Archives for July, 2013

I stood ankle-deep in the mountain lake, icy inch-high ripples raced over my naked, chicken skin legs. On the pebbled shore, a fat man in a swimsuit leaned on a pair of crutches, pulling his jumpy German Shepherd on a leash and critiquing my painfully slow descent into the water. “Just jump in, dude!” he…

Though I travel far and wide, it is rare that I get to travel so far back in time (to the Cretaceous period) and walk among the gigantic wildlife (dinosaurs) who once romped along the tropical shores of central Montana. Admittedly, I was once a young boy with a bedroom full of plastic dinosaurs and…

I ran a red light and didn’t get caught. I was walking down Main Street at a good pace—almost 3 miles an hour—when I saw the red light at the intersection. But I just kept going, right through that intersection and on towards the courthouse, then back again. Yep, I ran that red light two…

Meriwether Lewis would never have won the spelling bee. Reading from the American explorer’s journal on the plane made me feel a little better about some of the typo-rich copy I am guilty of punching out (on occasion). In recounting the tale of what is perhaps one of the greatest overland expeditions ever undertaken by…

All travel is a gift, but traveling with another person is a rare privilege of insight. To travel with a friend is to find a new closeness and to see the world in a whole new light. Though I have traveled to Iceland again and again, I saw it through new eyes by traveling with…

For the last 10 days, I have had the very good fortune of traveling with legendary National Geographic photographer Annie Griffiths. Though our expedition around Iceland been a fascinating adventure into some of the most beautiful corners of that country, the real gift of this trip was how much I learned from this illuminating woman…

Iceland is a bit of a misnomer. The country’s frigid name was a bit of a knee-jerk response by the old Norse explorer Flóki Vilgerðarson, who, after suffering a calamitous winter in the West Fjords, climbed a mountain in hope for some hopeful sight and instead encountered a bay that was filled with icebergs (most…

Writing and shooting photographs around the world always leads to great adventure, but what Annie Griffiths and I do is still a job with its ups and downs and long hours. When we get a chance to take a break and chill out (quite literally, up here in the Arctic), we take it. After a…

I am glad the ground is soft—until I realize that I am standing in a pile of horse manure. I step aside and knock my boots against the post, then lean into the fence, clicking my tongue and calling to the horses beyond the fence. The animals are beautiful—black, bay, chestnut, cream and white, with…

“Just look at this light!” exclaims Annie, amazed by the unfettered arctic sun. We are lucky with the weather. Our ship has landed in the empty bay of Aðalvík, in Hornstrandir, the remote northern tip of Iceland’s West Fjords. On a map, we’re at the top of the world, far away from any cities or…

Angry Birds

A few summers ago, I was attacked by a batch of furious birds. They dive bombed me from above—such vicious arctic terns with sharp and vengeful beaks, who struck the top of my head with such force that little drops of blood trickled down the side of my face. It really hurt. Now—all these years…

Cleaning Up

After ten days in Tanzania, I was absolutely filthy. I was so dirty that I felt sorry for the person who had to sit next to me on the plane to Iceland. My feet were stained black with African soil, my fingernails were packed with mud and grit and my hair and skin smelled like…

Transitions

I packed two separate suitcases for this trip. The green one is for Africa, the grey one is for Iceland. July means different things in different parts of the world. In Tanzania, July means winter, so I packed flip-flops and T-shirts, shorts and a wide-brimmed hat—then a tube of SPF 70 sunblock and a sweatshirt…

If I have one travel pet peeve (more than surly TSA agents, or long check-in lines at the airport, or carbohydrate-heavy in-flight meals), it is travelers who use the verb “To Do” in referring to a destination in the world. e.g. “Last summer, I did Europe” or the frequently-heard, “Someday I want to do Australia…

Breaking rocks is hard work. I wish I could speak from a lifetime experience, but in all my years, I only have these two half-days in Tanzania  during which time I personally smashed very hard rocks with iron tools. As activities go, breaking rocks can hurt something horrible. I still have blisters on both hands,…

It gets cold in Africa. We are just below the equator but over a mile high in altitude, so that evenings are cool and mornings are overcast. In Tanzania, July does not bring the T-shirt weather of home—July means winter. We have traded summer for the African winter and I am shivering beneath a spotty…

I went running that morning. I took off outside the gate and launched up the chocolate-colored road, ankle-deep in dust. A minute later, my shoes and socks were black with dirt, and I tasted the earth on my teeth, like salty crushed graham crackers. Tanzania’s winter is so dry and the air so still, the…