Fall camping in Michigan?...Quite possibly the best!


Fall camping in Michigan?...Quite possibly the best!

In the middle of one of the busiest times of year for your family, have you thought about taking a little break to reconnect with your family?  Fall camping is one of my favorite things - you can sit around the fire and enjoy its glow and warmth, those pesky flies aren’t biting your kids as they ride their bikes until the sun goes down. And how can you forget about warm gooey s’mores as the crisp fall air settles in for the night?  Camping this fall might just be the ticket for your family to reconnect in the midst of a busy schedule and catch back up with life.  The best part of this is you don’t have to travel far to enjoy a great camp ground with your family!  



Holland's Unknown Treasure

The little town of Holland, Michigan is known for many things: the spring celebration of Tulip Time, downtown's lush Farmer's Market, Thursday night's street performers, incredible restaurants, happening night life, Hope College, breweries, beaches... this list doesn't need to stop. Frankly, residents of such a scene need an escape in their own town.

Recently, a local high school asked Coast 3 to teach a 2 week kayaking and paddle boarding class in various locations near Holland. We covered the basics first, Pigeon River, Lake Macatawa, Kalamazoo River, Lake Michigan, then we explored Holland's biggest secret, the Macatawa River.

Lake Macatawa isn't the cleanest lake in West Michigan, far from it. However, it's fed by a series of streams and rivers - the farther upstream you go, the cleaner it gets. We dropped into the Macatawa River, also known as the Black River, near the intersection of 104th and Adams. 

The serenity is surprising. There aren't houses or parks, it's all natural and runs through the middle of Holland. It's a side of Holland you will never see, except by kayak or paddle board and it's highly recommended. 

Give us a call, we'd be happy to show Holland like you've never seen it. 

Kayak from 104th and Adams to Window on the Waterfront (2.5-3hrs)

Kayak from 104th and Adams to Window on the Waterfront (2.5-3hrs)



What Makes You Happy?

An article from Outside Magazine. We thought it was so good we had to share it with you:

The tendency to be happy or not is an inherited trait, but the good news is that this is less than half the story. According to a 2012 study of identical and fraternal twins conducted by a team of scientists from top universities around the world, only about a third of our happiness level is determined by genes. The rest is up to us.

Looking for drivers of well-being, the researchers zeroed in on a gene that aids in the transport of the neurotransmitter serotonin. In the biochemistry of mood, serotonin plays a role much like the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz, bringing brightness and cheer, and regulates stress levels, sleep, and pain, among other things. The study found that those who’d inherited longer variations of -the gene had a slight increase in overall happiness, but surveys of the twins suggested that genes get only a minority vote when it comes to mood.

Other research indicates that how happy you are can influence the ways your genes are expressed. In a 2013 study, researchers at UCLA and the University of North Carolina reported that happiness levels have powerful effects on genes and our health. But there was a catch: the specific kind of happiness mattered a lot. The unselfishly happy, whose feelings of well-being involved a deep sense of purpose in life, had a strong expression of antiviral and antibody genes.

Happy hedonists, meanwhile, wrapped up in materialistic pleasures, had weaker immune systems, resulting in inflammation that can lead to cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. “Even pleasures that seem virtuous, like looking at a sunset, can be hedonic, because they involve one’s own emotional gratification,” explains UCLA professor of medicine Steven Cole, the senior author of the study. “The real distinction is whether your happiness is tied into purpose and meaning outside yourself.”

Bottom line: like so many things, how happy you are comes down to how you choose to live your life. We’ve rounded up the latest beta on how to show your DNA who’s boss.

1. Rise with the Sun

Most adults require seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Less than that and we’re crankier, dumber, sicker, and even fatter. But that’s no excuse to sleep in. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine notes that more time awake in daylight increases your levels of vitamin D, which the body synthesizes when skin is exposed to the sun. The vitamin, according to Boston University medical researchers, gooses genes that play a role in resistance to autoimmune and infectious diseases, as well as cancer. Think you’re wired to sleep late? Think again. Doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston looked at variations in a gene responsible for circadian rhythms and found differences in natural wake times of only an hour tops.

2. Get Dirty

Dirt may be the new Prozac. Working in soil raises your spirits, in part because you pick up cheerful germs while digging. University of Colorado researcher Christopher Lowry injected mice with dirt-dwelling Mycobacterium vaccae and found increased serotonin in the critters’ prefrontal cortex. Getting your own dose is as easy as taking a walk in the wilderness or planting something. You don’t need to wait until spring: even in the dead of winter you can sprout basil seeds in a pot on your sunniest windowsill.

3. Make Every Day Saturday

You don’t need science to tell you that you’re happier on the weekends, but a 2010 University of Rochester study of 74 adults explains why that’s so. It’s not just time away from a desk; it’s the freedom to make choices. “Our findings highlight just how important free time is to an individual’s well-being,” wrote psychologist Richard Ryan, the study’s author. Ryan and his colleagues also found that you can get even more out of your time off if you spend it with people you care about and get outside, which “adds to vitality.” Bonus: you can get doses of that weekend buzz on weekdays, too. Here’s how:

  • Start a regular run or bike ride with coworkers. You’ll build relationships while releasing endorphins.
  • One night every week, schedule at least two hours away from home, but don’t plan anything. The spontaneity and freedom will give you a TGIF buzz.
  • Pitch a tent in a nearby patch of woods. Just get up in time to take a shower at home before work.

4. Crank the Tunes

That emotional rush you feel when you listen to your favorite songs? It’s chemical. In 2011, neuroscientist Valorie Salimpoor and her colleagues at Montreal’s McGill University conducted a study demonstrating that hearing music causes the brain to pump out dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and anticipated reward. Music lovers in the study chose what to play—everything from classical to Led Zeppelin to techno—then the researchers used a combination of technologies to scan their brains while they kicked back and listened. The dopamine surge was greatest just before and during favorite parts of a song.

5. Drink Up

Dehydration makes you cranky. A 2012 study by a consortium of researchers that included the U.S. Army showed that even a mild case of it made healthy young people gloomy and pessimistic. When subjects fully hydrated, then exercised or took diuretics to lose, on average, 1.4 percent of their body weight, their moods slid, possibly because certain neurons can detect dehydration and may alert parts of the brain that manage mood. How much do we need to drink to stay happy? One rule of thumb is to halve your weight and drink that many fluid ounces daily—i.e., a 180-pound man would drink 90 ounces, or about 11 glasses. Of course, the need to rehydrate soars when you exercise. One reliable gauge: your pee should be clear or pale yellow, more pinot grigio than Gatorade.

6. Hit the Beach

It’s not just the oiled bods. Research has found that people with depression, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s all lack vitamin D, which your body produces when your skin is exposed to direct sunlight. And recent British studies have confirmed that views of the ocean and other blue spaces make us happier than other landscapes. Some researchers think the reason could be evolutionary, that our biggest step was learning to catch fish, which added omega-3 fatty acids to our diet. (Omega-3’s have been known to lower rates of depression.) Others, like Wallace J. Nichols, a scientist and author of BlueMind, a forthcoming book about how water improves our health and mood, point to the feelings of awe and wonder we have when we gaze at oceans, lakes, or rivers. “It spurs the brain to release a mix of dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins,” Nichols says. “It gives us a sense of oneness with the universe.” You know, like Ommm.

7. Play More

Because having fun means you’ll keep at activities that are good for you. After surveying college students, researchers at Southeastern Louisiana University found that enjoying an activity—whether playing on a soccer team, training for a triathlon, or taking long hikes—is the best method for staying motivated and sticking to a routine. “Pure enjoyment,” wrote Marcus Kilpatrick, the study’s lead author, “is a strong predictor of future behavior.”

8. Go Screenless

How bad are your screens for mood and productivity? Let us count the ways. A 2013 study published by the Public Library of Science showed that more use of Facebook meant less sense of well-being and more feelings of envy. Responses to National Geographic’s True Happiness Test survey in 2011 suggested that the happiest people were those who watched less than an hour of television a day. And in 2009, Harvard Business School professor Leslie Perlow, author of Sleeping with Your Smartphone, asked a team at the Boston Consulting Group to unplug—no e-mail, texting, or client calls—one night a week. Five weeks in, the consultants were functioning better as a team and did more work in less time. Four years hence, the weekly disconnect remains company policy.

9. Give Your Time

Multiple studies have shown that volunteering increases well-being while also lowering cholesterol and reducing mortality rates among volunteers. “It’s like going to a chiropractor for your soul,” says Brad Ludden, founder of First Descents, which offers outdoor adventures to kids and young adults diagnosed with cancer. “It realigns everything, and your problems don’t seem as large anymore.” The best volunteer experiences are those that connect to your passions, says Suzanne Richards, author of a 2013 study at the University of Exeter Medical School that found that volunteers live longer, are less depressed, and have enhanced feelings of well-being. “The important thing is that people feel they are getting something out of it,” Richards says.

10. Train with a Team

In 2009, researchers at Oxford University discovered that exercising in a group makes you train harder and leaves you with a higher level of endorphins than when you exercise alone. Another study, in 2010, by the University of Ballarat in Australia, found that those who played club sports (baseball, basketball, soccer) had better mental health and were more satisfied with their lives than those who didn’t. Don’t know where to start? Try Team in Training (teamintraining.org), the world’s biggest club of endurance athletes. 

11. Get High on Chocolate

A 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that people who are depressed eat more chocolate. Why? Other research found that chocolate contains valeric acid, a relaxant and tranquilizer. The smell of chocolate slows down brain waves, helping us feel calmer. And certain compounds in it spur our brains to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that have a similar effect on well-being as opiates. 

12. Eat Happy Meals

What you ingest can have a huge impact on the level of neurotransmitters in your brain. Here are the top feel-good foods and active compounds that lift your spirits.

  • Elk. Elk meat is rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that helps the body synthesize the happy neurotransmitter serotonin. Also packing high levels are spirulina, spinach, turkey, egg whites, black beans, split peas, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, cashews, and almonds.
  • Greens. They’re rich in folate, a benevolent B vitamin that also aids in synthesizing serotonin and helps ward off cancer and the degenerative diseases associated with aging. Follow Popeye’s lead: amp up your intake of dark leafy vegetables like spinach and collard and turnip greens.
  • Gamma-aminobutyric acid. Nothing we eat actually contains GABA, a neurotransmitter known as nature’s Valium for its calming effects, but certain foods contain its building block, the amino acid glutamine. Among them: pork, beef, sesame and sunflower seeds, oats, cabbage, spinach, and parsley.
  • Indian food. Curcumin, a compound in turmeric, boosts production of serotonin. In a 2013 study at the Baylor Research Institute in Dallas, 500 milligrams of curcumin twice a day proved to be as effective an antidepressant as Prozac.
  • Healthy fats. In particular, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the most abundant fatty acid in the brain and an important moderator of mood and mental health. A 2011 study of military personnel found that suicide risk was highest among those with the lowest DHA levels. Where to get it? Cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna, plus shrimp and other shellfish.

13. Raise a Glass

Turns out that moderate drinkers—people who imbibe no more than 14 alcoholic drinks a week—are healthier and happier than abstainers. A 2012 Boston University School of Medicine study tracked a panel of middle-aged men and women for 14 years and determined that moderate drinkers had fewer chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and cancers, and higher levels of HDL, the good cholesterol. More surprising still: the study showed that quality of life actually went down among those who curbed their intake. And other research demonstrated that beer and liquor are just as good for you as wine. We’ll drink to that.

14. Keep Animal Friends Close

Dog, cat, lizard, pig—doesn't matter. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found no consistent differences between owners of different types of pets, only that having one makes us healthier and happier. The study also concluded that pet owners have greater self-esteem and tend to be less fearful. 

Reported by Erin Beresini, Frederick Reimers, Jen Schwartz, and Mike Steere.

See Outside's Article here: http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/wellness/The-Pursuit-of-Happiness.html?page=all


Why September Might Be The Best Month To Camp In Michigan


Why September Might Be The Best Month To Camp In Michigan

August is flying by and you may already be mentally preparing for the end of Summer. STOP! There is still plenty of time to enjoy summer. When we think about camping in Michigan, most of us jump to those months between Memorial Day and Labor Day when the kids are out of school. But for those of you not tied to a school schedule, or families looking for a weekend getaway, don't forget about September (and even October). Here are 5 Reasons why we think September might just be the best month of the year for a camping trip: 

  1. It's still summer. Technically summer extends to the 21st of September, and the summer weather usually does as well. The average high temperature for the month of September is a perfect 72 degrees. 
  2. Cooler evenings make for a better campfires. It's hard to enjoy a hot campfire on a hot day. September offers the perfect evening temperature for a pair of jeans by the fire. 
  3. Campgrounds are less busy. Kids are back in school which means quieter campgrounds and your choice of the best sites, no need for reservations. 
  4. Prices drop.  Everything from camper and gear rentals to campgrounds and tourist attractions drop their prices after Labor Day. 
  5. Bugs are gone. For the most part, the mosquitos and other pests tend to start disappearing in August. So, when camping in September you are less likely to spend your days covered in bug spray or swatting mosquitos. 

Other reasons you can think of? Feel free to share them! Coast 3 still has some camper rental availability for September and October and we'll be taking a few trips as well if you'd like to join us! 


Paddle Boarding: Pigeon Lake


Paddle Boarding: Pigeon Lake

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Just north of Holland on Lakeshore drive, a little boat launch grabbed our attention as a perfect place to drop some paddle boards into the river. 6 of us, and a dog, decided to make the most of the 96 degree evening. 

For the next 2.5 hours we slowly got the hang of it. We made our way down the river out to Lake Michigan and spent some time on the beach making some new friends. 

The total time for this adventure was 3 hours, easily doable on any summer evening or for a quick weekend trip. Cost per person is $25 (includes board, paddle, guide & transportation), members go free! For scheduled trips, or to request a location, click here.



St. Croix


St. Croix

I spent last week on the island of St. Croix scouting it as a potential location for future guided diving trips. The question of whether or not this would be a COAST 3 travel destination was answered on the first dive.

I was pleasantly surprised with the amazing life on the reefs. Fish of every kind and size swarmed in schools. Sharks, spotted eagle rays, turtles, you name it. Additionally the corals were abundant and the variety was outstanding. One dive site would feature reefs more similar to Mexico and another would feature massive walls like those found in the Bay Islands.

But the diving was just part of it. On land the surprisingly affordable island offers a huge variety of lodging, dining, and fun. You can sail, rent jet skis, shop, hike, and yes, even watch large pigs drink beer (long story).

Stay tuned for updates as we'll be posting fall and winter trips in the near future. In the mean time enjoy the photos. 

 - Rob