Canyoneering the Seven Teacups/Kern River

Canyoneering the Seven Teacups/Kern River

Mr. Fools Meets Seven Teacups, His First Swift Water Canyon!**

I, Mr. Fool, have been training hard to run swift water canyons. It’s taken a lot of work to get to this point. I’m relatively new to canyoneering. My more experienced counterpart, Ms. Fool, introduced me to the sport last year, and she has been teaching me increasingly difficult technical know-how.

Ms. Fool and I share the goal of tackling plenty of swift water canyons. These are some of the most dangerous types of canyons there are. Swift water makes canyoneering  – already a dangerous sport – more challenging and risky. There can be strong rapids, hidden underwater traps, and (of course) chilly temperatures. But often these canyons allow you to experience beautiful places up close and in new ways.

We picked Seven Teacups as our first swift water canyon together. Many canyoneers use it as a training ground for more difficult swift water canyons. Plus, Ms. Fool had completed it before.

To prepare, we ran some beginner-friendly dry canyons. Then we moved into canyons with a little water. After that, we flew to Las Vegas for a swift water canyoneering lecture taught by Rich Carlson. Finally, one day when the conditions were deemed manageable, we pressed “go.”

Check out the video of our escapade, and then read about it below!

Trekking To The Teacups

We wanted to get an early start, so we drove up the night before and camped. Early the next morning, we ate a light breakfast, navigated to the trailhead, and started hiking. The weather was perfect. The temperature highs for the day were forecast in the low 70’s.

Hiking to Seven Teacups.
Lots of wildflowers blooming along the way.

When we reached water, we suited up (wetsuit-ed up, that is), and made our way downstream. The water was chilly. Thankfully, we were equipped with Merino wool base layers, wool socks, and neoprene gloves.

Jumping into the cold water.

Going For It

Once we reached the start of Seven Teacups, we were able to confirm that the water level was safe. The night before, we looked at data from various reporting stations. Everything looked good. But overnight there was lots of lightning. So we weren’t sure if any rain upstream had made the canyon too dangerous to complete.

The water indicators looked good. So we jumped in. Well, I did. Ms. Fool had me do the first swim. I fully submerged myself beneath a stone arch while building our first anchor.

Swimming under the arch to set our anchor.

The water flow was strong. But we are both solid swimmers. So our first rappels/jumps were fun and easy for us. However…

It’s Not All Smooth Sailing (Er, Swimming)

The transition from the 3rd to the 4th teacup was a little hard and took some teamwork to get safely past. The water funneled over a narrow lip into a waterfall, and the current was swift. Ms. Fool is light, so she couldn’t get close enough to the anchors without almost being sucked over. (Finally, a reason for her to eat more junk food!) I was able to straddle the lip, set the rope, and descend first.

A good 6-7 seconds passed as I rappelled down the waterfall. I couldn’t breath, see, or hear anything but the water pelting me on all sides. It was the most risky part of the canyon. Definitely not place you would want to get hung-up.

Setting up the anchor for the 3rd to 4th teacup transition.
Taking a deep breath before vanishing into the waterfall.
A sigh of relief as I finish the waterfall rappel.
Ms. Fool about to vanish into the pummeling water.

The Adventure Continues

Other than feeling a bit chilly, it was smooth sailing after that. We jumped some of the teacups, rappelled some, and even skipped a few. (Hey, we were cold, okay?) By the last rappel, we were both exhausted.

Too tired to rappel? Why not jump?
Nothing but waterfalls.
Almost at the end.

The Adventure Comes To An End

We crossed the Kern easily and hiked the long way back to the cars. We saved ourselves some walking by floating down the gentlest parts of the river.

Hiking back along the Kern River.
The bridge that brings you home.

Final Thoughts

It was a great first experience for me. I’m glad I put in the work doing smaller, less exciting canyons, and making sure I was equipped with the right gear and knowledge. With the water levels as high as they were, it could have quickly gone from fun to scary. Knowing what to do, researching thoroughly beforehand, and learning emergency safety measures is crucial.

**Disclaimer: Canyoneering comes with serious risks and should only be done if you have proper training or an experienced leader. The information above is not to be used to attempt the canyon and is purposely vague. For proper guidance, check with your local canyoneering experts.
The Fools’ Guide to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

The Fools’ Guide to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Jetting Down To Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

After spotting a too-cheap-to-pass-up hotel-and-flight deal, we booked a 5-night trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Many water sports enthusiasts head to Puerto Vallarta for kitesurfing or scuba diving. We, however, had no particular goals or plans – a rarity for the couple who usually has at minimum a list of sights and an eatery or two to visit. (Heck, we even managed to turn a 12-hour layover in Switzerland into a whirlwind day trip.) But sometimes there’s pleasure in not having an agenda. So, with a come-what-may attitude in mind, we headed south of the border.

How We Did It

View from our hotel window

This was our first international trip using Southwest Airlines. If you fly out of LAX, as we did, note that you have to check in at a domestic terminal and then catch a shuttle to the international terminal. So plan to arrive early.

We stayed at the Sheraton Buganvilias Resort. For the most part, it was nice: clean with a beautiful pool and accommodating staff. However, multiple floors were under construction. So we sometimes had hammering or sawing interrupt afternoon naps or wake us up before we planned.

No car rental. Aside from taxis to and from the airport, we walked. For better or for worse, Puerto Vallarta caters to tourists. So we never once felt unsafe.

What We Did

Sand art along the Paseo Díaz Ordaz boardwalk.

Lots and lots of walking. Paseo Díaz Ordaz. Malecon boardwalk. Over the Río Cuale to Los Muertos Beach. Again, we were in this trip primarily to take it easy. So there were no fabulous day trips planned. Just lots of sun on the beach, nights reading while lightning flashed outside our window, and plenty of eating – though not at our hotel. After one meal there, we decided to eat elsewhere. Not only was the food overpriced, but it was also rather bland.

South view along the Paseo Díaz Ordaz boardwalk.
One of the many statues along the Paseo Díaz Ordaz boardwalk.
Facing south off the pier on Los Muertos Beach.
Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe church.
Thunder and lighting storm outside our hotel window.

Where We Ate

Map of Puerto Vallarta

  1. 100% Natural. The breakfasts were really tasty and healthy, although a little overpriced. Lots of vegetarian options and some organic, which is why we visited. While we are generally open to eating anything at least once, we try not to stray too far from our primarily-vegetable diet for more than a few days at a time.
  2. Mariscos Cuetos. We had a really good dinner of large shrimp and chicken fajitas. They’re a bit pricy compared to other seafood eateries in the area. But their food is high quality. Bonus points for the band that plays while you dine.
  3. Layla’s. Our top pick. This was the priciest place dined at, but the food and service were really great. Beautiful ambiance on the balcony. The owner and waiter even shared a drink with us.
  4. Pan & Cué. Pretty standard Italian fare. Really can’t go wrong with anything here.
  5. La Bodeguita Del Medio. We wanted some Cuban food, so we came here. We thought it was not nearly as flavorful as it should have been. Also, we’ve had much better Cuban food in California.
  6. Natureza. Great smoothies and crepes. Again, lots of healthy options.

We also ate lots of ice cream, crepes, and street tacos at various stands. Flavor-wise, the ice cream can be hit or miss. But it’s cheap enough that you can’t complain.

Breakfast at 100% Natural Restaurant.
Breakfast at 100% Natural Restaurant.
Desert at La Bodeguita Del Medio.
Chocolate crepe from Natureza.

Some Travel Tips

  1. If you have USD: exchange some of your currency for peso, but also make sure to keep some USD 1’s, 5’s, and 10’s. Then, when paying, ask the cost in both peso and USD, and use the cheaper option.
  2. Exchange money via an ATM and not at currency exchanges or money exchange machines. You often get a much better rate with ATMs. Remember to check with your bank on ATM fees.
  3. To save money on airport transportation, skip the white airport taxis and walk to the main road. Hail a yellow taxi. The airport taxis cost about $20 USD, while yellow street taxis cost around $10 USD. (At the time of this post, the exchange rate was 1 USD = 18.12 MXN. So, following our advice in tip 1, we chose to pay with peso, a cost of ~$5.51 USD).
  4. Use a credit card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees.

North Carolina Beach Vacation & Eclipse

North Carolina Beach Vacation & Eclipse

Enjoying The #BeachLife On North Carolina’s Topsail Island

There’s an island off the coast of North Carolina called Topsail Island. Since I was a kid, my (Mr. Fool’s) family has loved to visit. It’s a small town with a leisurely vibe and clean beaches that are scattered with seashells and sharks’ teeth. Perfect for a family vacation.

We rented a beach house that was practically right on the water: walk down the steps off the back porch, and your toes were in the sand.

Our days were spent sleeping in late, playing in the warm surf of the North Atlantic Ocean all afternoon, and walking the beaches at dusk to take in the amazing sunsets.

Another beautiful North Carolina sunset off Topsail Island's beach
Drinking in a beautiful North Carolina sunset while we walked along the beach.

I brought my drone (DJI Mavic Pro) and flew it a few times while we were there. It handled the high winds decently well and even got a little rain on it one time. Check out the short video below.

Pursuing The Total Solar Eclipse

It so happened that the 2017 total solar eclipse was happening during our vacation. Since we were only a few hours from a path in the totality, on the day of, Ms. Fool and I woke up early and drove to Turbeville, SC. It’ a small town away from major cities, so we figured there would be less traffic.

It was cloudy for long parts of the drive, and we were worried we wouldn’t be able to see much. But, as luck would have it, the sun was no longer hidden by the time we finished driving.

A few minutes before the totality, I flew my drone up and let it hover to capture the moon’s shadow crossing over the earth. I got some cool footage you can see below. Watch the lower part of the screen: you can see the street lights lining the road all come on.

For fellow drone enthusiasts: I rotated the drone 180 as the shadow passed. The result: it looks like I just graded the footage dark to light.


Exploring The U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship Memorial

On the last day of our trip, we had a few hours to kill on our way to the airport. We stopped by the U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship Memorial to check it out.

Entrance to the U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship Memorial.
Entrance to the U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship Memorial.

We wandered around the decks and crawled inside a turret where there was hardly space to move. The living spaces below deck were hot and small. It’s incredible to think about what our enlisted endured.

Wandering around the deck of the U.S.S. North Carolina.
Wandering around the deck of the U.S.S. North Carolina.

You could easily spend more than a few hours on the ship reading all the exhibits and following their audio tour. But it’s also nice to take a quick self-guided tour, as we did.