As a pair of kayaks rounds a bend in in the Chippewa River, the paddlers spy a blue kingfisher diving into the water to grab a fish before flying away with its catch. Nature continues its daily course as people gently float down the river's gentle currents on tubes or propel themselves along in kayaks or canoes. Chippewa River Outfitters helps renters make their own river-bound memories with trips that last from 1.5 hours to overnight. With a paddle or tube in hand, explorers get to take advantage of the river's cool waters and nature's free shows regardless of age or propensity for boat-tipping.
Captain Lee Robinson spent his childhood fishing Alabama’s inshore waters for trout, redfish, flounder and tripletail. His passionate pastime turned into a career—now a USCG-licensed boat captain with 15 years of fishing experience, Lee leads fishing trips for Mobile Bay Charters through the same shallow waters where he spent his youth. At the helm of his 24-foot Pathfinder, powered by a Yamaha 300-horsepower engine rather than a chariot of seahorses, he takes passengers to prime fishing spots in waters from Mobile Bay to Orange Beach.
For four decades, Buckley’s Mountainside Canoes has sent visitors paddling through the calm currents of the Chippewa River, winding through miles of natural forestland in Sylvan Solace, Deerfield, and Meridian Park. The river’s clear, unpolluted waters stretch before paddlers during trips that range anywhere from one to seven hours. Maintaining its longstanding tradition of keeping the river clean, Buckley’s equips paddlers with debris bags so they can snag rubbish along the way, if they choose.
A reiki healer and fifth-generation painter, Hannah Manges believes in the power of intuition, such as when she sensed that what her adult art students needed most was to finger paint. Though she's classically trained, Manges never cared for the rigidity and competitiveness that often characterized the art industry. She further saw that teaching her adult students in a classical tradition took the joy out of things; most of them were there to try something new and expand themselves, not master technique. So during a class in which her students struggled to find joy in their work, she put their canvases away and grabbed a stack of paper plates. Thus began her BYOB finger-painting class, which has evolved into an experience in which people "kick off their shoes, have some wine, and have some fun."
Though the BYOB finger-painting course remains among her most popular—it's earned recognition in local press, such as the Midland Daily News—Manges leads other classes that range from couples' painting workshops to watercolor for beginners. She also teaches art via her television series, Painting Pictures with Hannah Manges, on Midland Community Television Network Channel 99. "I'm becoming a celebrity to all the 80-year-old women in town who read the paper and watch public television," she laughs.
To further encourage students and visitors to become more comfortable with art, Manges posts signs throughout her gallery that say, "Please touch everything." She encourages everyone to fully experience each piece of her art, which includes The Healing Tree series, a collection Manges began to connect with her deceased mother.
For many, maintaining a healthy fitness regimen is an off-putting chore on par with cleaning the garage or assembling that backyard roller coaster for the kids. The folks behind Snap Fitness, which now boasts locations all over the world, are of the opinion that this doesn't have to be the case. They believe 24-hour access to premium cardio and strength-training equipment, innovative easyFIT monitors to track personal progress, and perpetual guidance from certified professionals can help transform physical fitness into an accessible activity that yields measurable and tangible results. In addition to providing online workout rubrics and meal plans, they work to keep sweat glands up and running by offering workout rewards programs, making regular check-in calls, and measuring bodies—sans padded muscle suits—every 30 days.