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Years ago, advenurer Richard Jones hiked the Appalachian Trail along the Eastern Seaboard. Nearing the end of the tail, his wife and daughter flew to Millinocket, Maine, to join him on the climp up Mount Katahdin and the end of the trail. On their way to Boston, to catch their flight home, the threesome passed through Freeport, Maine, home to L.L. Bean – the famous outdoor clothier. A stop was made to browse the shops. While there, Richard's daughter bought him a pair of L.L. Bean socks, and years later, as he recounts the event, he says that every time he puts them on, they bring a smile to his face, as they are a reminder of the joy he experienced at having his wife and daughter with him on that special occasion. So, it is with the Kimball Jones Sock Co., their socks are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face, or you may exchange them for a pair of equal value.
Why row across an ocean, Why not?
Whether you think he's crazy or not, whether you think at 57 he should be past such nonsense, spend any time at all with Richard Jones, modern-day adventurer, and you'll come away impressed with the pureness of his intent.
Why does this man who graduated from Salt Lake City's Granite High School 40 school years ago want to row 4,000 miles alone across the Atlantic Ocean?
For profit? Nope. Already in the hole and getting deeper.
For fame? Hardly. When he shoves off from the Canary Islands on or around Oct. 7, 2000, there won't be a camcorder or satellite feed in sight.
For the record books? No chance. Already been done, first by an Englishman more than 30 years ago.
For a higher cause? Nah. Nobody's paying charity pledges per knot or per mile on this voyage; there will be no banners urging the legalization or the de-legalization of anything. Look Richard Jones square in his steel blue eyes and ask him why he's planning to row straight through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day and Valentine's Day, dodging hurricanes, perfect storms, sharks, vessels 400 times bigger than his, and subsisting on warm water and freeze-dried backpacker food, and here's what he'll tell you:
"I just want to."
It isn't Mallory's "Because it's there," but it will do.
"I believe most everybody has a dream," says Jones, who just concluded a weekend of rowing from one end of Bear Lake to the other to make sure everything is ship-shape with his custom row boat "The Brother of Jared" before shipping it off to the Canaries. "It's important to chase your dreams, whatever they are," Jones continues. "The trouble is, it's so easy to get caught up in just trying to make a living that you don't get around to them. Then one day you retire and you look back and you wonder why."
Well, Richard Jones isn't going to wonder why. He's already bicycled across the country and hiked all over the continent and run all the rivers in the West. He started World Wide River Expeditions in 1971 and has steered rafts through Cataract Canyon alone more times than you could count. All that river running made him think of rowing across something longer, something like the Atlantic. This will be his second attempt. The first was two years ago, when the starting point was Lisbon and the ending point was Lisbon. In between there was a colossal storm, a breakdown of his de-salinization drinking-water pump, and a compass reading that said he was closing in on England, not Florida.
Back to the drawing board. Now, the de-salinization pump is working fine, the point of departure has been changed from Lisbon to the Canary Islands -- the site, by the way, of Christopher Columbus' first launch -- and Richard is confident if he can just get a start with three straight days of good weather, he and the trade winds will be on their inevitable way to Miami Beach.
As Richard says, he's got a backup for everything . . . except his back.
He's named his craft "The Brother of Jared" after some of the earliest trans-oceanic travelers to the New World, as recorded in the Book of Mormon by a man calling himself the brother of Jared.
That was 2,700 B.C.
Richard doesn't know how long it took the Jaredites to cross the ocean; all he knows is he has seven months of food, limitless water, almost limitless (solar) power, 25,000 miles of river-running rowing behind him . . .
. . . and a dream he's still chasing.
By Lee Benson
Deseret News columnist
Rower faces rough seas and 'Maytag'
You're trying to get it all done by Christmas, you're wondering if those tires will make it through February, you're planning what you'll do on New Year's Eve. Meanwhile, Richard Jones is trying to make it to the Caicos Passage without a rudder and with batteries that are soaking wet. Our intrepid adventurer and veteran Utah river-runner has been at sea for almost two and a half months now, ever since dropping his rowboat over the side of a Los Gigantes, Canary Islands dock on Oct. 10 and aiming for Miami, 4,029 miles away. He overcame seasickness and some tricky currents to row safely out into the heart of the Atlantic, where Halloween and Thanksgiving passed quite peaceably. But about a week ago the ocean changed its mind and ever since, Richard has been battling high seas and a nasty prevailing north wind that wants to deposit him somewhere in Brazil.
So every day he rows northwest, against the current, uphill all the way, bound or bust for the Caicos Passage, a patch of deep water that sits between the Bahamas and the Caicos Islands in the upper Carribean. It is the only viable entrance to the coast of North America when you're a 30-foot rowboat without radar, sonar or an engine.
"If my starting point was the State Capitol and my ending point was somewhere in Utah Valley," Richard explained yesterday via satellite phone, "I'd have to take State Street to get through the Point of the Mountain. Well, the 22nd Parallel is State Street for me. I have to be on it to get through the Caicos Passage." As if that isn't enough to worry about, he currently has to ride out the high pressure system that has settled on him like an anvil, bringing with it temperatures of 110 degrees and waves that never quit. Just yesterday they took out his rudder. But that wasn't the worst. The worst was last Friday, when a violent wave put the boat through what surfers call a "Maytag."
Picked it up and rolled it completely over. "To my utter, utter amazement, the boat righted itself," said Richard. "That's something it never did in all the test trials I put it through on the lakes back in Utah." That 360-degree roll, along with the constant pounding seas, have managed to soak the compartments fore and aft, knocking out the cabin lights. Now, Richard is left only with flashlights at night, and he's working hard to keep the electrical connections for his batteries and phone dry enough to be functional.
"We'll keep going forward," Richard said, as stoically as possible with 1,700 miles remaining to Miami and 1,100 to the Caicos Passage. "It's hour-by- hour and day-by-day and pray things don't deteriorate any more than they already have."
For Christmas, he'll open a number of small wrapped packages put in the boat by friends and family when he left Utah last September, and he'll call his family.
"I miss the little things," said Richard as he thought of home and the holidays. "I miss singing hymns at church, visiting the old people, dinner at the table and the warmth of friends. Those things mean a lot."
By Lee Benson
Deseret News columnist
Richard's rowing trip is over.
I just now received a phone call from Richard's daughter Allison. She said " My dad's row is over. He asked some fisherman to tow him to Ragged Island in the Bahamas (6 miles away from where he met them). During the tow Dad's boat filled with water and capsized". Allison added "he is safe but exhausted, and is waiting to see if he and his boat can be taken by ship to Florida"
Rower back in Family’s arms
Utahn is greeted by children and grandchildren on Nassau dock
Nassau, Bahamas – The still of the early morning on the fishing docks here was broken by a single word.
At that universal yet intensely personal salutation, Utah’s intrepid ocean rower, Richard Jones, deeply tanned and sporting a Tom Hanks “Cast Away” beard, turned from the front of the Bahamian mail boat he had just arrived on and embraced his daughter Allison.
His voyage had ended.
On Monday morning all four of Jones’ children, first Allison, then Suzie, then Kathy and finally Scott, took turns tearfully welcoming their adventure-minded father back to their ranks. His two grandchildren, twins William and Nathan Newell, kept their distance, however, hanging onto the legs of their father, Eric. They were barely a year old when their grandfather began his quest to row nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean, all by himself, last October. Now, at 18 months, they weren’t at all sure who this tall, tanned man was, or for that matter, what the deal was with that huge beard.
The next thing Richard Jones hugged was a cold can of root beer personally delivered by Scott. It wasn’t his favorite brand, Hire’s, it was A & W, but it did not matter. He drank it down in one gulp.
“Thanks,” Jones said to his son, “I’ve waited five months for that.”
It was last October 10, 2000 when Jones, 57, set off from the Canary Islands port of Los Gigantes with an oar in each hand and a seasickness bracelet around his left wrist. His quest was to row the Atlantic Ocean all the way to Miami, Fla, a distance calculated on a straight line at just under 4,000 miles. Only one person had ever done such a thing solo and without stopping, England’s John Fairfax, in 1969. Jones set off to be the second.
He didn’t quite make Miami, however. He was forced to abort his mission 376 miles short of the Florida coast late last Monday, Feb. 19, 2001, when his 29 foot rowboat, “The Brother of Jared,” capsized and didn't right itself during an emergency tow off the coast of Ragged Island in the Bahama chain.
With his family gathered around him on the docks, Jones explained the details of that tow gone bad. He said that, ironically, it was the most perilous part of the entire 133-day sea voyage. And all because he was trying to avoid a disaster, not create one.
The problem had begun with strong northerly winds that first shot up alongside the rugged Ragged Island chain and then abruptly stopped, leaving Jones in high seas and strong currents taking him directly toward land and the jagged reefs that typically surround the islands in the tropics. With nightfall coming, Jones sensed his situation was critical and decided to radio for help. To his surprise, he was answered immediately by residents of Duncan Town, the main settlement on Ragged Island.
A 35’ fishing vessel with a crew of three motored out to provide assistance. The plan was to tow the boat beyond the island and point Jones in the direction of Miami. But the seas were too high and the rope connecting the boats too long, causing “The Brother of Jared” to roll over. The problem was, Jones was still in his rowboat with his safety harness securely fastened. If the fishermen hadn’t kept a close watch in the dark, he could have easily drowned.
As it was, he had to unhook the harness and make his way along the side of the sleek rowboat to the fishing vessel – in 10’ seas.
“One slip and I would not be here,” said Jones.
“But then I got to the boat and I saw these black arms hanging over the side to grab me. Big, strong, black arms, and I was safe.”
Only then did he realize how cold he was. “I hadn’t had time to be scared,” he said. “Or to realize I was freezing.”
The fishermen took him to Duncan Town, where he and “The Brother of Jared” sat on dry land for the first time in nearly five months.
He could have called for replacement parts for his soaked batteries and other navigational electronics and continued his voyage, but it would have been a $20,000 repair, at least, Jones estimated. Instead, he opted to pay the $250.00 that The Bahamian mail boat charged to get him and the rowboat to Nassau. That took a week, about the same pace he’d have made if he’d kept rowing.
Well before the shipwreck, his voyage had already been declared a success by the Ocean Rowing Society of London, England—the 56th certified transoceanic row in history and the 11th certified east-to-west transatlantic solo row, most of which have ended in or near the West Indies, 600 miles southeast of the Bahamas.
As Kenneth Crutchlow, the society’s director, said Monday morning as he congratulated Jones at the Nassau dock, “Well done, Bravo. You have rowed the ocean.”
Crutchlow explained the Ocean Society’s “Columbus rationale” regarding ocean crossings. “Columbus made it from Europe to the islands,” he said. “And everyone agrees he crossed the Atlantic. If it’s good enough for Columbus, it’s good enough for us.”
The spot many believe Columbus docked 509 years ago, the Bahamian Island of San Salvador, is less than 100 miles northeast of Ragged Island.
Officially, Jones’ row goes in the books at 3,675 miles from the Canary Islands to Ragged Island.
Jones began running rivers when he was 14 years old, and he’s had a fascination for waves and water throughout his life. He owned his own Moab-based river running company, Worldwide River Expeditions, for 29 years until he sold out a little over a year ago and began preparing in earnest for his Atlantic crossing.
“It was something I wanted to do,” he said, “and I have no regrets, not a single one.
“I think what sums up my feelings best is a quote e-mailed to me by my friend Larry Lake (while on the voyage). I think it might be from Mark Twain, but it goes, “Now that it’s over, I’m glad I did it. Partly because it was worth it and partly because I don’t have to do it again.”
Jones planned to spend Monday night with his family here in the Bahamas before flying to Miami late Tuesday. He will be a guest on CBS’s The Early Show” with Bryant Gumbel and Jane Clayson Wednesday morning.
“It is so good to see everybody.” Jones said as he left the Nassau dockyards early Monday morning arm in arm with his children. “It is so good to be back.”
By Lee Benson
Deseret News columnist
About Utah: 69-year-old Richard Jones attempts hike from Mexico to Canada
(Note: At age 70, Richard hiked the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail. At age 72, he hiked the 2,220 mile Appalachian Trail, and at age 80 (2022), he will hike the 3,000 miles Continental Divide Trail.)
The phone call came from the top of a mountain somewhere in California. Richard Jones, the man making the call, wasn’t sure exactly where he was. But he knew where he was going. North. Always north.
At least until he hits Canada.
The last we saw of Richard Jones, he was shaking off four-and-a-half months of salt water, having just completed rowing the Atlantic Ocean from the Canary Islands to a place in the Bahamas called Ragged Island, which he ran into while trying to go around. The Deseret News had dispatched me to the Caribbean to find Jones, Stanley-meets-Livingston style. I had been receiving periodic updates from him via satellite phone ever since he left Africa in October of 2000 in his 29-foot boat, “The Brother of Jared,” bound, he hoped, for Miami Beach.
He came up just short, but still his 3,675-mile, 133-day voyage qualified as only the 11th certified crossing of the Atlantic by a solo rower and first by a grandfather.
Before the 57-year-old onetime Moab river-runner came back home to Utah, he stopped off at the morning TV shows in New York, where, when asked how he felt, he quoted Mark Twain: “I’m glad I did it. Partly because it was worth it and partly because I don’t have to do it again.”
That, it appeared, was that.
Until this latest.
On the doorstep of turning 70, Jones is attempting to hike the length of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, all 2,650 miles of it, encompassing the California, Oregon and Washington. He started at the PCT’s southern terminus in the border town of Campo, Calif., on April 24. Since then he has covered more than 500 miles. If all goes well, he’ll celebrate turning 70 on July 9 in the Sierras, and by late September he’ll step into Canada.
About two months ago, Richard sent me an email with details of his newest quest — a kind of encore to the Atlantic row. In early April we met at his home in Sugarhouse where he showed me the 26 supply boxes packed with non-perishable food and other necessities that his wife, Jodie, would be shipping over the course of the next five months to various mail drops in close proximity to the PCT — a Chevron station here, a campground store there. He also showed me his lightweight pack that weighs 12 pounds at its most basic, and somewhere between 35 and 40 pounds fully loaded.
A lot more people try to thru-hike — that’s trail terminology for making it from Mexico to Canada or vice versa — than try to row the Atlantic Ocean. Between 300 and 500 hikers register each season on the PCT — less than half of them actually go the distance.
For weeks, Jones had been gearing up by walking here and there with his pack, routinely making the 10-mile round trip between his house and downtown Salt Lake City. His most ambitious training hike took him to his daughter Allison’s house in Smithfield, a distance of 90 miles. He did it in three days. At night, to approximate trail conditions of camping where you drop, he slept in farmers’ fields. During the cold nights of March and April, he slept in his backyard in his tent.
Everybody hears their own drummer — Jones’ drummer happens to be Ernest Shackleton.
As “climatized” as he’d ever be, Jones flew to San Diego, caught the bus to Campo, strapped on his pack and was off.
He wasn’t sure he’d hold up. He has the usual problems incident to age — knees, a little plantar fasciitis and some heart history with AFib — so he asked me not to write anything until he was confident he had a chance.
Last week, my phone rang. It was Jones. He was at mile 421, he announced. Somewhere to the east, by point of reference, was Lancaster, Calif. It was sunset and he was ready to turn in. To get through the hot, unshaded portion of the PCT — roughly the first 700 miles — he reported that he was starting out every morning around 4:30 a.m. so he could rest during the heat of the day. Then he’d walk till dark.
“If you want to do the story, that’s fine. It looks like I’m staying out here,” he said after we exchanged hellos.
I asked him how hard it is.
“Harder than I thought,” he said. “On the third day out, I got dehydrated and thought I was done. But I’m still here.”
I asked him what’s the biggest challenge.
His answer, to sum it up: his age.
“I’d say the average age out here is probably late 20s,” he said. “For these kids it’s a piece of cake. Best I can tell I’m the oldest one. I just kinda shuffle up the hills.”
He’d already shuffled up three major mountain ranges in the Cleveland National Forest and the San Jacinto and San Bernardino Mountains.
His favorite moment so far?
That would be the day his wife and some friends surprised him when he walked into the McDonald’s where the trail crosses the I-15 freeway at the Cajon Pass northwest of San Bernardino.
“That was wonderful. We had a nice meal,” he said in classic understatement.
Before he signed off, I had to ask him:
“So is it tougher than the ocean?”
“Much tougher,” he said. “If I were younger this would be easier. At 57 I was in my prime. I could just row all day long. I can’t walk up these hills all day long. Rowing the ocean was pretty boring. The scenery never changed. I had a lot of time to think about things. I can’t do that here because I have to pay real close attention to the trail. I have to be very careful where I place my feet.”
“But I’m glad I’m here,” he added, obviously proud about the 21 miles he’d knocked down that day. “You go around every corner and there’s new scenery and new challenges. It’s just fascinating to see what’s over the next horizon.”
By Lee Benson
Deseret News columnist