Paddling Across The Kitchen

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Paddleboarding has somewhat changed the way we approach backcountry travel. Growing up canoeing rivers, we could never get enough; our trips got longer, our boat got heavier and heavier. When we were not paddling, we were packing backpacks with ultralight gear and hiking deep into the wilderness to find seclusion and a sense of exploration. The boards bring it all together, there is a sense of freedom when traveling light with only the minimal gear needed.

Our plan on this trip was to explore a lake in Southern Illinois, just southeast of Carbondale, Ill., called Devils Kitchen. The lake butts up to a wilderness area that we have always enjoyed backpacking to. It’s roughly a five-mile paddle from the northern end of Devils Kitchen lake to the Panthers Den Wilderness hidden in the southern part of the lake.

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It’s argued whether or not Southern Illinois is part of the Ozarks, but as we paddled from the wide-open water of the lake into the long, finger-like coves, the rolling hills and exposed rocks looked an awful lot like the Ozarks. Small rocky shores turn into larger borders and bluffs that rise out of the water.

tom fire.jpgThe reward of this trip was definitely the campsite that felt totally hidden and remote. Even though Panthers Den and the rest of Shawnee National Forest isn’t technically a part of the Ozark plateau, it sure felt a lot like home.

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Special thanks to

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SUP StL: Our Favorite Paddle Board Spots Around St. Louis

by Thomas & Mark Malkowicz

One of the things that drew us to stand-up paddle boarding was the fact that it was a new sport. Even before our boards arrived, we started researching places around St. Louis that would be interesting to paddle, and we noticed there wasn’t much information out there.

The most rewarding parts about our new hobby was that it gave us a reason to explore parts of our city that we had never been to, and look at familiar places in a new way.

Continue reading “SUP StL: Our Favorite Paddle Board Spots Around St. Louis”

Mount Whitney

By Mark Malkowicz

This is a story and video of how my girlfriend Rachel and I traveled across Death Valley from Las Vegas, Nevada to Lonepine, California with hopes of reaching the summit of Mount Whitney. Standing at 14,508 feet, Mount Whitney is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. Our plan was to take the standard route known as the Whitney Trail but having left the first week of June, the trail wasn’t yet clear of snow. The snowy conditions forced us up by way of “the chute”, a winter or spring variation of the route.

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The chute is a steep band of snow leading to the ridge that would eventually take us to the summit. In the early morning hours, the chute is icy, making it ideal for cramponing our way up. Later in the day however, the hot California sun warms it and the ice turns to a wet slush. Our plan was to get up while it was frozen and back down before it got too wet.

This was Rachel’s first climb but despite her lack of experience, she was strong all throughout the summit day, making her a killer climbing partner. Not sure if either of us would have made it without the other and I’m looking forward to getting back on a mountain with her someday.

Caye Caulker by Boat

By Thomas Malkowicz

Water Taxi

Full throttle across the Caribbean Sea, our destination was the small island of Caye Caulker. Every seat on the water taxi was full, and, from a small window, Belize City was disappearing behind the boat. My wife, JoLee, and I are in Central America, on a 21-mile trip north into waters that become incredibly clear and blue. Small green islands are stretched out all along the horizon. Compared to the heat of Belize City, the air became noticeably fresh and cool as we approached the island.

Blackbeard Island National Wildlife RefugeThe free Belize Illustrated map I was reading during this 45-minute voyage was filled with information that explained why this area is a destination for people from all over the globe. It states that, “Belize is a haven for abundant flora and fauna … Belize has the lowest population density in Central America … the climate is pretty much near perfect … and Belizeans make you feel as welcome and comfortable, like nowhere else.” Perfect!

The day before, while waiting in line at the airport a gentleman had advised us to skip Belize City and hop on another plane. He explained it would save us a lot of trouble if we just flew to Caye Caulker. But being on the water is why we came here, and it only seems proper to explore this tropical setting aboard a boat.

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Continue reading “Caye Caulker by Boat”

Kicked out of the nest: The Alaskan Range

Alaska May, 2015

The bush plane equipped with skis flew directly into the clouds that congested the sky over North America’s greatest peaks. My stomach dropped every time the wings lost grip, dipping into the thin, turbulent air.  After the short flight from Talkeetna, Alaska, we touched down smoothly at Kahiltna Glacier Base Camp (aka Denali Base Camp).

I was not there to climb Denali, but to work on some advanced mountaineering skills and to explore the range near Base Camp. Continue reading “Kicked out of the nest: The Alaskan Range”

Preparing to Stand on the Current

Thomas & Mark Malkowicz

According to the National Park Service, ” The Ozark National Scenic Riverways is the first National Park area to protect a river system. The Current and Jacks Fork Rivers are two of the finest floating rivers you’ll find anywhere.” In an effort to help share this special place with the world, we are planning another first.

We have always been looking for new ways to explore and experience the Current River in Southern Missouri. We first started canoeing the river every summer as kids, as we grew older we began taking longer trips, camping on the gravel beaches, backpacking along the Ozark Trail, and eventually exploring the entire region. The plan for our next adventure is to paddleboard the length of the Current River inside the Ozark National Scenic Riverways – A 104 mile journey that we have set aside a week to complete. From our very limited research, we think this is the first time this has ever been attempted (and there may be good reason). As we prepare for this expedition, there are only a few things we can plan for certain; when and where to start, who will shuttle our vehicle, what food to bring and what gear to pack. Everything else, we just have to be ready for and that’s the wilderness experience we search for every time we depart.

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Follow our expedition on Facebook and WheresMalko.com.

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47 in 48: The Jacks Fork in Winter

In March of 2015, while Tom was out West exploring in the desert, my girlfriend Rachel and I decided to challenge ourselves in the Ozarks.

With the Jacks Fork River being one of the many common interests that brought us together in the first place, we knew it had to be involved. I had floated the entire river numerous times, but never on one trip. Rachel had been on a few overnight float trips and endless day floats. After a little disagreement on which section to float, we threw our hands up and decided to float all 46.5 miles of the Jacks Fork.

So we started at the beginning, on the South Prong, a creek that, when joined by the North Prong, starts the Jacks Fork. You need high water to put a canoe in on the South Prong. But on the day before we set off, the water on the Jacks Fork was way too high, causing some of the lower sections to be closed. With a little luck and the quickly fluctuating water levels of spring, the water level was perfect by the time we were headed to the Prongs.

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Pushing off from the South Prong around noon, it was snowing and cool. The forecast showed a consistent improvement in weather for the next 48 hours, but at the beginning it was real cold! Ideally, we needed to do just over 15 miles a day to arive at our car at Two Rivers Access just below the confluence of the Jacks Fork and Current rivers on time. On the first day we were lured off the river early by thoughts of a warm fire and down sleeping bags. Once we established camp for the night, we got our blood flowing by scrambling up a bluff near our camp and caught a view. Continue reading “47 in 48: The Jacks Fork in Winter”