROATIA IN 2019!

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Paddling in Croatia

Hola! I hope this finds everyone well:) I’m still in Panama, getting ready for the final sea kayaking trip of the season to Guna Yala, on the Caribbean. However, I’m always dreaming of future padding destinations (the list is long!). I’ll spend this summer guiding my 7th season in Prince William Sound, Alaska. . then my sights are set for Croatia in October. I’ll be doing an exploratory trip to plan an amazing itinerary that I am excited to offer in 2019. It will include paddling the gorgeous Zadar Archipelago, with day trips for hiking to the surrounding National Parks, wine-tasting at local vineyards, and city tours with local guides. More updates to come about this exciting trip offering. Please stay tuned and contact me if you are interested.

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Paddling in Croatia

As for now, I’d like to share a wonderful blog post written by the local operator which I will be collaborating with for my upcoming trip. Paddling Croatia in winter! Looks amazing. Please check it out.

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Sea cave exploration, Croatia

 

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Paddling in wintertime, Croatia


Stay tuned for an upcoming blog about a recent 4-day sea kayaking and snorkeling adventure to the beautiful Isla Coiba National Park on the Pacific side. Isla Coiba is a gem of this magnificent country, and any trip to Panama should definitely include a visit here. Here’s a sneak peak from the adventure, which included close encounters with monkeys, sea turtles, and reef sharks, a spectacular sunset paddle, and so much snorkeling right from our kayaks:

Sunset paddle at Isla Coiba, Panama

This Sea Turtle swam directly under our kayaks, Isla Coiba, Panama

A hammock is obligatory, Isla Coiba, Panama

I could have touched this Sea Turtle (I didn’t. . . but I could have!), Isla Coiba, Panama

Isla Coiba is the best place to snorkel in all of Panama. It’s like snorkeling in an aquarium.

Thanks for reading. I hope that you have enjoyed these adventures!

YOGA/KAYAK RETREAT: A Coast-to-Coast Adventure in Panama

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Are jump-shots ever not a great idea? Guna Yala, Panama

Deep breath. Aaaah. I’m back in Panama City with a computer and time, so I can tell you about the awesome Yoga/Kayak Retreat that yoga instructor, Leigh Lubin, and I guided this past Jan 6-14. We’re excited to announce that we’ll be offering this trip again in January 2019. I’ll keep you posted with dates. Contact me if you’d like more info.

 


YOGA RETREAT ~ THE PACIFIC

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Beautiful sunsets every night on the Pacific Coast – 5-minute walk from the yoga retreat

We started our 9-day journey together on the Pacific Coast, with 4 days at a gorgeous Yoga Adventure Retreat, just a 5-minute walk to the beach. Relaxation paradise! It was pretty easy to sink into holiday mode at this lovely place. I mean, we were greeted with ice cold hibiscus tea and there was a hammock pavilion!

 

Leigh guided us in morning and afternoon yoga sessions with her Vitality & Vayus series, which invited us to deepen our yoga practice. She taught and encouraged us to notice how each movement and pose effected us energetically and mentally. A gifted yoga teacher, she created a beautiful balance of uplifting and energetic practices in the mornings, and grounding and calming practices in the evenings. I don’t have too many photos of practicing yoga, as I didn’t want to be behind a camera during practice. I wanted to be doing yoga!

 

 

We also got to play around with stand-up paddle boards. Leigh delighted in practicing her SUP headstands:)

 

Then there was the food. . . delicious! What a delight to come out of morning yoga practice to be greeted with fresh fruit and juice. Buen provecho!

 

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Happy. . . smiling. . . feeling good!


GUNA YALA ~ THE CARIBBEAN

After the yoga retreat, we traveled to Guna Yala for 4 days of tropical paradise; sea kayaking, snorkeling, lounging in hammocks, and immersing ourselves in the fascinating culture of the Guna. Check out a video of this tropical paradise.

 

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Sunset on Nurdup

A little background: I have been kayak guiding in Guna Yala since 2010, and have been in love with the place ever since:) Guna Yala is the semi-autonomous territory of the indigenous Guna of Panama. The tropical coastline stretches 140-miles and borders Colombia. It also comprises about 25 miles of mainland rain forest. We stayed on a tiny island called Nurdup (“Almond Island”, in Guna), and used that as our “basecamp” for day excursions to nearby rivers, mangroves, beaches, and Guna communities.

Click here for a video of our first sunset in Guna Yala. Beautiful.

Check out a cool video of snorkeling. And a kayaking video (this was my first trip with my new Olympus Stylus TG-Tracker camera, so you’ll have to excuse the warped quality of this one).

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Welcome to Nurdup

Here are some highlights:

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A heron passing in front of Guna fishing huts

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Gone snorkeling

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A lobster hiding under Brain Coral

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Paddle to a Guna community. The underwater pipe brings fresh water from the mainland.

Leigh continued with early morning yoga practice on Nurdup, and we were joined by our Guna kayak guide, Nemesio, who entertained the other Guna with his joyful interpretation of the poses. Namaste, Nemesio!

 

We also took our yoga off of the mat and donated many gifts to the Guna, especially art supplies, clothing, and books for the kids. Here is Meghan searching for Waldo with our new Guna friends. Dónde está Waldo? I don’t know why the girl looks so sad in this photo. She was pretty excited about her new Fairy book.

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Dónde está Waldo?

While on Nurdup we learned a lot about the fascinating lives of the Guna, who have fought to maintain their traditional customs. They are enthusiastic to share their culture with us.

  • We heard Guna legends from Nemesio
  • We learned Guna phrases (Nuedi= good, you good? i’m good, we’re all good!)
  • We went mola-shopping and marveled at this incredible craft. The mola is the beautiful hand-sewn panel that is sewn onto the front and back of the women’s blouse. Many Guna women spend much of their day sewing molas. Click here for a video of trying on a mola.
  • We learned about the intricate bead work that the women display on their forearms and calves (called wini, much to our amusement). Here is a video of Denali getting her wini on.
  • We participated in the traditional dance with a youth dance group from a neighboring community. Check out a short video of the dance. Here is a longer one (it starts off a bit slow, but it picks up and is is worth the watch).
  • We went for a ride in one of their small wooden sailboats (called urbipi). Click here for a video of Leigh and Phil going for a sail.

 

 

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“Wini” close-up

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Leigh and Phil go for a ride in an “urbipi”

And, of course, we went kayaking and had loads of fun splashing around in the water. One of the highlights were the post-dance festivities. We enjoyed the Guna Danza so much that we wanted to share with the youth dancers something fun from our group. We invited them to play around in our kayaks. Whoa! I’ve never seen such an enthusiastic reaction (I wish I had it on film). These teenagers (and one adorable 6-year old) leaped out of their seats, shrieking at the tops of their lungs and jumped right into the water with the kayaks. None of them had ever been in a kayak before. However, growing up practically in the water, they did just fine:) Future Guna kayak guides! They even organized themselves into a race. Click here to see the video of the kayak race. Check out this video of a fun, music-filled river paddle (and now I know who Charlie Puth is). Note all the kids we stuffed into the kayaks (that sounds bad, doesn’t it?). We just couldn’t turn them down when they wanted to join us for a paddle.

 

We invited them to return later that evening to join us in a party! Meghan and Denali, two of our participants, had brought all kinds of fun gifts to donate. They even brought glow-sticks, which everyone went crazy for! We used my paddle as a limbo stick and attempted a conga line:) Click here to see a video of our paddle limbo. Of course, the Alaskans put on the country tunes.

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Glow-stick party on Nurdup!


CASCO VIEJO – PANAMA CITY

After departing Guna Yala we made a visit to the Panama Canal and caught a large ship going through the Miraflores Locks. Check out the video. We then had a few hours to roam around Casco Viejo, a scenic part of the city, before an entertaining farewell dinner that included delicious Panamanian food and traditional dances from other areas of Panama. Check out the dancing here.


What a trip! Besides the gorgeous places that we visited, including both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Panama and Panama City, what made this trip so exceptional was the people. As a tour guide, it is a gift to be in the company of such open-minded, kind, adventurous, and fun people as Leigh and I had on this trip. Thank you to all of them! You made this trip extremely special.


I leave you with the one of the most adorable Guna kidlets that I have ever seen.

And because I loved this little boy so much, here’s a video of him playing catch. What a little biscuit!

Well, I think that’s enough photos and video links for now. Stay tuned for the next blog about a most wild and crazy kayak trip to Guna Yala with my parents and our friends.


Please follow me on Instagram to check out my photos of traveling and paddling in beautiful places (mostly Panama and Alaska). I love hearing your comments. Contact me for trip information (or just to say hi).

 

LIVE THE DREAM IN 2018: GLAMPING IN ALASKA (& Panama)!

GLAMP IT UP IN 2018! Read on for my favorite glamping gear.

Glamping: the activity of camping with some of the comforts and luxuries of home. 

Okay, glamping may not be quite as cozy as a hotel room in Fairbanks. . . but it still makes you want to jump up and down for joy!

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Jumping up & down for joy in Fairbanks, Alaska

When I talk with people about the trips that I guide in Alaska and Panama, there are those who automatically envision “roughing it in the wilderness” as a miserable experience; cramped tents, sleeping and sitting on the hard ground, instant mashed potatoes every night and plain oatmeal every morning, bugs flying in their face while they’re trying to eat, standing out in the rain, etc. I completely agree with them. That sounds like a horrible way to spend a vacation. Don’t sign me up for that! (However, if this sounds like fun to you I can certainly arrange for it. Although, I’ll be dining on Alaskan salmon while you’re stuffing yourself with those instant mashies.)

However, a trip with me is oh the contrary to the bare bones misery that may have scarred your memory from a Boy or Girl Scouts trip when you were a teenager. If you haven’t done much camping (or it’s been a while), fear not! The advances in glamping equipment have brought camping trips to a whole new level of comfort and ease. A trip does not go by without guests exclaiming to me how surprised they are in the equipment that allows a level of luxury they didn’t think possible on camping trips, especially sea kayaking trips when everything has to fit into the kayaks. Actually, it’s this very fact that we’re packing into kayaks that allows us to bring along such luxuries as the following list. It’s amazing what you can squeeze into a kayak. Tables, chairs, stoves, oh my! I love showing people the wonderful items that I use to enhance their experience. Here are ileneinakayak glamping must-haves. Scroll to bottom for links of the following products.

My Top Ten Glamping Essentials for Alaska

  1. Screen House Shelter – A 4-walled bug-netting structure with a water-resistant ceiling allows us to be protected from pesky insects, without sacrificing the gorgeous view. It’s the living room of the great outdoors. (Shown in photo at top)
  2. Camp chairs – Your butt shall not make contact with the cold or wet ground,  nor shall you struggle to lift yourself from the ground!
  3. Roll-a-Table – One of the greatest glamping innovations; a firm and sturdy table with detachable legs that rolls into a neat bundle with a handle. It only takes about 1 minute to set up and break down.
  4. A kitchen with all the bells and whistles – I don’t skimp on my kitchen, as this is where the magic happens:) I love having a single-burner camp stove (MSR Whisperlite), which boils water very quickly, and a two-burner stove to cook on. I cook with a full set of pots and pans, cooking utensils, plates, bowls, cups, cutlery, cutting boards, sharp knives, sponge, dish soap, and yes, even napkins. There’s not much that I can’t do in this outdoor kitchen. I would not consider a trip in Alaska to be complete without dishing up wild Alaskan seafood.
  5. French Press – To make the finest cup of coffee that you’ll ever enjoy gazing at a glacier.
  6. Thermos – I’m talking about a stainless steel 8-cup thermos, that allows piping hot tea and hot chocolate (and mid-day coffee) to be served up in an instant, 12 hours after I’ve boiled the water. I worship the thermos for dish washing too.  Have you ever tried washing bacon grease from a plate using glacier water? Exasperating!
  7. Self-inflating sleeping pads – A far cry from the thin foam pads of yore. These fill up with air on their own, insulate you from cold ground, as well as provide cushy comfort for a well-deserved sleep after a day of paddling.
  8. Roomy tents – If you come on a trip with a friend or your sweetheart, you’ll get a spacious 4-person tent. Solo? You’ll luxuriate in a 2-person tent. This gives you enough space for you and your gear.
  9. Rain tarps – No, I will not have you standing out in the rain! I bring along a number of different sizes of tarps, and can set them up quickly during lunch and rest breaks. If it rains, I’ll keep you dry out there!
  10. Soft food coolers – These allow me the ability to pack all of my food in an organized fashion. From glass jars of sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, and capers to fresh Prince William Sound prawns and salmon, and cartons of Half-and-Half, these coolers protect what’s inside and keep things cool.

There you have it. . . glamping like a pro in Alaska! Stay dry, stay cozy, stay comfortable, stay well-rested, well-fed, and well-caffeinated in style.

Here’s a few photos of glamping in the Caribbean in Panama. A lot of the trips there involve the addition of a motorized boat that accompanies us, which opens up the glamping possibilities beyond your wildest dreams! Take a look:

Inspired to come glamping with me? Contact me. I’d love to hear from you. What are your favorite glamping essentials?

Links for glamping gear

No, I’m not sponsored by these companies (although I wouldn’t say no to that). These are all items and companies that I have used as an outdoor enthusiast and professional sea kayak guide for many years. There are lots of other great options out there, and I will continue to search for and test out (then inform you about) new products and companies, especially those who can say “Made in USA, and who implement Earth-friendly practices. Please share your knowledge/suggestions in this regard. The following are simply what I trust and recommend.

  1. REI Screen House Shelter
  2. REI Flexlite Camp Chair and Camp Time Roll-a-Stool (Made in USA! Camp Time also sells brand new blemished bargains)
  3. Camp Time Roll-a-Table (Made in USA!)

    I am in love with this!

  4. Glamping kitchen: GSI: Cookware, Stoves, Utensils, Dinnerware, & Camp Furniture, MSR: Tents, Stoves, Cookware, and Water Treatment, and Coleman: Pretty much all things camping (I love this Fold-and-Go Stove)
  5. French press: GSI Portable JavaPress
  6. Thermos: Stanley Stainless Steel Thermoses
  7. Sleeping pads: Therm-a-Rest Sleeping Pads
  8. Tents: Mountain Hardware Tents and MSR Tents
  9. Rain tarps: I use the Mountain Equipment Co-op Scout Tarp for an emergency, lunch, and rest break tarp. It is a Canadian company. The best heavy-duty rain tarp that I ever had the pleasure of using on a 3-week sea kayaking expedition in Haida Gwaii (aka Queen Charlotte Islands, B.C., Canada) is the La Caverne from another Canadian company called Chlorophylle. When I contacted the company wanting to purchase one for myself (Sept 2017), I was told that they were only shipping to Canada. If you can find a Canadian address, this tarp is well worth it! I guess Canada knows their rain tarps, eh?
  10. Soft food coolers: NRS soft food coolers

Here is an article that I enjoyed entitled 10 Must-Haves From Brands That Make the Earth a Better Place.

Thanks for reading. Please share this blog with anyone who might like it. Or maybe you’ve been trying to convince your partner or friends to come camping with you, but haven’t been successful yet. This is the perfect article to nudge them in the direction of glamping enlightenment:) Glamp on!

 

 

 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, PANAMA-STYLE!

This year I’ll be celebrating the upcoming holiday in Philadelphia. In fact, my family has already celebrated the 8 crazy nights of Hannukah. However, this year I’m thinking fondly of the many Christmases and New Years that I’ve celebrated with friends and clients while on sea kayaking trips in Guna Yala (San Blas), Panama.

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Christmas tree, Guna-style

It’s a wonderfully unique and fun experience to us northerners to celebrate Xmas amongst palm trees, white sand beaches, and turquoise waters. I, for one, welcome the change from puffy down jackets and thermal underwear, to flip flops and bathing suits!

One of my favorite things to do as a child during Xmas was pile into the car with my brother and parents and drive around the neighborhood, admiring all of the Xmas lights and decorations. I’ve been enjoying this pastime the past few weeks.

While in Panama last year, prior to guiding my first kayak trip of the season, friends (Jared and Suzannah) and I were delighted to stumble upon a plaza in Panama City a block from our hostel. Lit up by thousands of lights and decorations, there were hundreds of families smiling and laughing together, with kids running around hyped up on sugar and holiday cheer. Suzannah and I may have also been hyped up. . . I forced her into a Xmas photo shoot, while Jared stood by in amusement.Oh, what fun!

Christmas on the Caribbean Islands of Guna Yala, also known as the San Blas Islands, albeit not as electrified as in the city, is none the less joyfully festive, with an added touch of colorful beach art decorations. My favorite are the soda cans cut into flowers and crafted into trees.

And then there’s the festivities we enjoy during the sea kayaking trips that span Xmas and New Years; the food, the drink, the fireworks, the bonfires, the dancing, the singing, and the merry-making! The Guna are a fun bunch, who enjoy a good celebration!

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Too much Xmas cheer for this one:)

So if you want a change of scenery next Christmas or New Year, and want to put presents under a palm tree and set off fireworks from a remote tropical island, let’s make it happen! Contact me for more information.

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From Ileneinakayak and the wonderful crew of Guna and Panamanians who help make the magic happen, have yourself a merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and adventurous New Year. Stay tuned for more on my blog.

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Peace to you this holiday season and New Year

The above mural is one of hundreds crafted by Michelle, the lovely owner (and yoga instructor) of La Buena Vida; hotel, restaurant, gift shop, and yoga studio (one of my favorite places to do yoga) in Santa Catalina, on the pacific side of Panama. Check them out here.

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Merry Christmas. . . Panama-style:)

INSPIRATION FOR A CARIBBEAN WINTER HOLIDAY

Hi there! I’m getting amped up for another tropical season of paddling and adventuring in the Caribbean of Panama. To get you excited I’m here to inspire you with some scenes that will have you feeling a warm sea breeze on your sun-kissed skin. Close your eyes and you’ll hear the soothing sounds of palm fronds shaking in the breeze, and small waves lapping against the shore. Imagine sun-warmed white sand between your toes. Look around and you’ll see colorful hammocks swaying underneath bunches of Coconuts, while kayaks wait to take you on an adventure. Enjoy!

There are still spaces available on an upcoming Yoga/Sea Kayak/SUP/Snorkel Adventure Retreat January 6 – 14, 2018. More info can be found here.

Contact me for more information on how to create the trip-of-a-lifetime in Alaska and Panama. Thanks for checking in! Stay tuned for more on my blog.

HOLIDAY WITH A GREATER PURPOSE: 4 fun ways to enhance your vacation with good deeds!

First, a quick udate from me: Hello from Vermont! I’ve settled into my November annual three weeks of house/pet-sitting in the lovely Green Mountain State. This is a time for me to slow down a bit after a busy guiding season in Alaska. Late fall is when I finally get to spend an extended amount of quality time with my family in Philadelphia (and eat lots of Asian food, which Philly is exceptional!), as well as take the time to make plans and set future goals for myself. It is also the time of year when I amp up my cider, apple, maple, and woodstove game! Bring it on, New England!

With the recent horrific attack in New York City , as well as other tragedies playing out locally and globally, my reaction is to bring more joy and happiness into the world, as well as to seek out others doing good things. Yes, there are a lot of horrible things going on, and those are not to be ignored, however it’s important to acknowledge that there are also a lot of wonderful and positive things going on that you can be a part of. It’s more important than ever to be good to one another, and to show each other love, compassion, and kindness. Let positive acts be your fuel to counter the negative ones.

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Jared and his crew of Guna boys, sharing the love of kayaking

One great way to do good things for others is to incorporate acts of kindness and compassion into your vacation. Maybe you are someone who wants to do good things for others, yet finds it difficult to find the time during your hectic daily life. It might even be difficult to do good things for yourself! Welcome: vacation! This is a great opportunity to do good! You finally have the energy and the time for yourself and for others.

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Lovely day for a paddle in Guna Yala. Do something good for yourself, as well as others!

The kayak trips that I run in Guna Yala, on the Caribbean of Panama, are a wonderful opportunity to travel with a greater purpose. Donations are always welcome and well-received. Opportunities for home-stays and volunteering abound. And of course each trip uses local Guna guides. We try to buy as much seafood from Guna fishermen as possible, as well as experience much of their fascinating culture and crafts. Check these trip options out here. Or maybe a Yoga/Sea Kayak Retreat is more your thing. Check out this 9-day all-inclusive trip January 6-14, 2018, that explores both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Panama. Click here for a detailed itinerary. Contact me with questions or if you’d like to book a trip. Read on.

Here are 4 ways to enhance your vacation by adding an element of good deeds.

1) Donations

Look around you. . . you probably have more than a few things to spare that others might find useful or even life-saving (i.e. medical supplies, shoes, or warm clothing if you’re traveling somewhere cold). I read something (I wish that I could remember, so I’m paraphrasing) that said “If you can afford to drink a beverage other than water, you have the means to give.” This might sound a bit extreme, and I’m not saying to stop drinking your tea and coffee. However, these words inspire me and made me realize how many material things I have that are not essential to my survival, such as that box of Chai tea that I love so much. Maybe next time I’m looking at all the Chai tea options, I’ll opt to spend that money on some art supplies for children instead.

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A sweet Guna girl wearing her new dress, made by donation from a group of kayakers

Collecting things to donate is fun, easy, and potentially free (no need to go out and buy things). It’s also a win-win situation; You clear out things that you don’t really need, and those you’re donating to benefit by getting things that can enhance their lives. It’s also a great way to have a positive interaction with locals. Here’s an idea: Next time you go on vacation, throw a party and have everyone bring a few items that will serve the people where you’re traveling. (Maybe don’t bring a bag of winter jackets to the Caribbean. . . but clothing for warm weather will certainly be useful.)

 

 

 

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A school in Ecuador that I helped donate supplies to, 2004 (I’m wearing my Jerry Garcia t-shirt on the left)

Donation ideas:

  • Clothing (in decent condition and appropriate for the climate)
  • Medical supplies (good condition, appropriate for the environment, and that the people fully understand how to use the supplies, as this could potentially be harmful)
  • Books (in their language and yours, lots of photos are great, do the people want to learn English?)
  • Art and School supplies (notebooks, paper, writing and coloring supplies, stickers, markers, folders, beads)
  • Games (appropriate for the age level, and the environment. i.e. As it’s quite windy in Guna Yala, and the kids love them, I always bring down a bunch of kites. Guna also love cards, dominoes and dice:)
  • Kitchen/bathroom supplies (appropriate for the environment. i.e. I get requests for graters from Guna women to use to grate fresh coconut for coconut rice – so delicious!)
  • Other useful items (appropriate for the lives of the people where you’re traveling. Some ideas: eyeglasses, sewing kits, fishing supplies (the Guna love it when I bring them different kinds of fishing hooks and line, as fishing is very important to Guna livelihoods), life vests, headlamps (I find these to be useful for everyone!), certain electronics, etc. . .)
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Young Guna artists at work on their masterpieces, after my friend, Suzannah, donated the supplies. They were so excited!

The photos below are from a group of 11 women, and my co-trip leader, Dave, who were part of a 4-day sea kayaking trip in Guna Yala earlier in 2017. These women collected bags of clothing to donate to Guna families, as well as sewing kits and eyeglasses for Guna women to use to sew their gorgeous molas. Check out a blog about this amazing trip and more on compassionate tourism here.

If you’re not with an organized group, it’s pretty easy (with the internet these days) to find schools, community centers, and other organizations to make donations. I love shopping at thrift stores, so whenever I go thrifting I always buy a few extra items and books to bring with me to Panama. And because I go back to some of the same Guna communities each year, it’s fun to see Guna walking around in clothing that my family and I have donated:) There’s a Guna man walking around with my dad’s neon pink Philadelphia Folk Festival t-shirt!

2) Home-stay and/or Volunteer

There are many ways to find opportunities like home-stays and volunteering while traveling. Home-stays are an excellent way to immerse yourself in another culture (this is a main reason why we travel, right?!), share your own culture, learn/practice a different language, and benefit a family financially, as home-stays usually cost money. I recommend the mighty Google machine. It’s actually overwhelming how many wonderful organizations there are that allow you to combine good deeds while traveling, whether this is the focus of your trip or not. Make sure to have good communication with the organization, so ensure a successful and positive experience! Keep in mind, it doesn’t need to take up your entire travel itinerary. It’s also important to do something good for yourself that fulfills you, like a kayak trip (hint, hint). Don’t feel bad about laying in a hammock on a beach. . . it is your well-earned vacation, after all! So, whether it’s dedicating two weeks to help build a school in a rural area, or spending an afternoon playing with kids at an orphanage, everyone benefits.

Personal story: Ten years ago I was traveling in Ecuador and wanted to find a home-stay that also included volunteering. The first organization that came up on Google was a women’s group of artists called Las Colibris (The Hummingbirds) that were making art from natural materials that the women would harvest. I thought I would stay a week, and ended up staying for 6 weeks because I loved it so much! I lived with a family, ate all of my meals with them, and helped them in their workshop everyday. I recall my home-stay mom telling me how much the income from this organization was helping her and her family. It also gave her a sense of independence, as she was making a living for herself, and not relying solely on her husband for money. Unfortunately, I could not find an active website for this organization anymore. Following are photos from that trip.

3) Tourism,Crafts and Food

In some places, especially remote and small communities, tourism and selling crafts and food might be the main source of income for families. Include in your travel plans activities that use local guides. Eat local food. Buy local crafts. Find out about local festivals and holidays. Check out a traditional dance or music performance. You’ll have a blast while learning about the area and making new friends and connections. And what better way to bring home a reminder of your wonderful holiday than to buy a hand-made craft from your travels!

4) Teach, Share, Learn, Play and Smile

I know, I cheated and combined five things. Basically, #4 is to enrich the lives of others by giving your time and having positive interactions. Just have fun! Share laughter and smiles. Get silly and play games! If you’re on a bike trip, kayak trip, climbing trip, fishing trip, whatever it may be, invite the locals to check out your gear and give it a try. Just keep them safe! You might plant the seed for a local to get the training they need to become a tour guide. Better yet, if you have the resources you might get inspired to start your own organization to teach locals the skills they need to guide/offer a certain activity/craft, or offer them something else they need, such as solar panels or language skills. The Guna always take to kayaking quickly, and it brings a lot of joy for them to play around in the kayaks. Smiles and laughter all around is a wonderful thing! Plus, I’m secretly training the young ones to be future sea kayak guides:)

Below are two of my closest Guna buddies, brothers Hectoriano and Ertaliano, who took to kayaking quickly. I’m hoping future Guna kayak guides!

I hope that this blog will inspire you to incorporate some element from my list for your future travels. Share your ideas with me! Have a wonderful day, and remember to be good to one another, and show each other love, compassion, and kindness. Let positive acts be your fuel to counter the negative ones.