GoPro Karma vs. Me

Karma
RIP Karma Drone and GoPro Hero5

I finally received the resolution from GoPro regarding my lost Karma Drone in Maui. It is definitely disappointing and unsatisfactory to me. As I stated in my earlier blog, I have always been a huge supporter of GoPro cameras. With this said, I would not recommend investing in the Karma Drone. I bought the entire Karma package, a large SD card, an extra Karma battery, and charger for the GoPro Hero5 for the total of $1,600 less than two months before departing on my first trip to Maui. I followed all directions provided including calibration, mapping, safety checks, and before-hand practice. I researched the area I was going to fly and found no warning advisories, all was clear per AirMap, and even saw another person operating a drone in the same vicinity. Shortly after my drone took off it stopped communicating with the controller and started spiraling away from me into the hillside forest. Lost was all ability to redirect the drone, set it down, or bring it back to take-off location.  My beautiful new Karma Drone and GoPro Hero5 with an SD card full of video and pictures is now hanging in a forest in Maui. I spent the last week sending emails and making phone calls to GoPro customer service. After they studied the logs and communications I sent to them, they decided it was lost due to dropped GPS signal. I asked the customer agent if there is warning in the packaging directions that operation can be cut in circumstances of remote locations. I was told that it is up to the customer to read the GoPro website thoroughly and be familiar with the drone communications on the internet to see any limitations. After numerous challenges to the resolution, the only solution they offered was for me to purchase a new Karma Core for full price, a new Hero5 for 40% off, and they would provide a free replacement Karma battery, propellers, and a stabilizer. I purchased the camera only. I do not trust the Karma Drone at this time and will just take my losses and learn that companies do not always support loyal customers. Possibly it is my fault for using the drone with the same expectations that I had in the DJI Phantom 4 that had operated in remote areas of Iceland? At this point I am over it. I ended up having a fabulous time in Maui and took some beautiful pictures and videos once I had gotten over the shock of my loss. I actually checked off one of my Bucket List items by taking a selfie with a sea turtle! I will be posting a blog from my Maui trip soon. Just a warning though: Do not use a Karma Drone unless you have studied their website and are willing to loose your investment due to what I consider a weak product. This drone has limitations that I did not experience when using the DJI Phantom 4 Drone. Use it at you own risk!

GoPro Karma vs. Maui

Karma Drone
Karma Before it Went Rogue

Let me preface this quick blog post with the fact that I have an unresolved issue with GoPro and am waiting for a final response regarding the loss of my new Karma Drone and GoPro Hero5. I have always been a supporter of GoPro and was an early consumer of the Hero cameras. I bought my first Hero3 in 2008 and loved it. I then moved up to the Hero4 and was very excited about the onscreen viewer. When the Karma was announced I did my research studying all the various drones available. My friend brought her DJI Phantom 4 Drone on our Iceland trip so I considered that model in my decision making. After much thought I decided on the Karma. Wow, the new Hero5 and stabilizer are amazing. I practiced with the Karma in numerous locations including mountain tops and beaches. Being so excited to use my newly purchased Karma on my first adventure to Maui, I mapped and charted the locations I would be filming. All was good until the Karma stopped responding and as I was running down the middle of the narrow road to Hana, the Karma was free flying into the dense forest of Maui. Just like that $1,600 into the unknown. I lost all my pictures and videos on the SD card and at that moment my trip was ruined. To make a long story short, I am still negotiating with GoPro because I followed all the rules of using a Karma and they are not sure I did. On a lighter note, is there something up with the name “Karma” and did I deserve this? I will keep you posted as to what happens and if I continue to praise GoPro products……..

African Night Creatures

Leopard
Leopard After Dinner

There is nothing like the adventure of cruising slowly through the African bush looking for creatures after dark. You never know what you may find or even if you will find anything at all. It all depends on the persistence and experience of your ranger. Earlier this year we were fortunate enough to have two fantastic rangers at MalaMala Main Lodge in South Africa and at Okonjima Plains Camp in Namibia who treated us to some amazing after dark sights. Many African animals and birds are only seen during the night as they are nocturnal. I really wanted to see a honey badger and a pangolin but we were not lucky enough to find those animals on either night. I did get to see a group of bush babies huddled in a tree, a chameleon, a few brown hyenas, a twelve-foot-long African rock python, owls, lion, leopard, cheetahs, and lots of porcupines. It was amazing how our guide could steer the jeep with one hand, while scanning the darkness holding a flashlight in the other and then spot bush babies in a tree so far away. The ranger was then able to find us a tiny green chameleon camouflaged in the leaves of a tree. What an exciting addition to our day safari experience to see these animals in their natural settings at night.

Franklin, North Carolina

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Dry Falls, North Carolina

Franklin is a small town in Macon County, North Carolina just about fifteen miles north of the Georgia/North Carolina State line. The town sits within the Nantahala National Forest and is surrounded by many beautiful waterfalls and hikes. Franklin is also where my grandma lives. I love visiting her as it is a great escape from the hectic and fast-paced life of living in Southern California. Her house sits on 5 acres of beautiful grass prairie surrounded with lush green trees and a clear view of Scaly Mountain. A brook runs just twenty feel behind her house and at night with the windows open it’s constant sound gently lulls you to sleep. During the summer night fireflies dance around the trees and the sky is full of bright stars.

We usually visit in August when it is hot and humid but we can escape the heat by tubing down the Little Tennessee River, sliding down the waterfall at Sliding Rock, swimming in a nearby lake, or simply wading in the brook behind the house. Every Saturday night in the summer, downtown Franklin hosts “Pickin’ On The Square”. The streets surrounding the downtown gazebo area are closed off and large groups of people bring their chairs to sit and enjoy local entertainment and music, while some do spontaneous line dancing to the sounds. Franklin in October is beautiful when the leaves are changing colors as fall sets in. The Nantahala Forest turns from dense bright green to various shades of green, red, orange, and yellow as the days pass. It gets cool during the day and cold at night. This is my favorite time to visit Franklin for hiking because the weather is perfect during the day. Franklin is just a little over an hours drive to Asheville, home of the Biltmore Estate. This is a great day trip to visit the historic mansion and it’s lovely gardens. We usually take a day trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which is a beautiful drive over the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway. There are many things to do in Gatlinburg including my favorite, moonshine tasting at the many moonshine distilleries.

Waterfalls are abundant around Franklin. The largest one, Dry Falls, has a nice parking area and foot path down to the falls were you can walk underneath the 75 foot falls. Bridal Veil Falls is right off the U.S. 64 and is visible from the road. In the summer Bridal Veil Falls is rather small but during the wet season it is more impressive. Cullasaja Falls can be seen from U.S. 64 or hiked to for a better view by taking a short but rather steep trail through some rough terrain. Sliding Rock is always fun in the summer. This natural waterslide can get crowded in the summer with people jumping in the water towards the top and sliding down the face of the smooth rocks in the rushing water. These are just a few of the wonderful waterfalls in the Franklin area. Hiking trails are just as abundant in the area. My favorite hike is at Chimney Rock State Park. It is a somewhat strenuous climb up many stairs to get to the top but definitely worth the view of the valley and river below. Everywhere you turn in Southwest North Carolina is a new outdoor adventure. I have just started exploring the area and I have been going there for over ten years!

 

The AfriCat Foundation and the Giraffes of Okonjima Valley, Namibia

GiraffeOkonjima Valley is the home of the AfriCat Foundation Headquarters, a private wildlife conservation reserve. This non-profit reserve focuses on preservation of cheetahs, leopards, wild dogs, and other wildlife that have been displaced by predators and commercial farming. While the numbers of these animals are dwindling due to loss of natural habitat, the AfriCat Foundation works as an educational center for local farmers and communities and a rehabilitation center for displaced and injured animals. During our visit to Namibia we stayed at Okonjima Plains Camp, which was absolutely beautiful. One morning we toured the AfriCat headquarters and then a guide took us out into the bush to track cheetah by foot. After seeing leopards and cheetahs around the Foundation, we took our afternoon game drive through the Okonjima Valley seeing some of the most beautiful green rolling grasslands sprinkled with giant rust colored ant hills. When it came time for us to stop for our sunset break we came around a corner and there was a large group of giraffes. Counting at least ten adults and twelve juveniles, we chose that as our rest stop and quietly settled into the “giraffe party”. It was such a treat to be able to sit with these graceful animals, watching the little ones nurse while their moms stretched tall to pull leaves from the trees with their long tongues. They acted cautious when they first saw us so we kept at a comfortable distance so they could carry on with what they were doing. Second to elephants, giraffes are my favorite African animal. Just for that moment, life could not be any better for me than to sit quietly in the calm of the Namibian grassland, drinking a glass of wine, and watching giraffes in their natural habitat. As the sun went down it was time for us to go back to the lodge and although I was sad to leave these wonderful creatures, I knew I would always have the memory of this special experience.

Okonjima Valley

My Adventure as an Intern in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. is a magical area full of American history and culture. I first visited D.C. on an eight grade school trip years ago. We visited most of the museums throughout the area and saw amazing sights but I knew someday I would have to go back when I was older and could truly appreciate and understand the history of my country. During my last year of college, I was chosen to be an intern to Congress for the summer. It was an incredible experience full of adventure and exploration. After departing the U.S. Capitol building each afternoon, my fellow interns and I would hop on the Metro and head in the direction of some new place to explore. We took in every museum, park, governmental building, tunnel, bridge, memorial and monument. We were invited to visit foreign embassies to learn about their customs and culture. We went kayaking on the Potomac River and went jogging every night to the Lincoln Memorial. Being woken up by the sounds of the Rolling Thunder as they rode into town on the morning of Memorial Day and then getting to watch the Presidential address at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were highlights of my visit. Watching the Independence Day fireworks from the National Mall with thousands of others from around the country was unlike any other firework displays I have seen. Summer is very hot and humid in D.C. but we were able to make fun out of every adventure we went on. I will always treasure the opportunity I had to serve as a congressional intern in Washington, D.C. and the time I was able to explore this beautiful area full of history and culture

 

Antelope Valley Poppy Fields, California

The state flower of California is the California Poppy. In the spring between the months of March and May the California Poppy can be seen throughout the state scattered along the roads and fields of California and especially in large explosions of color in the rolling hills of the Antelope Valley. The poppy fields can be seen inside the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, a State National Reserve, or in the fields along Lancaster Road off Highway 14. The growth each year will depend on how much rainfall the area has received. It is best to visit the poppy fields during mid-morning as this is when the flower opens up for their brilliant show. Afternoon winds cause the poppies to close up again, although their beauty can still be seen. If you are planning a visit to California in the spring, make sure to include a trip to see this amazing site of nature in it’s full bloom.