brianna randall rob roberts resort tonga beach vacation hunting goats

The Great Goat Hunt of 2013

Posted on 5 CommentsPosted in Food and Drink, Outdoor Adventures

brianna randall rob roberts resort tonga beach vacation hunting goatsA few weeks ago, just before dinner with some friends on Fetoko Island, I heard Rob telling hunting stories.  He was re-enacting past elk kills, and explaining how he stalked ungulates through misty Montana mountains each fall.  I suddenly realized it was opening day of hunting season back home.  Rob was probably a bit nostalgic — no deer or elk to shoot in Vava’u.

The next day, we left for a party on Mounu Island in the southern part of the Vava’u group.  “It’s probably the best island in Vava’u,” Ben told us. I think he’s right.  Mounu is owned by the Bowe family, palangis who started the very first whale swim business. In fact, they helped write the rules that allow people to swim with whales here in Tonga, which is one of only three countries where humans can swim beside these magical mega-mammals.  The Bowes leased Mounu and run an exclusive resort on the sandy beaches.  Check out the sperm whale bones that washed up this last month.

brianna randall rob roberts resort tonga beach vacation hunting goatsTheir daughter, Kirsty, had her 40th birthday party on Mounu, and we managed to snag an invite.  Rob and I set up our borrowed tent and yoga-mat-sleeping-pads, and promptly joined in the dancing and water fun.  Little did we know that The Great Goat Hunt of 2013 was in store for Day 2.

Kirsty decided we should divide into teams of four, and head across to Ovalau, the deserted island just across from Mounu.  Ovalau has a lot of goats.  Too many, according to the Tongans, who agreed we should get a couple for dinner.  Rob was psyched.  So was I, actually…sounded like a hilarious adventure, and I always prefer eating local free-range meat.

brianna randall rob roberts resort tonga beach vacation hunting goats

Our team: Rob, me, Billy and Leonati.  Billy is the lead ukelele player in our band, Riff Raff, and grew up performing in circuses all over Europe.  Leonati is a native of Vava’u, loves to eat any type of animal, and has worked on Mounu for several years.  We were the dream team.

Once ashore on Ovalau, the teams split up.  The only rules: no guns allowed, and the first team that arrived with a goat wins.  The dream team moved fast through the thick undergrowth, heading toward the eastern shore of the island.  Rob wore perfect hunting attire: tight Speedos with a hole in the butt and a bright white shirt.  Billy came a close second: long jeans, broken shoes with a flapping sole, and a button down shirt.  I had faith.

Here’s how The Great Goat Hunt went down:

1) We heard the goats mewing close by.  The men split up and moved fast (and not noiselessly) through the trees (which is when I lost them and wandered aimlessly for about 10 minutes).

2) Rob, Billy and Leonati came upon two goats.  “Which one should I get?” Rob called to Leonati, the goat hunting veteran.  Leonati pointed at the plumpest one.

3) Rob tackled the goat.  Billy pointed out the swollen teats, which meant she was pregnant.  “Shit.  Wrong choice.”  They let her go.

4) The men began stalking once more, heading toward the cliffs against the sea where they could corner more goats.

5) Rob and Leonati came upon another goat and herded her against the rocks.  They crept toward her slowly, until Leonati could reach out and grab her leg.  Done.

6) Leonati promplty slit her throat.  Rob found a branch and tied its legs around it.

7) I followed the blood trail until I came upon Billy and Rob flapping back through the woods carrying a dead goat.  The dream team reunited for the trek to the beach.

brianna randall rob roberts resort tonga beach vacation hunting goats

The whole thing took about 14 minutes.  Our team was the first back, though the other teams arrived quickly.  One other team caught a goat, but brought it back alive and then decided to let it go when we already had one to eat.  No need to be greedy.  We stuffed the dead goat in a giant tupperware box and took the boat back across to Mounu.  On the short ride, we saw a tiger shark swimming that could have eaten about 8 goats in one swallow.  It was BIG.

Back home, Rob and I followed Leonati back into the bush, to see how he’d prepare the goat for our dinner.  Turns out it’s easy: use a Tongan blowtorch (flaming palm fronds) to scorch off all the hair, gut it, then put it back on the stick-spit and roast for a couple of hours over a coconut-husk fire.  Voila.

tonga goat hunt flame spit brianna and rob adventureI can’t say that goat was my favorite meat to eat, but I appreciated the adventure.  And The Great Goat Hunt soothed Rob’s hunting jitters out here in the tropics, far from Montana’s roaming elk.

 

sharks scuba diving in the tuamotus on the horizon line travel and sailing blog brianna and rob

Cue the Soundtrack from Jaws

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Ocean Tales, Outdoor Adventures

diving with sharks scuba diving in the tuamotus on the horizon line travel and sailing blog brianna and rob

A lone sailboat speeds from the lagoon to the open ocean through a narrow pass in a remote island. Waves break on either side of this pass, crashing on pink-white sands as the sea floor rises abruptly from 2,000 feet deep to zero at the shore of this Pacific atoll. Sailing through the pass is carefully timed during slack tide to avoid the waves and eddies created by the 8 knot current as the sea rushes in and out of the lagoon. Just as the sailboat clears the pass, two people jump overboard. The sailboat keeps going.

Cue the soundtrack from Jaws.

This was the scene as Kayanos left Kauehi, and Rob and I were the ones who jumped off. On purpose. And so excited to snorkel the pass that we almost peed our pants. After we both dove overboard, Rob — who got his mask on first — immediately said, “Wow. There’s a shark right here, Bri!” I shoved on my gear so I wouldn’t miss the shark sighting, as I had on a few of our previous snorkeling trips. I looked below to see not one shark, but dozens of sharks swimming towards us out of the crystal blue depths. I made a calm and appreciative noise through my snorkel that sounded roughly like, “Mmpharrghgh!?!!!”

sharks scuba diving in the tuamotus on the horizon line travel and sailing blog brianna and rob

Talk about freaky. Sure, I knew the Marquesas and Tuamotus are renowned for having healthy, thriving shark populations. And I’d seen them swimming around in Nuku Hiva, following fishing boats for scraps. But I’d only seen a shark underwater exactly twice before. And they both swam away from me, not at me. Adrenaline pumping, I slowed my breathing and followed Rob toward the reef and shallower water.

I should clarify that my body followed Rob while my head followed the progress of the 7 or 8 sharks following us. They stayed a respectful 10 feet away, curious about why the hell humans would jump off a moving boat in the middle of a deep blue sea. I was starting to feel curious about that myself. Once we could see bottom, though, I immediately felt safer — a completely illogical reaction, since the sharks could eat us just easily in five feet of water as 1,000 feet of water. But these sharks weren’t going to eat us. First off, they were “small” blacktip and whitetip sharks, only about 5 or 6 feet long. Second, they had plenty of other food.

Once over the reef, we could see hundreds, maybe thousands, of fish. Big jacks, mackeral, snapper, grouper, parrotfish. Colorful butterfly fish, trigger fish, squirrel fish, angel fish and wrasses. The visibility was probably 80 feet, and the coral was a diverse blanket of living color. All around us were moving mini-dramas of fish mating, fighting, eating, hiding, swooping. The sharks lost interest in us, and resumed their slow cruise back and forth between the reef and the depths. It was the most amazing snorkeling experience I’ve ever had.

scuba diving in the tuamotus on the horizon line travel and sailing blog brianna and rob

After about 15 minutes, Rob and I began the second part of the Remote Pass Snorkel Adventure: getting back on the sailboat. We swam against the current to make our way out of the pass toward the ocean. Kayanos was hove-to (as close to parked as a sailboat gets) about one mile away from us. We waved our arms several times as we swam to a more mellow spot, signaling we were ready for pickup. Ben and Sarah sailed toward us at about 6 knots, then once again expertly heaved-to to slow down.

They threw out a floating line, and Rob made sure I was holding on before he latched on behind me. We were getting dragged fast enough behind the boat that my bathing suit bottoms came off, but managed to pull ourselves hand over hand until we reached the stern. Sarah let down a rubber fender as a step. Rob had to push my butt up as I hauled myself over the rail four feet above my head. By the time we both flopped into the cockpit, we were breathing heavy and totally amped on endorphins.

I know most people in their right mind wouldn’t jump off a moving sailboat into unknown shark-infested waters in the middle of nowhere. But they’re definitely missing out. I highly recommend the Remote Pass Snorkel Adventure, and hope that someday we’ll find another accomodating (and skilled) captain who let’s us dive overboard to investigate the deep crystal blue.

 

13 interviews video - on the horizon line blog

13 Interviews – A Pennsylvania Perspective on Sailing Away

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Family and Friends, Sailing

Today is the first day of our adventure. As we enter a new country, it seems fitting to reflect a bit on where we’re going, as well as reflect on what others think about our upcoming sailing voyage.

When we went back to visit Philadelphia in February, Bri and I interviewed 13 members of my family to ask them a few key questions about our trip. Check out their insights and advice below.

[framed_video column=”full-width”]13 Interviews – A Pennsylvania Perspective on Sailing Away [/framed_video]

 

Team Adventure - The Montana Rescue Mission by Brianna Randall - juvenile fiction

Book Release! (Want a free copy?)

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Community and Culture

Team Adventure - The Montana Rescue Mission by Brianna Randall - juvenile fictionSome of you probably remember when I started writing a kids’ book during grad school.  Maybe you even heard the reading I gave at a local Missoula bookstore almost a decade ago.

After I finished the novel, I shelved it for quite some time.  Then, in the midst of moving and rearranging our life, I pulled it out again.  I spent the winter months revising this fun adventure book, and had a blast sinking back into the characters.  Even though it’s geared toward 8-10 year-olds, it’s a good way to explore western Montana.

Thanks to the modern digital age, I was able to self-publish an electronic version on Amazon for Kindle owners.

Want one?  The book is FREE for the next 4 days if you click here.  After that, it’s only $.99.  Here’s the book summary.  Let me know if you enjoy the adventure!

 

Kate is a city girl who’s more comfortable wandering around the mall than through the woods. But she’s determined to brave the wilderness of Montana in order to rescue her older sister, Nicole. Luckily, Kate’s best friend Maddie is a Montana girl, through and through. They sneak out of summer camp, and are unexpectedly joined by their campmates Cody and Darren (for better or for worse!). Together, these four sixth-graders head into the woods – and straight into one adventure after the next.

Kate and her friends sail, hike, raft and ride through Montana. It’s not all smooth sailing, though: they also get lost in the mountains, run into a bear, capsize a raft in the river, and walk straight into a wildfire! Team Adventure’s rescue mission is one wild ride, and a race against the clock as they try to make it to the forest Nicole is risking her life to protect.

Join Team Adventure as they learn more about fish, mountains, wildlife, rivers and the history of the Northern Rockies Mountains. This is one fun journey you don’t want to miss!

Bri in Little Blackfoot River in Montana - on the horizon line - clark fork coalition

Farewell (for now) to Working for Freshwater

Posted on 3 CommentsPosted in Community and Culture, Reflections on Life

bri rafting the alberton gorge9 years.  5 legislative sessions. 100s of grant proposals.  28,000 miles of streams and rivers to speak up for. Dozens of floats, monitoring days, and presentations.  Thousands of meetings, laughs, successes, snafus, late nights, and learning moments.

That’s just a sliver of what working for clean water means to me.

Today is my last day of work at the Clark Fork Coalition, a kick-ass high-powered conservation group that does good things for great rivers in Montana.  I’ve worked for almost a decade in a variety of roles at the Coalition, and never once did I dread going to work.  In fact, walking in the front doors almost always made me smile in anticipation of what the day might bring.  This is due in large part to the remarkable people I was lucky enough to work with and for.

Bri in Little Blackfoot River in Montana - on the horizon line - clark fork coalitionIf you’ve ever worked for a small non-profit organization, you know that every employee is a jack-of-all-trades.  We are writers, lobbyists, fundraisers, counselors, janitors, technicians, scientists, lawyers, explorers, tour guides, comedians and engineers — all in the same day.  We are passionate and dedicated and motivated to make the world a better place.  And we’re really fun, too.

The Coalition taught me a lot about how to make change happen — not just for the spectacular rivers and landscapes in Montana, but in my community, my country, my daily life.  It taught me that water connects everything: big and small, urban and rural, personal and global, eating and drinking, forests and valleys, mountains and ocean.

IMG_0130Why, you might ask, would I quit such a fabulous job or pivot away from such an important cause?  Because it’s the right time, and I can feel that deep inside.  I don’t ever want to walk in the front door dreading the day, so I’m planning to leave while the smile is still on my face and the passion is still beneath my skin.

Plus, as I see it, we’re just moving downstream to explore.  Granted, the Pacific is a lot bigger pond than the Clark Fork River, but I’m comforted by the fact that all of the clean water I worked to protect will be a part of the ocean that floats my boat.

I think my husband said it best in his farewell email to his co-workers at Trout Unlimited yesterday, so I’m going to let his words close out my farewell-for-now to the world of freshwater conservation:

bri rafting the alberton gorge

I’m calling it quits.  Not because I think there’s a better place to work or because I could make more money somewhere else, but because its just time.  Its time for someone with a new perspective to take over my program, to infuse it with new ideas and enthusiasm.  This track is starting to get awful familiar, and it’s time for me to find a new one.

I’ll be basically wandering for the foreseeable future, seeing some new places and people and trying to figure out what I’ll do next in my life.  My wife and I have a once in a lifetime opportunity to cut ties and vanish for a couple years. We will be leaving March 26 with a couple of backpacks, some snorkeling gear and a desire to travel, sail and explore.  Hitchhiking the ocean, some people have called it.  

I don’t think that being unemployed will always be easy, but I’m sure it will be interesting.  I want to say thank you for taking a chance on a bright-eyed idealist and giving me the opportunity, the skills and the flexibility to succeed.  For that, I will be forever indebted.  I feel truly blessed to have been your co-worker and part of an organization that has an excellent mission, hires good people and is just fun to work for.  Keep up the good fight and remember that we’re all in that fight together.  I’ll miss you. 

– Rob

bri and rob by the clark fork river at our wedding in missoula - on the horizon line

big red - the red rider truck - rob roberts and trout unlimited - pushing through the forest

So Long, Big Red

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Fishing, Outdoor Adventures

Since tomorrow is my last day at Trout Unlimited, it seems fitting that I handed over the title to our 1994 Dodge Dakota pickup this morning.  Trout Unlimited bought the truck for $1 back in 2009 and, because of its stamina and sheer willpower, we dubbed it the “Red Rider” or just “Big Red.”

big red - the red rider truck - rob roberts and trout unlimited - pushing through the forest

So what if the wheel wells were corroded, the passenger side door only opened from the inside, or the windows didn’t roll down, the Red Rider was my trusted companion, alongside my dog – Abe – for countless hours of fieldwork.  It was the best work vehicle a guy could ask for.  Together, we steamrolled through brush covered roads, forded streams, and carried some ridiculous loads.  Watch this video to see one of our exploits.

big red - the red rider truck - rob roberts and trout unlimited

The Red Rider was truly legendary because it had its own sense of humor and personal charisma.  It didn’t drive well in the snow or, really, even the rain, but I took pride in showing up at meetings with the Red Rider.  Parked alongside the shiny new trucks of state agencies or  high dollar consultants, I admit that the much smaller Red Rider looked a little bit silly.  But the Red Rider always held its own, kept its head high, and never let me down.  It always reaffirmed my belief in being part of a lean and mean non-profit, maintaining TU’s focus on efficiency and results and not getting caught up in posh and posturing. Would I have liked 4 wheel drive? Sure.  Did I wish that the interior lights worked consistently? Of course.  Would it have been easier to drive if I knew what gear I was in?  Always.  But I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

I envision the Red Rider spending its remaining days as a cared for farm vehicle, soaking its old bones in a sunny pasture and going out for Sunday drives.   So long, Big Red.  We’ll miss you.

[framed_video column=”full-width”]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tol_nbmKcVY[/framed_video]

 

Downing Mountain in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana with Cassidy Randall

A Pair of Skis Saved My Soul

Posted on 5 CommentsPosted in The M.U.P. Files

Downing Mountain in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana with Cassidy Randall

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.”  – Edward Abbey.

by: Cassidy Randall

(M.U.P. Files contributor)

I am shaped by sun and desert. I wonder that snow has found its way into my bones, into my dreams, the space behind my eyes. It has become my addiction, my religion.

I believe that a pair of skis saved my soul.

I am in the midst of a torrid love affair with our local ski hill, one that has not abated for the years under our belts.

Sweet ski powder turns in the Mission Mountain backcountry

But it’s the wild beauty of the backcountry that draws me back again and again – the seduction of an unbroken expanse of snow, the reliance on our knowledge and sometimes tenuous judgment, the faith in finding grace on an empty mountaintop.

Skiing in the ranges of the Rocky Mountains has taught me to appreciate my body for what it can do, and not for what it looks like – unless what it looks like is strong and ambitious. I’m in love with the humility of looking out across a sea of peaks, knowing that I could not possibly know all of them the way I have come to know the one I am standing on top of – because there are so many, because they have settled like wise old men into the cold winter, because they do not bow to the human need for access.

I am addicted to exhaustion. To aching lungs and a wandering mind. To the sound of nothing but my breathing, my skis breaking a new trail, and the quiet noise of snow falling. I am addicted to how damn hard this can be.

Sunlight on snow in mountains

I believe that skiing untouched snow is the closest I come to flying.

When the rush has opened up my body and mind, and washed them clean so entirely that joy and exhilaration is all that makes them new again – that is the feeling I dream of. For a sense of gratitude so strong that it lingers well into the night, into the next day, in my bones and dreams and the space behind my eyes.

I am graced by the moments after the rush.

***

 

 

 

Yurtopia backcountry ski hut in British Columbia

The M.U.P Files are the community corner of On the Horizon Line. These stories are written by our frie

nds and family who are exploring hometown horizons.  Why “M.U.P.?”  Because dispatches from the desks of our loved ones are like “magical unicorn ponies” that fly across the sea to greet us on distant shores.

Want to be a M.U.P.?  Join the party.  We can’t wait to hear your voice while we sail.

 

sailing to sunrise on the horizon line

Limitless Exploration

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Sailing, Videos

tyler bradt kayaking over waterfall on the horizon lineA fellow Montanan — and friend of our friends — Tyler Bradt is about to set sail across the Pacific on a similar voyage to our own.  Only difference is that he has a boat already, while we’re crewing on other people’s boats.  Oh, and also the fact that he has high-profile sponsors and partners 😉

Tyler is a famous whitewater kayaker and adventurer extraordinaire from Stevensville, Mont-ucky.  Check out his recent interview on the National Geographic Adventure Blog, and the video below that explains his newest adventure: sailing the world over the next 5 years.  Tyler’s answer to this question is almost exactly the same as ours would be:

Nat Geo. How did you pick your course? Are there places in particular that you are most eager to explore?

sailing to sunrise on the horizon line

T.B. This is the hardest part for people to grasp. We don’t have a course! The idea of this expedition is to let it take its own course. By having predetermined destinations and exact ideas of what we are going to do only limits us and what our experiences will be. The idea is to allow this journey to find its own flow, its own route, and what we do and where we do it will be determined by decisions we make in the right moment and not before. This will help keep the boat and crew safe and allow our explorations to be limitless.

Hope to catch up with you in Tahiti or beyond, Tyler.  It’d be a blast to sail on Wizard’s Eye and swap tales of Montana rivers while we cruise distant shores.

Like a Fish Out of Water

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Sailing

We hauled the boat out of Flathead Lake, and winterized her for her stay “on the hard” over the next 7+ months.  It’s always a bittersweet (mostly bitter) moment to see Spindrift swaying like a stranded fish above the lake, knowing that we’re saying goodbye to sailing the blue-green waters beneath Montana’s beautiful peaks.

This fall’s haul-out was even more poignant, as it’s the last time we’ll sail Spindrift for years.  Her owner, John, lives in New York City, and has generously let us share his family’s 1975 Paceship-26 for the past 6 years.  He’s looking for new friends to share and maintain the boat, since we’re heading out on our adventure before the next Montana sailing season.

Luckily, the bitterness of saying goodbye to Spindrift is offset by the sweet, sweet knowledge that next time we set foot on a sailboat it’ll be in warm, salty, southern seas!

The master at work. Phil moves hundreds of boats in and out of the water

Check out Dayton Yacht Harbor’s new yellow tractor! We used to have a 1940s fire truck that pulled out the boats — more ambiance, but also more nerve-wracking.

Kind of weird to see Rob BELOW the sailboat on the water!

There she goes! Out of the lake and up the road, pulled by the new yellow tractor.

Almost at her resting place for the winter. Spindrift stays on jacks “on the hard” from Oct through June.