3am Coffee

As a kid, I was fortunate to be exposed to the outdoors by my family. My father’s side of the family enjoyed hunting as much as Grandpa River enjoyed the coast, so hook and bullets became a way of life for me.  Those traditions growing up were some of the best I had in my life and thankfully, they continue.

The catch

A trip to the coast came about as an open weekend that offered a chance to do some coastal fishing. With any chance to hit the Texas salt, I made my way to Goose Island State Park near Rockport.  I contacted my cousin to see if he would be open to joining.  While he lives only 20 miles away, our busy schedules make it difficult to find time to meet, let alone enough time for a good fishing trip. Luckily he was able to make it work for this endeavor.  After he confirmed we invited his dad (my uncle) and made our trip a little family affair!

As with any trip to the coast, the menu is a discussion of paramount importance. From breakfast tacos to some suspect summer sausage, the one
item that would make a lasting impression to me was the coffee. For most camping trips many would think coffee is a no brainer. What made this coffee special though was not just the warmth or the bitterness, but the conversations that took place while brewing it and the time shared while drinking it. Unfortunately, that coffee did nothing to aid in our weather forecast that weekend. The Texas summer is hot, humid, and just plain nasty. With little rain, it seems the entire countryside dries up. As we all met up at the park, it was talked about that this trip would be a night fishing trip, offering us a break from the oppressive sun and unrelenting heat. This offered us the best chance to not only enjoy the trip, but also catch fish. With a few hours to kill before we headed out, we packed our coolers and readied our gear.

ForEverlast Ray Guards
Stirring up the muck…

Although the bulk of our fishing was to be done at night, the last two hours of daylight offer some prime fish catching opportunities. So for the last few moments of light, we hit a flat that was known to house good sized reds. Once at the spot, we unloaded and walked on out. Wading in the Texas salt, you need to be aware of the creatures that can end a trip in one misstep. Many fishermen who wade know that with each step the water is muddied, making it virtually impossible to see what lies on the floor and that is exactly where the most painful of all creatures, the stingray, can get you. The best protection against them and their barbs are wading guards or boots; fishing shin guards if you will. These guards offer great protection in the event you were to step on a ray and have them react violently.  To feel the power of a hit is similar to that of your buddy giving you a slug punch, provided your buddy is Mike Tyson.  So with this knowledge, I strapped on my ForEverlast Shin Protectors and headed out along the flat while the others stayed behind to enjoy the sunset and began to get the baits ready.

After returning from my solo walk, and with the sun setting, poles rigged, baits cut, and lines out, we waited. As with any gathering of relatives, the topic of family came up. Catching up is always a fun thing. What we didn’t realize was that with all the catching up we were doing was not being interrupted by fish catching. Time after time, our baits were being taken by crabs and or perch, neither of which were redfish.  This went on for a few hours, and by the time we noticed it was 11pm and still no fish. We had been on the water at this spot for a few hours and no luck!

By 1 AM each of us were showing signs of being tired and frustrated. That is when my cousin’s line started to sing!  WHAM! His pole bent over and the line began to zing from the reel. Fish on!  It turned out to be a nice red, a good keeper. Our luck had turned! With a few more fish in the box the night began to drag. It was 3am by this time and we all showed signs of a long day. That is when I thought it would be a good idea for my secret weapon. As we loaded up the boat, my uncle and cousin both commented how they wished they had filled their thermoses with coffee for the night. Well with no thermos, I brought the next best thing- hot fresh camp coffee!

I call it camp coffee because the only time I drink it is when I’m camping. Having owned my MSR Pocket Rocket Stove for a few years, it is one of those items I enjoy being able to use in the field. When I asked my uncle if he wanted a cup of hot coffee his reply was nothing short of hilarious, “How do you plan doing that?” with as smart a tone as a 70 year old fisherman could muster. As I broke out my gear he seemed impressed (and a tad bit confused) as to how this would brew up coffee. As I brewed us both cups of coffee I explained exactly how the pocket rocket worked and how to mix the instant coffee and water together. Before we both knew it we had a nice cup of joe! As he enjoyed his camp coffee and I the same,  we talked about how a good cup of coffee seems to lift the spirits of those who are enjoying it. The conversation turned to other coffee stories that involved the outdoors. We kinda had our own version of “Coffee Talk.” Being a true lover of coffee, he told me how he once had a boat rigged with a coffee percolator, the original camp coffee. Again, this was not the “best” coffee, but is was the best cup of coffee we both had ever had at 3am after a long night of fishing.

As the hours moved on we managed to box a few more fish and before dawn headed in. I’ll soon forget the number of fish we landed that night, and I may soon forget how tired I felt when got back to the camper and crashed. However I won’t forget the time I enjoyed a 3 AM camp coffee with my uncle. And this my friends, are what memories are made of.

-Brad @ ACK

What’s Your Dad’s Adventure Personality?

Dads are always happy in the great outdoors!
Dads are always happy in the great outdoors!

Father’s Day is fast approaching and if you need a gift for the kind of dad who likes anything relating to the outdoors, the hardest part about your shopping experience at ACK is going to be picking out which one to get! To help you narrow down your options, we’ve selected a few top gift ideas for whatever adventure personality best describes your dad.

Use our Gift Guide and shop from the following adventure personalities:

Of course, if you don’t see exactly what you want in our guide, we’re sure you’ll find it after doing a little browsing!

Sharing The River Life w/ Family

One of the most fulfilling things about a life spent on the water is introducing family and friends to the joys of watersports. For my recent ACK employee perk of “Go Play For A Day,” I took my 13 year old niece on a kayak trip on the San Marcos River. My niece has a busy life consumed with school and sports so it was a great opportunity to let her sit back and enjoy herself for a few hours.

We put in at the very cool and historic Zedler Mill Park in Luling, Texas. This is not only a great put in for going upstream on the San Marcos River, but also offers the convenience of a boat ramp and plenty of space and facilities for a BBQ. On a lazy day, it is a great spot to paddle a short distance upstream and see what you can catch. However for this particular adventure, me, my niece and our canine companion Dexter paddled about three miles until we reached what I like to call ‘turtle alley.’ This stretch of river is home to more sunbathing turtles than you can count.

It was great to see my niece truly enjoying herself on the river while trying to overcome her fear of bugs and other river creatures. The weather was unseasonably warm so we had some snacks, let the dog swim and watched the turtles before heading back to the truck.

It is the simple days like this that remind me of why I have built my life around rivers. There is no equivalent experience to the memories and friendships that are built from a day on the water.

Our boats for the day were the Ocean Kayak Prowler Big Game which I love for its’ stability and carrying capacity. My niece, who has very limited experience, had no problem handling the Feelfree Moken 10.

What a great day it was, it couldn’t have been any better!

Luke @ACK

Kayaking Family Takes to the Road

There’s nothing like some quality family bonding time spent on the water, and this one will be getting plenty of it. The soon to be 14 member Kellogg Family (11 kids, one on the way), are packing up their kayaks and family into a 35 ft RV, selling their house and taking to the road to explore new places and rivers. “Everything we have done comes from wanting to be free,” says Susie Kellogg. We have to applaud this family for their sense of adventure and wish them luck in their endeavors. To read the full story at the Denver Post, click here.

Outdoor Summer Fun, Fun, Fun!

School’s out, summer is here, let’s all get out and play.

Whether you’ve got kids, grand kids, nieces, nephews…or not, you can’t deny that summer is a season of fun in the sun and if you don’t already have plans, why don’t ya just get up and go — outside that is! As a reader of this blog, you are already familiar with how enjoyable any outdoor adventure experience can be so c’mon now, don’t be selfish, share it with your friends and family. Theme parks, cruise ships and beach resorts are great but this summer, dodge the crowds and consider taking your family and friends with you to an outdoor destination adventure they’ll never forget. Need some ideas? As always, we’ve got a few…

Go Kayak/Canoe Camping
It’s affordable, exposes everyone to a part of any river or lake they may have never seen and provides an opportunity for the younger ones (and unfortunately some adults) to learn what it means to work together as a team. Make it enjoyable with hearty meals, plenty of pit stops and gear for a good night’s rest. A little too warm? That’s the joy of kayak camping, you’re right on the water, go swim!

Go Primitive
Sure amenities are nice when camping but with proper planning and the right gear, you can easily have just as an enjoyable experience in the backwoods. Imagine a campsite that offers nothing but the true sounds of nature, a night sky that is black as ink and a true feeling of disconnect from all the hustle and bustle. Of course, you’ll more than likely have to backpack to the campsite so it’s always a good idea to eliminate unnecessary items (ahem…handheld video games).

Make a Day of It Every Other Week
Afraid a 5-day outdoor adventure is more than they can handle? Go play for the day! Start early, load up some kayaks and head down to the lake. Paddle, explore then plan a picnic along the shoreline. Bring some water toys for the kids and some hammocks for the adults. Use this time to swim, play and relax and if time allows, enjoy the sunset. Of course, if you paddle at night, always take great care and outfit your kayaks/canoes with proper lighting.

Urban Destinations
Long distance travel plans not in the budget? Explore the city from a different perspective by paddling local waterways and just like our previous suggestion, picnic along the banks. If access to water is not anywhere near your city, make it a point to visit every city park by summer’s end.

So these are just few a suggestions and chances are you have just as many. If you do, be sure to share them with us, we want to now what you’ve got up your sleeve. Regardless of what you do this summer, we hope that outdoor adventure is a part of your travel plans. Sure, we’d love to sell you more outdoor gear but the reality is, we are all outdoor enthusiasts ourselves and there is a good possibility that if one us hasn’t already, we will probably put a check mark next to one of our recommendations.

Have fun out there!

Roland @ACK

Paddlers – We’re all Friends

As a follow up to Chris’ blog post in regards to Kayak Camaraderie, I began to think of all the times I too have had similar experiences — some resulting in life-long friendships. As you grow older, meeting new people can be challenging at times. Everyone is so busy with work, kids, etc. and unless you make the effort, chances are you will stick to your close circle of friends for the rest of your life. I think things can be a bit different for paddlers.

I have come across so many people with similar interests stemmed from a mutual passion for the outdoors. Many are customers, fellow employees and partners while some are total strangers asking questions about the kayaks on my truck. Others are simply associated with groups and organizations that I have been involved with. What’s so unique to me is that many of these encounters have resulted in friendships, some of which have become close family friends.

Who would have known that a complete stranger that I met through a local kayak fishing forum back in 2008 would be the same person calling me today for a favor to pick up his daughter from summer camp because he wasn’t going to make it on time? Or what about the customer who, fast-forward two years later, would be bringing his family over to my house for a barbeque and another that now includes me in his annual fish/camp trip? Then there is the guy that I met through a mutual friend on Facebook specifically because of our similar interests in paddling. I’m just scratching the surface here…the point is, and I am sure you’ll agree, being a paddler certainly does open a door to what Chris refers to as Kayak Camaraderie.

I’ve been paddling for about ten years now and directly involved with the outdoor retail industry for about six years now. If someone were to ask me what the biggest benefit from it all has been — it has to be the friends I have made.

What about you? I bet you’ve got some stories of your own.

Roland @ACK