Explore Live Feel

Latest

Why Photography?

We continue working on Uncharted. We appreciate the feedback and support that many of you have given as we continue to develop our online exploration community. We hope you enjoy this slide show by Uncharted’s Alan Murray about how photography can enhance life and help us explore the uncharted.

Getting Ready

new site

By Alan Murray,
Uncharted Staff

Starting a new venture is an amazing experience. It’s exciting, challenging, educational and fun. On occasion it can be discouraging.  Taking an idea and transforming it into reality is a rigorous, but very rewarding undertaking. Sometimes ideas turn into what you least expect. When we founded Uncharted several years ago, we were really just thinking of publishing a magazine for travel and the outdoors focused on the Intermountain West. Back then, we were just a group of colleagues from different areas of the country who shared a passion for exploring our world. There was no Uncharted. It was just an idea without a name. Our search for a name led us through over 40 possible candidates. After many long discussions, Uncharted took its rightful place at the top of the list and a new venture was born.

Through Uncharted’s history, most of us have worked full-time jobs in industries such as journalism, engineering, graphic arts, and the sciences. As we have worked to transform our ideas into reality after work and on the weekends, we’ve seen some great successes and some setbacks. Each experience has helped us learn and grow. Each day, we can see we’ve come closer to reaching our goals.

Since our founding in 2005, we’ve released two or three versions of Uncharted. Each time our idea evolved into something unexpected. Each iteration was successful in its own way and provided valuable learning opportunities that have helped bring Uncharted to where it is today. Our followers have been very supportive. They have stayed with us through each of those iterations, giving us feedback, sharing their adventures, and motivating us to keep moving ahead.

We’re very excited to announce that we are now testing the latest iteration of Uncharted. For the past two weeks, we’ve opened the new site up for a select group of volunteers to try it out and give us feedback. Not only have these volunteers given us a fresh perspective, but they’ve also shared their adventures from around the world. Some of them have been with us since the very first release of Uncharted’s online exploration community back in 2008. In just a few short days we’ve seen experiences from Malaysia, Australia, Ghana, India, Canada, and various parts of the United States, to name a few. We’re extremely grateful for their support and enthusiasm and we’ve already begun to implement some of their suggestions.

We would like to invite you to help us get Uncharted ready for launch. We’re excited to hear your feedback and see what you think of what we’ve come up with so far. Sign up today and our team will get you set up for a behind-the-scenes view.

Alan Murray is a co-founder and the President of Uncharted.  He loves snowshoeing, scuba diving, hiking, learning new languages, and meeting new people. 

 

Escape the Philly Airport to Tinicum

By Alan M. Murray,
Uncharted Staff

A Great Blue Heron hunts for its next meal in marshland at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, in Tinicum, Pa. (© 2014 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

A Great Blue Heron hunts for its next meal in marshland at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, in Tinicum, Pa. (© 2014 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

I feel for anyone who has ever been stuck in an airport. Few things are worse than coming off an already long flight to find you aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Scrunched for several hours in the coach section, my legs wobbly as half-melted rubber and my joints stiff as rusted hinges, the last thing I want to hear when I finally get off that plane is that my connection is delayed.

The thought of staying another minute in the airport, when a tropical storm is being waged in my stomach, the combination of eating too many airline pretzels and the aftereffects of turbulence, is just unbearable.

And there’s always the fear of becoming part of the terminal. Once I was stranded in the Columbus International Airport at a ridiculously early hour in the morning. I’m pretty sure I was mistaken for a modern art sculpture as I slept near the baggage claim while cleaning staff waxed and buffed the floor around me, no doubt leaving behind a chalk line of my body stretched out on the frigid floor.

Since I live in the Philadelphia, Pa. area, I can’t count how many times I’ve missed flights or have had friends visiting get stuck at the Philadelphia International Airport, infamous for long lines and frequent delays.

So, for anyone out there who one day gets stuck in the Philly Airport, I recently found a new place that may make your stay at the airport a little more enjoyable, and it’s only a 10-minute drive from the airport.

The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Tinicum, Pa. is a great place for hiking and is home to a variety of wildlife. Volunteers at the visitor center are extremely friendly. I only went in to look around for a few minutes and thought maybe I’d pick up a map. I was surprised when Lynn Roman and Karyl Weber, both volunteers at the refuge, offered to take me on a hiking tour of the area.

We had only hiked for a few minutes when we saw a Great Blue Heron perched atop a birdhouse overlooking the pond. Then Karyl spotted something else with her binoculars. Some distance from the path, a raccoon slept in the upper part of a tree. Even with the aid of binoculars, it was almost invisible as it rested comfortably camouflaged in a clump of branches.

A jet is seen from taking off from the Philadelphia International Airport as it flies over the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, only a ten-minute drive from the airport.

A jet is seen taking off from the Philadelphia International Airport as it flies over the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, in Tinicum, Pa. The refuge is only a ten-minute drive from the airport. 

Karyl then turned to another group of trees close to where we were standing.  She raised her binoculars and spotted a Great Horned Owl, its brown feathers blending so well into the tree’s trunk and hidden by an array of branches and leaves, that Lynn had to set up a spotting scope, provided by the refuge, so we could get a better look. It twisted its head and peeked around the trunk and disappeared again, leaving only a few feathers sticking out from behind the tree that could easily have been mistaken for twigs. As hikers passed by, Lynn invited them to take a look through the scope.

We continued hiking, this time along some paths leading into marshland where we saw another Great Blue Heron stalking its prey under the setting sun. In the distance, some American Bald Eagles soar above their nesting spot near Interstate Highway 95. We see sparrows, seagulls, woodpeckers and ducks. There is so much wildlife in just a short walk that it’s easy to forget just how close we are to the airport. Only the occasional jet taking off or landing in the distant horizon with occasional glimpses of the Philadelphia skyline peeking over the trees, reminds us of how close we are to urban life.

Alan Murray is Uncharted’s President and one of its co-founders. To learn more about Uncharted and the new online exploration community we are building, sign up and we’ll let you know when it’s ready. Photos of Alan’s work can be purchased at our shop

Hiking Instead of Driving

By Alan M. Murray,
Uncharted Staff

An American Bald Eagle perches atop a tree near the shore of the Delaware River in Delaware City, De. (© 2013 Alan Murray/Uncharted)

An American Bald Eagle perches atop a tree near the shore of the Delaware River in Delaware City, De. (© 2013 Alan Murray/Uncharted)

I recently walked across an entire state.

There is something intriguing about walking across a state that you usually drive through on your way to somewhere else. Other than the usual welcome sign at the state line, it’s hard to see anything from the view of my car window as I drive on Interstate Highway 95, that clearly distinguishes Delaware from nearby Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey. The drive is so quick that you can pass right through without even realizing it.

Over the past few weeks I have traveled through 19 different states looking for interesting places, people and events to write about and photograph in preparation for the completion of Uncharted’s new online exploration community. So when I heard about the Wilmington Trail Club’s annual Hike Across Delaware, I thought it would be a great chance to explore a state much closer to home.

The event, held each year in November, begins at Battery Park in Delaware City near the Delaware River, just across from New Jersey, where hikers board buses for a short ride to the Maryland-Delaware state line near Chesapeake City, Md. They then walk 14 miles (22.4 kilometers) all the way back to Battery Park.

I do a lot of hiking for Uncharted. Once I hiked for several hours at night in sub-zero temperatures on snow-covered trails in the Rocky Mountains for a story. I have spent considerable time exploring all kinds of trails, caves and forests, each time lugging camera equipment and other supplies most hikers don’t ordinarily have to deal with. It’s always tempting to leave some of it behind.

Uncharted's Alan Murray hikes under along the C&D Canal as he walks across Delaware. (© 2013 Uncharted)

Uncharted’s Alan Murray hikes along the C&D Canal as he walks across Delaware. (© 2013 Uncharted)

On my way to Delaware City at a ridiculously early hour of the morning, I keep telling myself that carrying my equipment across a mostly flat state wouldn’t be so bad. It’s usually in those early hours that I’m at my weakest, when the idea of leaving some equipment behind or taking a shortcut is most tempting. But by the time I reach Delaware City I’m ready to hike across the state carrying two cameras, three lenses, battery packs, a flash, lunch and some other supplies.

As the buses drive away, 250 hikers begin the journey from the Maryland-Delaware state line all the way back to Battery Park. At first, everyone is packed together with hardly any room to move, but soon the group splinters into smaller pieces moving at varied paces until they are so far apart that you almost feel as though you have the whole trail to yourself.

I don’t get very far before I’m reminded of the rewards for hauling my gear and making the complete journey on foot. Most of the trail follows the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal which is not only a unique setting for a hike, but is also a great place for boating, fishing and viewing waterfowl. I hike for several miles passing under the occasional highway bridge some several hundred feet above, where travelers drive unaware of the trail below.

They’re missing out. Autumn foliage, the transformation from green to hues of yellow, orange and red reflects in the canal as Wooly Bear Caterpillars, with matching orange and black coats, inch across the trail, the shadows of hikers’s feet threatening to squash them into the ground.

By the time I reach the halfway point, I’m feeling the weight of those cameras, their straps digging into my shoulders. My shoes feel like they’re filled with cement and each step seems heavier than the one before.

But it’s all worth it. A formation of more than a dozen hawks appear overhead soaring in circular patterns in search of their next meal. That extra lens suddenly seems lighter as I raise it upward to capture the moment.

Eventually, our course takes us away from the canal into wetland trails for the final stretch of the hike, passing through some residential backyards into Delaware City and finally back to Battery Park. As I walk toward the finish at the shore of the Delaware River, a hiker notices my cameras and tells me that there is an American Bald Eagle on a tree not far from where I stand. I hurry onto a nearby dock just in time to catch it proudly perched on a branch moments before it flies away.

I’ve been to Delaware many times, hurriedly driving from one side to the other on my way to somewhere else. I could drive back and forth all day and never really see anything, but in five hours I walked across it and discovered Delaware for the very first time.

Alan Murray is Uncharted’s President and one of its co-founders. To learn more about Uncharted, sign up today and we’ll let you know when our new online exploration community is ready. 

 

Uncharted 2014 Calendar

coverrevisedA new year is coming soon and we just finished making our first-ever Uncharted calendar!  Our team talked about how it would be great to have something we could hang on our wall or give to our family and friends that would be a great conversation starter and visually remind us each day of how great it is to go out and explore the world.

A calendar seemed like a great option, so we ran with the idea and now we’re excited to start taking orders and sending these out.  It features previews of future Uncharted stories and some of our favorite scenes from memorable journeys, as well as a photo of one of Uncharted’s explorers, Lisa Dickson, exploring a waterfall in a canyon near her home. You can easily order your copy online and get it in time for the holidays. Place your order on or before November 21 and have it in time for Christmas.

Driving and Demons in Wyoming

By Alan Murray,
Uncharted Staff

The sun sets over Medicine Bow National Park in southeastern Wyoming. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

The sun sets over Medicine Bow National Park in southeastern Wyoming. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

There is a demon in Wyoming. It lives somewhere between Cheyenne and Laramie. It broods in the air over Interstate Highway 80 around 8000 feet above sea level. They say all kinds of things happen to cars along that road. Steep mountainous terrain, freezing temperatures and fierce winds strain engines, exhaust gas tanks and oppose passage to more hospitable roads.

It was there, on a cold September day that threatened snow, in the place where cell phones go dark, just before the small town of Buford, population of one, that my car met that demon and died.

I was almost halfway through a trek across 19 states when without warning it lost power while climbing a mountain pass. I crawled at 20 mph on the shoulder of the road, my four-way flashers frantically blinking in distress, as traffic swarmed by at high velocities.

I drove at this embarrassing pace for nearly half an hour when help arrived – at least that’s what I thought. Another car pulled off the road just ahead. Relieved, I exited the vehicle just as the other driver shouted, “I just ran out of gas. Can you give me a lift to the nearest station?”  I moved my supplies out of the front passenger seat to make room for another stranded motorist and we continued crawling up the mountainside.

Two or three miles later we arrived at the only gas station in Buford.  The station manager, accustomed to motorists in distress, wrote from memory the number for the nearest towing service.

The tow truck came and I parted with my gas-searching hitchhiker. For over 20 miles as we headed toward Laramie, the tow truck driver recounted tales of the demise of other cars he had rescued on that stretch of highway – victims of breakdowns, accidents and severe weather. He talked of terrible whiteout conditions, snow, freezing temperatures and his narrow escapes from these menaces, reminding me that snow was in the forecast already in September.

It was Saturday. When my car finally arrived at the dealership, it was closed.  I was stuck in southeastern Wyoming for the weekend.

My next stop was supposed to be Arches National Park in southern Utah, where I had planned to camp for a couple of days and work on some projects for Uncharted’s online exploration community now under development. Instead, I rented a room and waited.

The following Monday I paced back and forth outside the dealership anxiously awaiting the verdict, hoping it would be a simple fix. It was anything but simple. There was no telling how long it would take to fix my car – if it could be fixed at all.

I wasn’t ready to give up. I had traveled almost 2000 miles and I wasn’t going to let this mechanical nightmare keep me cooped up in a stuffy hotel. I had to find some way of turning this frustrating situation into something good. I rented a car and ventured into Medicine Bow National Forest just west of Laramie. The road climbed higher and higher until it turned to dirt. The weather was clear as the sun began its descent, creating  canvases of spectacular cloud formations and patterns of light perfect for photography. Images of this scene are available at Uncharted’s new Etsy Shop, another way we bring our adventures (even the ones where things go wrong) into your home or office with prints and gallery wrapped canvases. While admittedly I was in a frustrating situation, had my car not broken down, I would have hastily passed through Wyoming to my next destination without ever discovering the many spectacular scenes and unique stories it offers to those willing to get off the interstate and explore.

The next day, with my car still on life support, I resolved to get back on schedule and complete my journey. Since by then the national parks were closed, I abandoned my plans for southern Utah and headed to my next stop near Salt Lake City.

From that point on, my car and I parted ways. From Utah I took my rental back through Wyoming, to Colorado, through Kansas to Missouri, to Illinois, through Kentucky, to Tennessee, into the Carolinas, up to Virginia, then West Virginia, through Maryland and back home to Pennsylvania.

My car went by some other route, hauled by a shipping service. The demon had one more trick to play, however. The truck hauling my car also broke down, delaying its return by a few days. It’s now on life support at a local shop.

So, if you’re traveling across the country and venture through Wyoming, beware of the demon that lives between Cheyenne and Laramie, somewhere near Buford, population of one, with one gas station.

Alan Murray is Uncharted’s President and one of its co-founders. He just finished a tour of 19 states as we prepare for the début of Uncharted’s new online exploration community. To learn more, sign up and we’ll let you know when it’s ready. 

National Park Alternatives During Government Shutdown

By Alan Murray,
Uncharted Staff

A coyote follows a bison as it walks on the shores of the Great Salt Lake at Antelope Island State Park near Syracuse, Utah. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

A coyote follows a bison as it walks on the shores of the Great Salt Lake at Antelope Island State Park near Syracuse, Utah. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

One of the things I wanted to do on my month-long trek across the United States was visit some national parks. Top on my list was Arches National Park in southern Utah.

While I lived and worked in Utah for over ten years, somehow I never managed to visit this picturesque national park with its iconic 65-foot tall freestanding natural arch near Moab.

I naturally found plenty of lesser known places to explore throughout the state, but before I knew it I had moved away without ever having experienced life at this spectacular place featured on Utah’s license plates and visited by travelers from around the world.

It’s ironic that I would now venture over 2000 miles from home to visit a place that was once only a four-hour drive from where I lived.

I planned to be at Arches for two days of camping by Sept. 30.

A car breakdown in Wyoming (another story for another time) delayed my arrival and the next day the United States closed its national parks in response to a government shutdown.

It’s important to mention that while the closure of national parks is an inconvenience to travelers like myself, that there are far more serious consequences from the government shutdown that have affected people’s health care, income and employment, including some of Uncharted’s own. Our thoughts go with all those who are affected adversely by this difficult situation. We hope it will soon be resolved.

But, if you find yourself in a situation where the closure of a national park is affecting your travel plans and you’re not brave enough to sneak in, you might consider some really cool state parks. Utah’s governor recently requested that its state parks honor National Park Service passes during the federal government shutdown. The passes are valid for day-use only. Utah has also published a very helpful travel advisory with plenty of state-run alternatives to closed national parks.

Since I was in Utah during the first part of the shutdown, I decided to visit a place I once frequented while working as a newspaper photographer but had never really had time to thoroughly explore.

Antelope Island State Park on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake is open year-round and offers camping, biking, boating and mountain biking. It’s also a great place to view wildlife including a herd of over 500 bison, some Pronghorn antelope, coyotes, badgers, bobcats, hawks and falcons.

After several hours exploring the island, I saw a bison walking slowly across a dry patch of the Great Salt Lake normally covered by water. A few moments later, a scrawny coyote creeps out from behind some brush and stealthily trails the bison. Something else startles it and it runs back into hiding.

It’s not a national park, but Antelope Island State Park is open and it’s a great alternative to the many national parks now closed.

 Alan Murray is Uncharted’s President and one of it’s co-founders who still hasn’t been to Arches National Park. To learn more about Uncharted and the new online exploration community we are building, sign up and we’ll let you know when it’s ready so you can share about your own adventures. 

Exploring Wisconsin Cheese

By Alan M. Murray,
Uncharted Staff

Uncharted's Alan Murray stands outside the Wisconsin Cheese & Wine Chalet in Edgerton, Wi. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

Uncharted’s Alan Murray stands outside the Wisconsin Cheese & Wine Chalet in Edgerton, Wi. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

I’ve never seen so much cheese. Over a week ago I began a month-long road trip from Pennsylvania to the western United States. My trip has taken me to Lake Erie through Ohio, to Michigan and then to northern Illinois, to Iowa, through Nebraska and now Wyoming. While in Illinois I was so close to Wisconsin that I just had to divert from my planned course to see what all this talk of cheese is about.

Wisconsin’s welcome center is near the state line in Beloit just off Interstate 90. They have tons of useful maps and brochures along with knowledgeable staff ready to point out  interesting facts and locations that someone passing through on the interstate might otherwise miss.

One of the first things they proudly handed me was a map showing 161 locations throughout the state all related in some way to cheese. Since Wisconsin dairies produce over 600 varieties of cheese and their dairy farms average 100 cows per farm, most of which are family owned, I guess having a map of cheese locations is useful.

With my new map, I set out in search of places where I could taste some cheese. As it turns out I didn’t really need the map. I hadn’t even driven 30 minutes north where I saw a huge sign towering over a service station with the word “CHEESE” prominently displayed over bright yellow at the top of the sign.

You can get this map showing 161 points of interest about cheese at the Wisconsin Welcome Center in Benoit. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

You can get this map showing 161 points of interest about cheese at the Wisconsin Welcome Center in Benoit. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

The Wisconsin Cheese & Wine Chalet sells just about any kind of cheese you can imagine –– Garlic Brick, Veggie Cheddar, Cajun Colby, 8-year Cheddar, 3-year Cheddar, 2-Year Cheddar, Tomato Basil Farmers, Caraway Havarti and much more. There are blocks of cheese, cheese curds, slices and spreads.

In just a few minutes I went through about 20 toothpicks savoring only a half-dozen different cheeses. I now understand why people miss the cheese when they move away from here.

Just 50 miles west of Beloit is Monroe, known as the Swiss Cheese Capital of the United States, where I visited the Alp and Dell Cheese Store. Connected to the Roth Kase Cheese Factory, those visiting the store can also tour the factory and view a short video on making cheese. There are also plenty of samples to try.

Since I arrived in the early afternoon and most of the work happens in the morning, there were no scheduled tours. But I was lucky. Some workers were finishing up one last batch and they let me go back to a small viewing area where I could see them in action and later watch the video.

It’s also not surprising that a state that claims to have as many cows as school children would have plenty of cheese-themed restaurants –– like Baumgartner Cheese Store and Tavern. Open since 1931 and specializing in cheese sandwiches, it’s one of the oldest cheese stores in Wisconsin. Since I already had my fill of cheese at the last two stops, I ordered a smoked brat instead – covered in cheese. If you can take your mind off eating for a moment and look up, you’ll see clusters of dollar bills pinned to the ceiling. Donated by customers, the bills are taken down at the end of each year and given to charity.

And tasting cheese isn’t all there is to do with cheese in Wisconsin. You can also view a 300-pound hanging Wisconsin Provolone at the Tenuta’s Delicatessen and tour the Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha.

 Alan Murray is Uncharted’s president. When Uncharted’s new online community of explorers is ready you can help Alan by visiting Wisconsin and sharing about your adventures tasting cheese. Sign up and we’ll let you know when it’s ready.

Road Trip

By Alan M. Murray,
Uncharted Staff

Alan Murray, Uncharted's President and co-founder prepares for an evening photo shoot while camping along the shores of Lake Erie on the Pennsylvania side. (© Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

Alan Murray, Uncharted’s President and co-founder, prepares for an evening photo shoot while camping along the shores of the Pennsylvania side of Lake Erie.  (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

I’m living in my car. The trunk is full. The back seats are packed with supplies and there’s no room for a hitchhiker. I’ll be on the road for an entire month, looking for new places and in search of stories to share when Uncharted’s new online community of explorers is ready.

Photo and video equipment, extra batteries, lanterns, flashlights, a camp stove, a tent, warm and cold weather clothing (I have seen snow in some parts of the United States in July, and it’s September), firewood, a first aid kit and a compass are just a few of the things I’m taking with me as I travel from my home in the Philadelphia, Pa. area to the western United States.

I’m now camping on one of the the largest fresh water beaches in the United States near the border of Presque Isle State Park in Erie, Pa. It’s just a six-hour drive into my trip, small in comparison with the rest of my journey.  While the park doesn’t offer camping, there are plenty of privately owned sites nearby that have an excellent view of the lake and easy access to the park. I have a good one too. My tent is just 50 feet from the water and for 75 cents you can cheat and get a hot shower. I went snorkeling in the lake but didn’t see anything other than stones, algae and one kayak. Later I continued working on a long-term project photographing night skies and enjoyed the warmth of my campfire. My next stop is Michigan.

Alan Murray is Uncharted’s President. He’s on the road now and admits that even though he brought chocolate bars and graham crackers, he somehow forgot jumbo sized marshmallows and will not be able to make s’mores on this part of his trip. To learn more about progress on Uncharted’s online community for explorers sign up to be notified when it’s ready. 

Stalking Egrets and Kayaking Canals

By Alan M. Murray,
Uncharted Staff

A Great Egret holds a small fish along the Delaware Canal at Delaware Canal State Park in Yardley, Pa. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

A Great Egret holds a small fish along the Delaware Canal at Delaware Canal State Park in Yardley, Pa. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

I have always wanted to try kayaking. As an experienced canoeist, I often cross paths with kayakers while exploring wetlands, marshes and lakes, each time secretly wishing I could trade my clunkier canoe for their much swifter, more maneuverable kayak. Almost every time I go canoeing, I think, “I should rent a kayak next time,” but I just never got around to it – until now.

Last weekend I found a kayaking activity at Delaware Canal State Park in Yardley, Pa., just one hour from my home near Philadelphia. The activity, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), provides brief instruction for beginners and takes them on a guided trip along the Delaware Canal. For a $10 donation, the department provides kayaks, life vests and paddles. It’s a great opportunity to try out a kayak and at the same time explore a place full of wildlife and beautiful scenery.

The park follows the canal, a manmade navigation channel constructed in the 1800s that parallels the Delaware River on the Pennsylvania side. This gives the park an odd shape as it is about 60 miles long, but only 10 feet wide in some places.

Most of our group had never kayaked. Sarah Berg, an environmental education specialist with the department, teaches us how to get in and out of our kayaks without tipping them and shows us how to use the double-bladed paddle.

Uncharted's President and co-founder kayaks on the Delaware Canal in Yardley, Pa. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

Alan Murray, Uncharted’s President and co-founder kayaks on the Delaware Canal in Yardley, Pa. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

A few minutes later we’re floating down the canal, weaving in and out of aquatic plant life, trees and narrow streams. A Great Blue Heron, camouflaged in the upper branches of a tree, peers quietly down as we pass. Another stands behind some brush nearby. Further down the canal, a fox patiently waits in a statue-like stance for us to pass.

Two miles later we’re back where we started. While loading kayaks onto the trailer, someone turns around to see a Great Egret walking along the shore. I grab my camera and hurriedly switch to my longest lens, a 300mm. I tiptoe toward it thinking I’ll probably be lucky if I get even one shot off before it flies away.

I slowly raise my camera, focus, and snap the first photo. To my surprise, it doesn’t even seem to notice me and continues walking toward me along the shore, intently focused on catching its next meal. I keep shooting.

The egret is now less than ten feet away. I’m starting to feel cramped and wondering if I chose the wrong lens since I keep having to walk backwards to fit the bird in the frame.

It stretches its long neck down just above the water and pauses. I hold my breath and wait. In one swift motion, it snatches a small fish and in an instant gobbles it up. It ruffles its feathers in satisfaction and fearlessly continues walking towards me as I walk backwards taking photos and trying not to trip over myself. One would wonder who is afraid of whom.

Ironically, it was a small leashed dog out for an evening walk – you know, the kind with the annoying squeaky bark – that finally scared it away.  The owner apologized for scaring the bird, but I’d already gotten some great shots.

For me, Delaware Canal State Park is not some far off place. I made the drive in an hour and the kayak trip in just under two with plenty of time to spare for dinner. While I love venturing to distant remote locations, it’s nice to know that with a little exploration we can find cool things to see and experience in our own backyards.

Alan Murray is Uncharted’s President and one of its co-founders. He likes snowshoes and scuba diving, and despite making fun of small dogs in this post, he likes them too. If you would like to learn more about Uncharted, sign up and we’ll notify you when our new online club for explorers is ready and keep you posted on our latest adventures, workshops and other cool products. If you would like Alan to apologize to your small dog, feel free to comment below.