After retiring (for the 2nd and last time) in December 2021, I’ve been able to spend a lot more time with my Dad. One of his and my favorite past times is to go fishing. He has 2 boats (a smaller creek boat and a larger lake boat).
He lives in South Georgia and is only 5 minutes from Spring Creek. We either fish off the bank or float down the creek in the creek boat. Sometimes we go to Lake Seminole for lake fishing.
I love the outdoors, nature and spending time with my Dad. My favorite part of any fishing trip is when we get into the boat and start moseying down the creek or lake — my Dad at the helm and me taking in the views.
As you cruise the lakes and creeks, you get glimpses of nature at its best — like this eagles nest.
But nothing is more fun than reeling them in and cheering each other on.
My Dad and I started following this expert fisherman on Youtube — his name is Richard Gene the Fishing Machine and he is incredible. He ends every video the same — with these words of wisdom:
Just over a mile from our home is Camp Helen State Park where in the early 1950’s a fishing pier (referred to as the Inlet Beach Pier) was constructed. Families gathered to fish, swim, collect shells and find shade from the brutal Florida sun.
In 1975, the pier took a hit from Hurricane Eloise, a CAT 4 storm that punished it with 120 mph winds. Most of the pier was lost but what remained became an icon for the Inlet Beach area.
Locals and tourists staying in Inlet Beach, Rosemary Beach, Seacrest, Alys Beach, and towns further down Scenic 30a made it a habit to walk to the pier along the crystal emerald shores. The pier was a great turnaround point where people could hang out, swim, or just rest before returning home.
When heading west from Panama City Beach, each time I crossed the Lake Powell bridge of Phillips Inlet, I would look south to spot the decaying pier. It was visible just in the distance and it became a habit to glance that way. A few weeks ago I glanced over and no longer saw the pier. I thought my eyes were deceiving me but later learned that it had been taken down.
Sadly, here is how it looks today. Other than a few pilings barely visible under the water, it’s completely gone.
In 2014, a sailboat washed ashore adjacent to the pier. It was loaded with all kinds of goodies (a kid’s bike, solar panels, sonar and more). We figured the owner would have it towed soon.
The sailboat sat there for 5 months until the county removed it. By the time they did, it had been swept from the original location to the back of the pier and was submerged in the sand.
Here are a few more pictures I’ve taken over the years. RIP Inlet Beach Pier!
If you want to learn more about Inlet Beach and the Inlet Beach Pier, MarineMax put together a phenomenal video:
A short 1 hour and 15 minute drive from our place in Arundel Maine is a sleepy fishing village called Bailey Island. It’s a dog friendly spot that’s perfect for a day-trip.
With a population of 400, this small island is located in Casco Bay, a part of the town of Harpswell, Maine. Legend has it that in 1742, Timothy Bailey purchased this island for a pound of tobacco and a gallon of rum from William Black who moved to an adjoining town, Orr’s Island.
Bailey Island is home to the only known cribstone bridge in the world made up of rocks, sand and gravel. The unique design allows tides to flow freely through it and boats to easily navigate its narrow passage.
As you enter Bailey Island, you see “Morse Lobster”. A stone’s throw away from it is “The Nubble”, a bait shack used by Lobster fishermen.
Our aim was to view “The Giant’s Steps”, a rock formation on the edge of the island that looks like a large flight of stairs. On our way there, we stopped at Mackerel Cove, a quaint cove filled with boats, fishermen, and small shops.
A short drive later we reached “The Giant’s Stairs”. Our dog Ziggi enjoyed the short hike to the ocean’s edge.
Our final stop was “Land’s End”, a rocky beach at the tip of the island. From there you can faintly see a lighthouse in the distance.
We had big plans. Rent a NYC apartment in the Upper West Side and enjoy all that NYC has to offer – Broadway, museums, incredible dining and entertainment, Central Park, Macy’s Day Parade, Christmas and New Years in the Big Apple. Learn what’s it’s like to live in a really big city that’s always buzzing.
It started off well. We committed to a year lease in an apartment in the Upper West Side at the corner of Central Park and mid-town. It was Fall, the leaves were turning bright orange.
We saw Bruce Springsteen and several others on Broadway. We visited all the major museums and enjoyed the Macy’s Day Parade by stepping just outside our apartment.
As Peloton enthusiasts, we even worked out at the Peloton studio with one of our favorite instructors (Ally Love).
Christmas came quickly and we were beginning to feel like a local — finding our favorite restaurants and finding nooks and crannies of Central Park that tourists probably won’t see.
We brought in the New Year and watched the fireworks over Central Park.
A New Day
The end of year came and we headed back to warmer weather in Florida. We excitingly started making plans for Spring and Summer 2020 in NYC. We bought tickets to lots of Broadway shows – Westside Story, The Music Man, and more. We bought tickets to see Jerry Seinfeld and to a Kenny Chesney concert towards the end of summer.
It was March 2020 and we traveled back to NYC to see Jerry Seinfeld. Just days before our travel, we heard about this new virus called Corona Virus and the possibility of it spreading to America. Broadway was still open and Jerry Seinfeld had not be been cancelled — surely things are OK, we’ll keep our plans.
A day after we arrived, things were starting to get real. Seinfeld was cancelled and so was all the Broadway shows. We quickly hopped on a plane back to Florida to wait it out. It took a while until we could return. Governor Cuomo did an amazing job of keeping things locked down until the viral surge was under control.
We returned mid July but NYC was not the same. The streets were empty, you rarely saw a taxi, no horns were blaring and the city was no longer buzzing. Restaurants were outside dining only or take out. Even Time Square was eerily empty.
We decided to make the best of it. We ate in and took long walks in Central Park. We saw pretty much every square inch of the park and it is beautiful.
Closing out our New York City Adventure
During all this craziness, we learned that our son Cameron and Kara were pregnant so we would become first time grandparents. They live in Maine and we want to be close to them so we decided to give up our NYC apartment and get a place in Kennebunk Maine (more on that later).
In September, we returned to NYC for one last visit before leaving for Maine. We spent about a month in NYC and it had changed since July. More people were out and about but people were socially distancing and wearing masks. Broadway was still closed but restaurants were beginning to allow a smaller crowd to enter (still mostly outside seating). But the streets were starting to buzz again, taxis were back and the familiar horn blowing and city noise was returning. We ventured out to take in some sights that we missed earlier in the year.
Summing it Up
Although the universe had a different plan for us than envisioned for our year in New York City, we still thoroughly enjoyed it. New York City is such a great city and we are happy we had this experience. I will leave you with a couple of final images.
It was early March and we were narrowing down our international travel plans for 2020. China and Tibet seem interesting. We were visualizing the Great Wall and visits to Tibet monasteries. Then the pandemic hit. China and Tibet will have to wait.
Fast forward 4 months and we are living in a new normal. Never thought we would wear masks, avoid hugging friends, stop eating in restaurants, or generally avoid others.
After things calmed down (before the flare up in July), we decided to travel domestically to see more of the Northeast. We started in Maine where our oldest son lives. We traveled responsibly — vigilant in wearing our masks, keeping our distance from others and ordering take out. Here’s what we saw…
Maine is a beautiful state with awesome foliage, mountains, lakes, streams and access to the Atlantic Ocean. Beautiful light houses protect its rocky shores.
Our son and daughter-in-law have an amazing farm on 11 acres, complete with a barn, horse, goat, barn cat, and lots of flowering plants.
We had plenty of time to work on projects together. One of our fun projects was building a table together — very rewarding.
I also got a chance to work on my handicap with some nice golf courses around this area. They allow you to ride a single cart, golfers don’t shake or high five and we kept our distance. The new normal I guess.
Upstate New York
We’ve spent lots of time in New York City but never Upstate New York. Looking at the map, we spotted 11 elongated lakes resembling fingers — appropriately named the Finger Lakes. We had never heard much about them and was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful this area of the country is.
Many of the Finger Lakes are lined with a scenic drive along its shores with lots of wineries (great Rieslings) and craft breweries.
Astonishingly, this area has a large Amish population and you will invariably see them in horse and buggy along the roads.
The Hamptons (Long Island)
This was our first time visiting the Hamptons — New York City’s playground for the rich and famous. It was a bit different than I had visualized. It is densely populated with trees and the few roads in and out don’t provide a view of the beautiful beaches. It does not feel like a tropical area but has lots of shopping and upscale restaurants.
Once you get to the beaches, they are wonderful. Being from Inlet Beach, we are used to sugar sand beaches — these have a similar consistency with a yellow hue.
But this area has a lot of charm and I can see why it’s a relaxation spot for New Yorkers.
Apparently, it’s also legal to be chauffeured around by your 4 legged friends.
New York City
Our final stop was our beloved New York City. Things have really changed since our last visit. There are almost no tourists, so there are no crowded streets, few sirens blaring and almost no horns honking. Imagine that. No museums are open, restaurants are order out or outside seating only and Broadway shows are closed. Everyone wears masks and are diligent about social distancing. Andrew Como did a great job managing the pandemic and we feel as comfortable here as we do back home.
With everything closed, we’ve spent a lot of time walking every inch of Central Park.
Black Lives Matter. They always have.
I am often asked what type of camera I use to capture my photos. I mostly use my iPhone XR and a Nikon D500 if I need a long distance lens (but I rarely use it anymore). I’ve learned a lot about photography and it is more about your approach than what camera you choose to use. Once you learn the basics of composition and post-processing techniques, you can create stunning pictures that tell a story.
A year or so ago, I learned about an online photography class offered by Emil Pakarklis and it took my photography to the next level. If you want to hone your camera skills, it’s invaluable. Check it out here: https://iphonephotographyschool.com/author/emil/.
All of the pictures in this blog post were taken with my iPhone XR.
If you’ve wanted to visit Northern California, here are 7 spots you may want to visit:
Sonoma and Napa Valley
Muir Woods Redwoods
Sonoma and Napa Valley
If you’re in the mood for wine tasting, consider making Sonoma your hub. Cheaper than staying in Napa, it has amazing wineries and is a short 25 minute drive to Napa. A couple of our favorite wineries in Sonoma were Jacuzzi and B. R. Cohen.
Since we were staying 3 weeks, we rented a beautifully appointed rental home situated on a couple of acres surrounded by vineyards. We would wake up each morning to hot air balloons and jack rabbits scouting food among the vineyards.
This was the view we woke up to each day:
We also visited Napa. One of our favorite spots to visit is Frog’s Leap. Not for the wine so much, but for the farm surrounding the winery — it is beautifully done.
It also has some reasonably priced golfing — some built around vineyards. I golfed Eagle Vines Golf Course and the 2 pm tee time cost less than $30. Most tee boxes had views of vineyards that can be reached with your drive if not careful.
Just an hour drive from Sonoma is Bodega Bay — the iconic beach town where Alfred Hitchcock shot the 1963 movie “The Birds”. A coastal town, we rented a beach front house with amazing views.
Although it is about 20 degrees colder than Sonoma (in the 60’s), it was nice to wake up with these views.
The Links at Bodega Harbour offers spectacular views of the bay — this was a really fun golf course to play and if you play after noon, it’s not very expensive.
There are ample hiking opportunities in Bodega Bay, here was our view from one of our hikes.
We decided to drive north along the coast from Bodega Bay and we stumbled on Fort Ross. This was a great find, an old fort built my the Russians who occupied this land from 1812 to 1841. If you are in this area, it is certainly worth a stop.
In less than 45 minutes, you can drive from Bodega Bay to the Armstrong Redwoods. This impressive park has lots of huge redwoods and fun hikes.
If you’re feeling adventurous, take a 5 hour ride north to Mount Shasta. We dedicated a weekend to it. It is a beautiful mountain with great hiking but it also is a sacred site because it is a Chakra Center of Gaia. Just like our bodies, Earth reportedly has seven chakras, or energy processing centers and Mount Shasta is one.
While we were there, I was practicing creating long exposure shots with my iPhone and I took this picture on one of the hikes. Long exposure gives water a silky look. If you want to learn how to do this — shoot me an email.
Muir Woods Redwoods
Even more impressive than Armstrong Redwoods is Muir Woods Redwoods. This park is much bigger and you must purchase a ticket before you get there (you can do this online). It has miles of trails via boardwalk — if you are in the area, this is a must!
A short distance from Muir Woods is Stinson Beach — a beach with a bohemian vibe. If you are in the area, it’s worth hanging out here for a few days.
Each summer we try to escape the heat and humidity of Florida. We first hung out in Denver, spending time with our youngest son, visiting old friends and playing a little golf. Lynn had never been to Lake Tahoe so we spent a few days enjoying lake views, golfing, and sampling a few wines.
Taking in Lake Views
We stayed in Squaw Valley — a 15 minute drive from northwest Lake Tahoe. This area is bike friendly so we rented bikes and cycled down the trail that goes from Squaw Valley to to Lake Tahoe. It was Sunday and there were lots of people floating down the river in tubes and rafts (you can rent these at the base of Lake Tahoe).
As you cycle along the river, you see scenic bridges, people enjoying the water, and families having picnics.
Once you reach Lake Tahoe, continue the trial south to enjoy beautiful views along the lake. A good place to stop for brunch is Sunnyside Restaurant. Located right on the lake, it has great food and lake views.
Another way to take in the views is to drive the perimeter of the lake. There are hiking spots along the way if you want to stretch your legs. The drive around the lake will take you about 3 hours but you will want to make some stops along the way. We spent about 5 or 6 hours, stopping to eat and and take short hikes.
One of our favorite stops was Sand Harbor on the Nevada side. It has a Bar and Grill but also has a few beaches with beautiful views of the lake. It gets crowded so its best to hit this place early.
If you’re into hiking, consider taking the gondola at Olympic Village in Squaw Valley. This is where the Olympics were held in 1960. Once you reach the top, there are tons of hikes for all skill levels. There is also a small museum with memorabilia from the 1960 Olympics.
You will also get views of the lake from up top.
Taking in Olympic Village
Olympic Village normally has something going on each weekend. When we were there, California wineries were hosting a wine tasting. This was ideal because we were visiting Sonoma soon and wanted some suggestions for wineries to visit. There were also musicians playing and people out enjoying the weekend.
Golfing Squaw Valley
I played The Links at Squaw Creek in Olympic Village — it is a course surrounded by 6 majestic Sierra peaks. The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones and offers a challenging round due to its narrow fairways, hidden greens and thick grass bordering every fairway.
I played alone towards the end of the day and it was a challenge to know where to hit the ball because of the hidden greens and dangers on both sides of the fairway. I lost about 6 golf balls because I just was not sure where to aim. If I had played with someone that knew the course, I would carded a much better score than 94! But this was a really fun course.
I’ll leave you with a final picture from the course. You traverse most of the holes along a boardwalk that keeps you out of the high grass along the fairway. Challenging. Beautiful. Incredibly Fun!
Although I had just skied in Breckenridge a few weeks earlier, some friends (Bob Swainhart and Diane Caroll) graciously invited us to visit Telluride.
On the day we were traveling, there were travel advisories for Denver, Colorado because of the Bomb Cyclone. Most flights were canceled in and out of Denver but luckily we were flying into Montrose — but we had amazing snow and incredible beauty.
Unlike my recent ski trip to Breckenridge, temperatures were moderate (upper 30’s) so it allowed us to hike, snowshoe and ski.
The day after we arrived, the sun came out and we took advantage of hiking around town.
Sking was also amazing — big snow and blue skies. It was so great that Lynn decided to bring her skis out of retirement and give it a whirl.
I had just boasted about not falling from skiing in the past 3 years. As always happens when I boast about anything — karma bits me in the keister. On my first run down a double blue mogul, my right ski snagged the top of the mogul and I came tumbling down. However, Bob and I got vindication when we slew this steep mogul:
This snow was some of the best I’ve skied in for a long time.
On our last few days, we decided to snowshoe. I’ve only done this a few times, but I really enjoyed it. We hiked from the top of Mountain Village down into Telluride Valley.
On our final night in Telluride, we experienced the worm moon. What a great way to cap off a great week in Telluride.
In February 2019, we had our 3rd annual ski trip — this year we decided to take on Breckenridge, Vail, and Keystone. All 3 resorts received around 300 inches of snowfall this season so the snow was immense and fluffy.
With the extra snow came cold weather. Most days it was in the teens so riding the chairlifts up was a bit frigid.
We decided to stay in Breckenridge because we could quickly ski Breck — Keystone and Vail are a short drive away. Our rental had a great view of the slopes and a nice hot tub to rest the sore muscles at the end of the day.
Here’s Tom Helderle getting ready to shred the mountain:
Skiing Vail was on our coldest day but we still shredded the back bowls. Breckenridge’s ski day was a bit warmer so we took advantage of some fast runs. Keystone has the steepest blue runs of all 3 resorts, we really enjoyed the barrelling down the mountain.
Born and raised in Georgia, I never once heard of Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon. I learned about it from Roadtrippers.com — a website that points out cool places to visit along your road trip route.
In fact, it is in Lumpkin, Georgia — only about an hour and 15 minutes from the town I grew up in (Donalsonville, Georgia). After learning that, I found out my Dad had never visited either so we knew we had to take a road trip!
This little gem is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia. It was formed due to erosion — created by poor farming practices in the 1800’s.
The canyon is made of clay and other marine sediments and the contrasting white coloration is caused by water seeping over the clay. Throughout the canyon are crevasses worn away by erosion. You can explore these crevasses and will immediately notice a 10 to 20-degree cold temperature change.
The hike down is about three-quarters of a mile. They also have a 3 and 7 mile loop trail. Since my Dad is 82 years old, we figured the 1.5 mile round trip was plenty. We knew if you took the 7 mile loop, we would be rewarded with views of about a dozen rusty 1950s-era automobiles. Due to the environmental damage that removing the vehicles would cause, park officials have decided to leave them alone.
We decided not to do the long hike (we did not want to do that to my Dad), but here are some pictures I found that show them (thanks to Trover for these pictures):