Archives for August, 2013

Back in college, the hardest class I ever took was not Econ 110 or Statistics 100 or Russian Literature 440. No—the hardest class I ever took was an elective gym class: Ukrainian Folk Dancing. I took the class on a whim—I have no dance experience or talent, nor do I have an ounce of Ukrainian…

The homemade pierogy are spot on, and the borscht is rich with dill—just like Ukraine. But I am thousands of miles away from the old country, and more than a hundred years from the memories of the land so many left behind. This patch of prairie just northeast of Edmonton, Alberta is still the largest…

Albertosaurus was shorter than most of the RVs I’ve been stuck behind on my journey around the great province of Alberta, but as a smaller ancestor of T. rex, he still packed a serious bite. Somehow I fell in love with this species that is no more, perhaps because this dinosaur of the Late Cretaceous was…

Brushing Chico is the most fun I’ve had in weeks. His coat is sleek and velvety, and with every stroke, a hundred little white hairs fall away, leaving his shiny and muscled surface quivering in the faint light of this century-old barn. The walls and roof beams are built with rough-hewn tree trunks, the bark…

I was hoping to find cowboys on the Cowboy Trail but instead I met Elvis. When I poked my head into the old doorway, I was greeted by Marvin Garriott, guitar in hand, swinging to his own jaunty cover of “That’s Alright”. “That was the first Rock ‘n Roll song,” he told me after playing…

My very first job out of high school was cleaning up roadkill, all along the highways and back roads in my county. It was very depressing. There’s nothing like picking up dead deer and smushed racoons all summer to convince a kid that going to college isn’t such a bad idea. It also had a…

Never schedule wildlife into your calendar, because they probably won’t show. Grizzly bears are the elusive megafauna of the Canadian Rockies and the mere knowledge of their presence had me on the hunt, hoping to catch a glimpse of the impressive animal. My search for bears was accompanied by an entire film crew, as well…

Every object tells a story—some strange, or comical, or sad. This is why I love museums—to see what counts as treasure in a place, to meet objects I never met before, and to hear their stories. On the top floor of the Glenbow Museum in downtown Calgary, behind locked doors, I saw shelves upon shelves…

Who knew it was so wildly hot in western Canada? I did not—because I only know this place in winter, when the snow falls deeper than the deep end at the swimming pool and the wind warrants a scarf and long underwear. But now, in August, Alberta is nothing but wide blue skies and semicolon…

As National Geographic’s Digital Nomad, it’s my job to be connected—all the time. While on assignment, I have tweeted from all seven continents, from the middle of the ocean, from the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and from the of inside King Tut’s Tomb. How do I do it? It’s not always easy, but after a…

Purple lightning rips the heavens from top to bottom, tearing the sky in two. Before I finish counting “one”, a wave of thunder punches down, shaking the land with a terrific rumble. The windshield wipers beat furiously on the glass, but not fast enough. The rain falls like a million white bullets, washing away my…

Like any American child, I used to play “Cowboys & Indians” with notable frequency, especially in the summer months, where backyards became my imagined western wilderness and my brothers and I could act out centuries of cultural incompatibility between the opposing sides. Even today, childhood play (and childish television) fuel some of the same misconceptions…

The river was a mirror of glass—like a silvery puddle of mercury, spilling me forever forward into the wilderness. Odd-shaped cliffs of sparkling white stone framed either side of the channel, with bulging towers and blobs that looked like some child’s dribbled sandcastle. We were utterly alone in the world—just me and Bob, a retired…

It was the longest train journey she had ever been on—36 hours from Minneapolis all the way to Montana. With a year of college under her belt, Minnesota gal Anita Mescher boarded The Great Northern Railroad in the morning and by lunch the next day, she had arrived in the high plains town of Browning.…