Holcombe family

Sharing stories, boater tales and family adventure insights, from left, Peter, Abby and Kathy Holcombe visited Buena Vista with a slideshow that depicted their adventures from the Grand Canyon to the Florida Keys.

Famagogo returned for its fourth year at PaddleFest, inspiring family-style adventures through tales and slideshows of their own expeditions.

Peter, Kathy and daughter Abby Holcombe took turns describing their experiences over the last year: Backpacking on the Appalachian Trail, biking the C&O Canal Towpath and kayaking the Grand Canyon and Florida Keys, among other places in the country.

“It was really amazing to know how much I’ve changed in a year,” Abby said after describing her experience in their return trip to the Grand Canyon. “I went from being terrified of every single rapid to making my way down on the second trip.”

Each account was brought to life through the Holcombes’ enthusiasm and humor, as well as through their scenic slideshow of photos and videos. Their delights, their struggles, their fears, the people and animals they met, the architecture they saw – everything came together in vivid stories.

“It was kind of cool exploring a whole different environment than what we’re used to on the rivers,” Kathy said as she told of the wildlife she encountered in the Florida Keys.

Thanks to their love of traveling, the Holcombes decided to take to life on the road 4 years ago, selling their house in Boulder and living and working out of their Winnebago motor home. A year of traveling and seeing new places only encouraged them to keep going.

“The more we travel, the longer our list gets of things we want to do,” Peter said. “You’d think it’d get shorter…but we go somewhere and we realize there are eight other things we didn’t even know about that we want to do, too.”

Abby receives education through a flexible source called Laurel Springs Online School, based in California. She still has teachers instruct her, she’s able to obtain affordable textbooks and she submits all of her homework online.

“When we first were going on the road, we were talking to Earl (Richmond) who owned CKS at the time,” Peter said. “One thing led to another. I guess Earl knew about my photography and was like, ‘Hey, you guys should do some sort of family adventure slideshow.’ And here we are. It’s grown every year.”

The first year of their slideshow was outside, but they had to wait until dark which was inconvenient for some. The other years they’ve done it at the community center, a more controlled environment.

“We think of PaddleFest as the beginning and the end of our year, so we always like to debut our year-in video at PaddleFest,” Peter said.

Many at the event were already fans of Famagogo, but some faces were new. The audience laughed, applauded and eagerly asked questions at the end.

One audience member, part-time Buena Vista resident Jill Tipton, had met the Holcombes before and supported them as a fellow traveler and geologist. Their work in traveling and their means of educating Abby while on the road still impress her.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Tipton said. “It inspires a lot of people. I think it inspires families that there’s alternative ways to raise your children. If you have the drive and the influence and you’re creative, it helps people see that there’s many pathways in life to be able to raise a family. It helps that they’re also very innovative as well.”

The Holcombes are longtime fans of PaddleFest and still participate in some of the events, including the Kayak Rodeo, the Numbers Kayak Race and Race to the Grill.

“We go to whitewater festivals all over the country, and PaddleFest is by far our favorite out of all of them,” Peter said. “PaddleFest has something for everybody, from the 6-year-old brand new kayaker all the way up to the professionals.”

Famagogo’s new video will go online June 16.

In the meantime, the Holcombes will be on the road – and rivers – for another year of adventures, perhaps even going overseas someday to explore even more opportunities.

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