The Hartys brought their active outdoor lives to Mahanaim Adventures
Adventure enthusiasts DIANE and DON HARTY spend their workday on the water. From trips to Shark’s Tooth Island in search of fossils and teeth to full-day trips to Three Sisters Swamp, through some of the oldest tree stands in the world—Mahanaim Adventures keeps the Harty crew busy.
Mahanaim Adventures takes its name the Bible, Don shares, specifically Genesis 32:2—Jacob going back to Canaan, sees angels in the desert and says, that’s where we want to camp at. Basically, Mahanaim means god’s campground,” he says, with a smile.
Their tagline is ‘Positive, Memorable Adventures,’ reflecting their dedication to helping families come together in nature. “Families want to do it but don’t always know how, wood is wet, can’t start fire,” says Diane Harty. If they don’t have the skills or experience, she explains, they may have negative memories of the outdoors. “We help them create positive memories of the outdoors,” she explains.
Don and Diane Harty met at Georgia Southern University, where they discovered their shared love of outdoor adventure. Diane Harty grew up camping, and Don’s dad was a church camp director: “I grew up in Boy Scouts, hiking and camping,” he says.
After being laid off from UNCW, Don Harty launched the idea of kayaking business. “I prayed about it for a while, and then talked to Diane.”
“We cashed in our savings, and paid all our debt. But we kept the house,” says Diane Harty, with a laugh. “It took a couple years to get Mahanaim going, but we did it!”
Based out of their homestead in Monkey Junction, the family business has taken off. Kayaks live on racks in the backyard, and the Hartys meet their customers at boat ramps near expedition launch points.
Over the years, the Harty kids have also been on board—outdoor adventuring has always been a family affair. “When he first started dating my daughter, our son-in-law made the mistake of camping with us,” says Don Harty, with a smile. “The kids regaled him with family lore—how Diane fell off a horse, the storms we’ve been through camping…what dawned on Diane and I were the memories we’d created with our kids in the outdoors.”
“One the best things about this is to work with my children,” he continues. “They learned how to treat people kindly and how to navigate adverse situations, which has helped them in other professional situations.”
Above all, shares Don Harty, the kids love helping with the trips. “Our middle daughter’s now a clinical care specialist in the Charlotte area. She’ll call and say, ‘Dad, I need to come back for some aqua therapy. It’s aqua therapy time.’”
Looking back on personal and professional time on the water, Diane Harty shares some highlights from early trips. “When we first started kayaking, we were alongside a container ship that was going a little fast. Don Harty told me to paddle hard to get out of the wake. I got hit by a couple of waves and dumped out,” she recalls, with a laugh. In the shallower water, she was dragged onto Bird Island. “Needless to say, Diane wasn’t real happy with me,” says Don, with a chuckle. “When that wake happens, make sure you’re in deeper water! It was a learning experience.”
There was the May trip dotted by dolphins— “I could reach out and touch them!” Diane Harty says; there are days passing alligators, whom they treat with respect, says Don Harty.
And there was the six-year-old adventurer who went from total excitement to complete meltdown. Don sat on the front of her kayak, he recalls, and said: “Listen. You know your parents wouldn’t do anything to hurt you, right? Hold onto what you know to be true.” Soon enough, she was once again splashing and smiling.
To view more of photographer Daria Amato’s work, go to dariaphoto.com
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