Exploration is often romanticized as a solitary endeavor. From Thoreau’s existential meanderings from Walden to John Krakauer’s recounting of Christopher McCandless heading “Into the Wild” of Alaska, we tend to deem journeys undertaken in isolation as more valid. But where would our Explore Issue have traveled without companionship, collaboration, and the vividness that only shared experiences can provide?

The short answer is nowhere. If Serena Bass hadn’t shared her ambitions to traverse the entirety of the Suwannee River with Alex Tabone, we wouldn’t have quite the grasp on the magnitude of the threats facing our beautiful waterways (“Sweep the Suwannee”). If vinyl-fiends Matt Anderson, Lauren Hamilton, and Jeff Driscoll hadn’t joined our mission to scavenge as many Jacksonville record shops as we could in one day, we’d have less of an understanding of how our choices in music shape who we are (“The Thrill of the Find”). If Trenton Phillips hadn’t assembled a crew of local skaters to shred as many free skate spots as they could in a single afternoon, we’d surely take for granted what it is to be a skateboarder in Northeast Florida today (“Free Ride”). As the spirit of community permeates the pages of this issue from front to back, Arts and Music columnist Daniel A. Brown profiles the prolific, undefinable output of Richard Colado, AKA rickoLus, whose myriad collaborations date back nearly two decades.

Artist Dustin Harewood found inspiration for new artworks while exploring the sands of North Florida beaches. Photo: Cole LoCurto

Still, if more lone-wolf style investigations are your thing, we’ve got those too. We follow artist Dustin Harewood as he draws inspiration from Northeast Florida artifacts (“Dustin Harewood Shells it Out”). Meanwhile, relative area newcomer Ian Mikrut unearths a plethora of actually fun things to do at the St. Johns Town Center (“Gear and Loathing in Town Center”). And Shelton Hull catches up with the Florida Times-Union’s Mark Woods after the culmination of the columnist’s walk across Jacksonville (“The Roads Less Traveled”).

We are thrilled to share these journeys and more in this issue.

As I’ve tried to use these monthly liner notes to lift the curtain, if only a little bit, on the machinations behind each issue of this magazine, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a few shout-outs to our extraordinary group of freelancers. Over the course of five years of friendship, Arts and Music columnist Daniel A. Brown and I have shared in the experience of the journeyman regional writer. But aside from being one of Northeast Florida’s best arts writers, Brown is perhaps as well known for his prominence on the bass guitar as a member of the famed-90s alt group Royal Trux, as well as the fuzzy, garage-blues outfit ‘68 Comeback. The transatlantic psychedelic-folk experiment, One Eleven Heavy, is Brown’s newest musical project. And just last month the band signed a contract with the unimpeachably cool indie label Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records.

Meanwhile, if you’re an avid reader of The New York Times, our Bound By Water columnist Michael Adno has become one of the paper’s most reliable and intriguing features writers. Aside from his work with the Gray Lady, Adno recently won a James Beard Award for his profile of Ernest Matthew Mickler for The Bitter Southerner.

Northern Northeast Florida shot by Josh Wessolowski for this month’s Bound By Water Column

It brings me great joy to be able to include words from our esteemed group of contributors in the pages of our magazine and on this website. Thanks for putting your eyeballs on both.