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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.

Sneak Peak Teaser – pics and audio

By GeoJoe,
Uncharted Staff

(Editor’s note: Links in this post no longer function. We apologize for the inconvenience.)

Here’s something that we threw together to give a sneak peak at some of the photos and type of content we’ll be posting later this year in the new release. It takes a little while to load. We have figured out how to make sure content like this loads much faster, so no worries for our future content.

My favorite part of the teaser is the photo and audio from the Wind Caves located in Logan Canyon, Utah. Other photos were taken at the Snake River & Shoshone Falls, Idaho, and Great Salt Lake and Bear Lake, Utah. I wish I could take as good of pics as some of these guys on our team. I’m just the communications guy… anything I take that is good happens purely by luck!

Enjoy the teaser!

And by all means let me know what you think so far.

Let the Adventure Begin

By Geojoe
Uncharted Staff

…or, let it begin again. Over a year ago someone talked me into helping build a website for people that like the outdoors, active lifestyle, and the likes. That person was my friend who is an award-winning journalist. This same friend talks me into doing a lot of stuff I probably shouldn’t do, like going on trips to Nicaragua. Yes. I was hesitant despite his professional background. Interestingly, the idea actually started up as a printed publication, and here we are one year later paying a programmer to build an innovative website.

So now its time to start a new adventure… to share the Uncharted adventure with everyone. Everything about the site was designed to help people like us explore new places and experiences, share those experiences with others, and highlight the magnificence of some of the greatest places in the world. We first published Uncharted back in 2006, and have since then been working on more improvements. Uncharted’s 2007 revision will be awesome and I’m amazed how incredible this team is.

I’ll keep you posted on this adventure every step of the way. As a brief intro, I’m the Communications Director and a founding member of Great Divide Media, LLC, and I work full time in an International Affairs career. I graduated from Utah State University in Logan UT with a BA in Communications and minors in International Studies and Chinese… and yes, I do speak Chinese. I’ve traveled to over 30 nations on 4 continents. I worked as a Media Relations Rep for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. I am a licensed pilot, and way too many hobbies to list. Name one and I bet I do it or at least am willing to try! That’s me.

Going back to Nicaragua… in the end it turned out to be a blast. We took the risk of going to a crazy place, discovered places that hardly anyone knows about, and now the experiences are priceless. That’s exactly why I’m spending countless hours helping to build Uncharted. I hope I can help other people find great friends and info like I’ve been able to which make life an adventure. Stay plugged in here and I’ll keep you posted on our happenings. Come back and visit this blog and share it with any of your friends who might be interested. I look forward to meeting all of you!