For twelve years our extracurricular lives were filled with Basketball & Softball. Most nights and weekends throughout the year would find us squeaking around on a shiny hardwood basketball court or enjoying that sweet metallic pinging sound of an aluminum bat connecting with a windmill pitched neon green softball. Our daughter loved these two sports and we loved coaching and watching her play.

Then came High School and the competition ramped up. Basketball was the first casualty with statewide recruited talent replacing Rec League standouts. Softball followed in the Spring. Our chosen school only fielded a Varsity team with no Freshman making the cut. Luckily, most kids are resilient, and our daughter was no exception. After a few tears and angry rants, the Crew coach spotted our 5’- 10” 170pound Freshman and convinced her to give Crew a try. Time to Google Crew and see what we were about to get ourselves into.

My first exposure to Crew happened one summer afternoon as I passed by a TV showing a Crew race during the Summer Olympics. Those teams were speeding along the surface synchronized and smooth with no sails and no motors! Just muscle and grit. Scrolling along online I discovered that our daughter and 7 teammates would now be spending a few hours after school each day in a 60 foot long, 23-inch-wide fiberglass boat. When fully loaded the boat cruised along less than a foot above a calm surface. The more I read the more I learned to appreciate the depth of our daughter’s courage and determination to compete in a team sport at the high school level. Races are 1500 meters long not counting the row out to the course and the row back. Also, add in carrying a 300-pound $50,000 boat to and from the launch. Respectable times for her gender and experience level was around 7 to 8 minutes depending on a tailwind or headwind. The teamwork and coordination required just to keep these boats upright tested the patience of our seasoned coach who managed to mold these young ladies with no experience into a formidable squad. We took home first place in our last Regatta of the spring season.

Besides the joy and excitement of watching our daughter compete we quickly discovered a lively bunch of parents fully engrossed in a fun tailgating like atmosphere during each Regatta. Setting up our team tents and concessions required a coordinated effort with the dads lugging in and erecting the set up as the Mom’s swooped in and made everything look clean, organized and appetizing. We dads kept the grill hot and the moms moved the hungry rowers in and out like well-trained military unit. When our rowers wandered back from their heat races with red faces and healthy appetites our spread of food and drink never disappointed. Crew had now become our favorite team sport. Outdoors lakeside or riverside cheering on our girls with rowdy parents and cowbells had us rolling out of bed at 4:30 am on Regatta mornings with smiles on our faces. Even when the weather didn’t fully cooperate we didn’t mind because we were toasty and dry on shore while our badass daughters were out on the water braving the elements in spandex uniforms pulling their oars for bragging rights over the other local teams.

Now that we have a season under our belts the biggest benefit I have seen with becoming part of this sport is watching the effect it has had on my daughter and her teammates both mentally and physically. Once you survive a few practices out on the water in the rain with temps in the 40’s the stuff you used to whine about (Having to wear a heavy coat, getting your hair wet ETC) all seem pretty lame. Weather extremes and physical exertion were now accepted and no longer considered game changers or spoilers. Our daughters’ confidence level rose, and her body toned up with an increase in energy level as well. Even her academic performance and social life improved with the increased confidence. Overall the outdoors was a much less intimidating place to be for her and we all began enjoying more spare time outside. Walking, hiking and bicycling replaced social media surfing and TV watching. We still enjoy taking in an occasional basketball or softball but for now, outside is the place to be for us.


Finally! After watching several perfect days in April slip past,  I was about to embark on my first trip of the year in the Kayak. Arriving at a spot that has been screaming my name for as long as I can remember I was about to enter my retreat; my church. Dad said, “Drop it in down the end of the street there and its about three miles or so up to Greensboro”. Seemed like this trip up one of Maryland’s many scenic rivers would be more on the “or so” side but I didn’t mind. I had a rare afternoon all to myself.

Scooting off into the Choptank from the old concrete ramp and dilapidated bulkhead, I entered a whole new world with just one pull of the paddle. The tide was flowing upstream towards my destination of Greensboro so I stroked and drifted with the tide hoping to catch a slack or outgoing tide during my return. The choir started barely 50 yards from the ramp. Gliding along the outer edge of a patchwork carpet of lily pads,  the first Great Blue Heron of the day scolded me with a guttural squawk as he glided effortlessly just a few feet off the surface, upstream and around a bend. I noticed a little ache in my cheeks from smiling as I was also surprised at the clarity of the water in this brackish environment. I could see the stems of the pads stretching towards the bottom 2-3 feet down. As I rounded the first bend an Osprey began to protest from its driftwood nest atop an old channel marker. A sign which read “Children Swimming” hung on the marker as well. Such an appropriate nesting spot. Strangely, on this weekend before the first big holiday of the summer season, I had yet to hear or see another soul enjoying the river. The view from my seat just a few inches above the surface absorbed every ounce of stress from my body. Overcast, light gray skies and black water separated by brilliantly green trees and the bow of my red Kayak would have inspired the most novice painter with a canvas and brush.

Wildlife was abundant and tolerant to my invasion and I felt like one lucky fan in a stadium all to his own, on the edge of his seat watching the pros. Eagles and Ospreys diving for fish; turtles catching some daylight and breeze atop ancient stumps while Ducks and Geese herded their offspring closer to the banks as I drifted by. Up ahead to my right I noticed a serene, secluded cove and as maneuvered around a slight bend ducking under a tree limb a whitetail buck, just sprouting new antlers,  snorted in my direction from the back of the cove. His auburn summer coat against the green backdrop of the woods glistened as he stood knee deep in the dark water, gauging my intentions. He stayed just long enough for a quick but fuzzy picture and with a flick of his tail, and a quick hop, he melted into the bushes. Luckily the picture in my head is much clearer than the one on my camera.

Beyond the trees on the bank, a distant sound of a tractor working a field reminded me of civilization and I started wondering why I had not paddled into Greensboro yet. Phone service was only registering a bar or two so instead of checking to see where I was, I decided to turn back to Denton. Two hours had just evaporated in what seemed like minutes, but luckily the tide was nearly slack and easy to paddle against for my return. I veered off “trail” a bit on the way back to explore a partially submerged abandoned houseboat appropriately named “Better Days”. A raccoon and a few turtles scattered toward shore as I approached. The day was so peaceful and quiet that I could almost hear the family enjoying the better days on their once floating summer escape. Digging for Denton in an efficient blur of paddle strokes, I flushed a few more Herons and a couple Cranes in route to a til we meet again salute to the momma Osprey I disturbed a few hours earlier. She was a bit more tolerant this time, allowing me to get close enough for a powerful picture of her lifting off from the nest.

Approaching the old neighborhood ramp I couldn’t help but realize how lucky and fortunate I was to have spent a few hours on this beautiful Tributary. Another half mile downstream cars and trucks traversed the river on the Route 404 bridge, seemingly oblivious to the beauty below them. Hopefully, they were all either traveling to or from their own outdoor sanctuary.

I had called ahead and Dad was waiting at the old ramp. I choked up a bit realizing his 80year old self is the one who introduced me to the great outdoors some 45 years ago. “What you think of Greensboro”, he asked when we got back to the house. “Don’t know if I missed it or came up short. Doesn’t matter”, I said as we looked at a map of the river pinned to the garage wall. Turns out the three miles to Greensboro he referred to was by vehicle. The distance by boat turned out to be over 7 miles. I turned around at about the 6-mile mark. I’ll make it to Greensboro next time and maybe Dad will join me in his own kayak. Never expected I would I would feel better at the end of a 12-mile paddle than at the beginning. Well, better mentally anyway.


This opinion piece will probably irk a few folks but I am concerned about the direction in which the hunting industry is headed! Advances in technology are normally awesome and improve our lives but mixing technology and hunting is not my idea of improving the sport. All of this new technology and gadgetry are producing lazy hunters and spoiling the purity and main focus of hunting. That main focus is getting outside and enjoying nature and all of her surprises. Sure we want to put meat on the table but let’s face it if you can afford to get into hunting these days you are not going to starve if you miss an opportunity or two to harvest a game animal. On the eve of any hunting trip I plan, I can hardly sleep in anticipation of what awaits the next morning. I’m not browsing through my latest trail cam pics to see what would be the best time to get in the stand or wondering about if I set the timer right on the feeder. I’m not checking to see if the Ozonics is charged to mask my sent or gathering all of my camera equipment in preparation to film my hunt. To me, all of that just defeats the purpose. How can you go out and truly enjoy the experience if you have to worry about all that? I want to be pleasantly surprised by what I see not constantly checking my phone for the time or looking for that alert from my trail cam that a deer is heading my way! We already have enough of an advantage with camo clothing and advanced weaponry. This year I plan to downsize and streamline my approach to hunting. Hell, I might even ditch the backpack and actually use some of the 8000 pockets on my fancy hunting pants!

I as I often do each summer, sitting on a beach with a cold one, I review last hunting season. This season I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the ridiculous events. My poor dad had a great opportunity to harvest a beautiful 8 point buck during archery season but when shifting his foot in preparation to draw his bow, his boot collided with his backpack full of “just in case gear” and sent it hurtling out of his tree stand for a noisy meeting with the ground. The buck ran off about 20yards out of range and gave dad that “you dumb ass look” and casually walked off.  When we met up back at the truck for lunch, no more than 300yards away from both of our stands, we emptied our packs and took inventory.

Multi-tool, buck knife, roll of toilet paper, rangefinder, rattling horns, grunt call, binoculars, flashlight, batteries, bottle of cover sent, drag rope and harness, butt out, gloves, apple, granola bar, crackers, slim jim, Bottle of water, bullets from gun season last year, face mask, mosquito repellent, camo duck tape, kitchen sink (just kidding about the sink but you get the idea). Each one of our packs contained these items and remember the location of our truck. Crazy. Aaaaaand most of the time we have access to an ATV to help remove any deer we are lucky enough to harvest.

I know there are a lot of hard-working folks out there that make their living documenting, filming and presenting their hunts on TV and numerous guide services that depend on this technology. I watch some of those shows and I am currently looking into using an outfitter for an elk hunt. I have even softened a little and put a hunting app on my phone mostly as a land management tool. I understand the business and don’t fault them for using these innovations for greater success, but for me, less is more. I go afield expecting to “fail” but I am not out there for success. I am out there for the experience of being in the animals’ kingdom and trying to put myself in the right place at the right time using just my god given senses and ability to read the natural sign, terrain, food sources, and weather. The thrill of the chase and the escape from the rat race is what keeps me coming out. That is what I want to pass on to my offspring. I don’t want to pick out a buck from a trail camera, name it, log the times and places where it comes and goes then set up a heated blind with a scent killing machine and tell my child “ok you have 1 hour to play on your cell phone until the buck shows up”. A small bit of exaggeration there but I have watched that scenario play out too many times on TV. We must draw the line somewhere and get back to basics to promote the pure joy of spending time in the outdoors. The memories we make sharing time outdoors with our families, friends and ourselves are the experiences that stay fresh in our mind for a lifetime.


Well, I’ve had enough. Losing my breath while bending over to tie my boots was the last straw. Roll upon roll cut off my air supply as I reached for the laces and the struggle disgusted and scared me a bit! Diets are only a temporary fix and it was time to practice what I preached when I was busting on all those folks I knew who were trying the latest fad diet; eat right and exercise is the only solution. Probably could cut back on the adult beverages as well. So that’s it. No more excuses, no more last hurrahs. I stumbled on a great deal for a new pair of running shoes last week foreshadowing my current declaration. Tomorrow morning, I Run!

Not that I hated exercise (I love to work out with free weights and bicycle) I just never really liked the idea of running or jogging 5k’s or even a .5K! Little aerobic exercise and poor eating habits had taken its toll. My alarm was set for 5 AM but my eyes popped open at 4:30. I laid there for a few minutes contemplating what I was about to do. For final motivation, I grabbed my belly with both hands overflowing and rolled out of bed. I quietly changed into my running attire and stepped outside onto the front porch. I smiled as the cool, quiet September morning greeted my senses. I could smell the grass I cut the afternoon before mixing in with the earthy rich smell of leaves starting to turn colors and die on the trees. I loved this time of day. Reminded me of sitting in my tree stand waiting for first light. I had thought about this moment many times over the last few years and it was starting off better than I had imagined. My plan was to start this process slowly with intervals of walking and running during the first week. The first quarter mile was the toughest. So bad that I envisioned myself wearing a sports bra to quiet my bouncing pectoral muscles! Gradually, by the end of the first mile, my muscles tightened a bit and the jiggling became bearable. During one of my walking intervals, I even briefly forgot that I live inside the city limits. Pausing for a moment where one of the streetlights had flamed out I was able to look up and see a nice patch of stars filtering through the treetops. I had our little urban neighborhood all to myself for the moment and I was glad it was still dark enough to hide the sweaty mess I had become. All things considered, I was tolerating this running thing better than I hoped. I was probably still a long way from experiencing that Runner’s High, but I felt a little buzz as I turned down my street and spotted my house less than a quarter mile away. Time to finish strong. Keeping my eyes glued to the finish line of our house I launched out of my last walking interval into a brief sprint and then into a more manageable trot. Arriving back home I put my hands on my head and plodded up and down the sidewalk out front until my breathing returned to normal from the 3 miles of abuse. By the looks of my clothes, any neighbor waking up and peeking outside may have thought it was raining when they saw me. I was pleasantly surprised by how good I felt as my initial dread turned to hope. I would absolutely try and stick with this routine and shave a minute or two off my time tomorrow. I often say it, but I had just experienced more evidence that the answers to some of life biggest problems can be discovered with a little time outdoors to clear your mind and soul.