Hi friends. Sorry for the silence on my blog for a while. I was out of the country for a month, helping with some flying in a different location. And things have been very busy since my return.
Are you familiar with the ongoing situation in South Sudan? In case you haven't seen it in the news (which is likely, since it doesn't seem to get much media attention in the West) the situation in South Sudan continues to become more dire. Recently, a famine was officially declared in South Sudan--the fist time in the past six years that this has occurred anywhere in the world. Sadly, it's mostly man-caused, due to the ongoing civil war. Thousands continue to flee South Sudan each and every day. Uganda is by far the largest host to South Sudan refugees, which continue to pour over the border at an astounding rate. In fact, the Bidi Bidi camp in Northern Uganda is now the number one largest refugee camp in the world. About two weeks ago I saw a statement from the UN indicating that the situation in South is the fastest growing, large-scale humanitarian crisis in the world right now.
In addition to flying from here, up to several locations in South Sudan at least twice a week, MAF Uganda is also flying people daily to a number of locations in Northern Uganda, where they are working in the refugee camps. It's hard to contemplate the pain and suffering that millions are facing every day in this, the youngest country in the world. But it's real, and it's happening now! Please commit to PRAY for our friends in South Sudan--the South Sudanese themselves, and also those who are working among them.
Here are a few of the South Sudanese I met while I was doing a one-week flight trip with Every Village, back in January. I'm always touched by the lovely smiles I see, and the joy that they find in the simplest of things, despite the hardships and struggles they face every day.
This is Abraham--that's the new name he took after he turned from his 'old life.' Formerly he was one of the most powerful and feared/respected spear masters in his region. But last year he heard an incredible message of hope and love from some of my friends who work up there, and he subsequently burned all of his idols, turned his back on his old life, and now lives a new life! His is an incredible story--perhaps I can tell you more about it in person some day...
The South Sudanese are usually very eager to have their picture taken, as they don't get to see an image of themselves very often. Think about it--no mirrors in the bathroom--no bathroom at all in fact, no selfies to share on social media every few hours... can you imagine? How often do you check yourself out each day??
So, an important part of taking photos in a place like this, is making sure you take the time to share the photos with the people. Here's a shot that someone took of me, with my phone, as I'm sharing some photos with Abraham.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Here's the final post from my trek with Hudson in the White Clouds Wilderness of Idaho. Below, a panorama from my iPhone, looking down on the Four Lakes Basin from the pass between there and Born Lakes.
I think I mentioned it before, but there was some smoke the first day, lingering on the edges of the mountains, coming in from a distant forest fire. We were concerned that it might wind up really obscuring our views. But in the end, it made for some dramatic skies the first evening, and after we crossed the first high pass, we left the smoke behind for the remainder of our time there, until the last evening when we made our way back out again.
Here's another shot from the first evening--the smoke lingering in from the West (left) while the blue skies persist to the East. This is the trail through Ants Basin, towards the Born Lakes. That mule deer we saw (that I showed you last post) was enjoying the green grass of this meadow, on the edge of those pines in the distance.
Here's a shot of the sun sinking through the smoke over Fourth of July Lake, on our last evening before leaving the White Clouds Wilderness.
The rest of the time we enjoyed views like this one below. This is a shot looking down from the 10,150' pass above Headwall Lake, Scoop Lake, and Hummock Lake, at the upper end of the Boulder Chain Lakes area.
Here's a shot looking down on Quiet Lake, as we were descending from the Four Lakes Basin.
This was the view form our tent, the first night when we camped at one of the Born Lakes.
And this is the following morning, another one of the Born Lakes reflecting the deep, brilliant blue of the sky.
Here's an iPhone panorama looking down on the Born Lakes region.
And here's a shot looking down on Emerald Lake, Rock Lake, and Glacier Lake, with the upper end of Cornice Lake just barely visible on the left. These lakes (of the Four Lake Basin) were absolutely unbelievable crystal clear.
This was the sunset we enjoyed on our last evening in the White Clouds Wilderness. We ate our dinner that night while sitting on a rock on the edge of this lake, watching the sky change colors as the temperature dropped. A deer came out of the woods and walked almost all the way up to us, before shying away only slightly. We watched her until it was almost completely dark, and then retired to our campfire.
That's it. I hope you enjoyed some of the photos and description of my trek with Hudson into the White Clouds Wilderness. It was an epic and wonderful adventure for us. We bonded and made memories that will last a lifetime.
Saturday, February 4, 2017
As promised, in this post I'll share with you some of the natural beauty--flowers and animals--we saw along the way. We definitely went at the right time of year for wildflowers! Below, Hudson catches his breath as we scale a flower-covered pass with Castle Peak visible in the distance.
It seemed like everywhere we looked there were wild herbs and flowers of every kind. The fragrance was amazing!
Smoke from a distant wildfire lingers over a high meadow full of flowers, on our first evening in the White Clouds Wilderness. After crossing the mountains that you can see in the distance we left the smoke behind, and didn't see it again until we left the area five days later.
The colors were amazing!
I mentioned that I would also show you some of the animals we saw. We saw lots of small animals--squirrels, gophers, chipmunks, etc., and plenty of amazing birds. But I don't have any pictures of those because I was never able to get my camera out before they fled.
Probably the animal we saw the most of was fish--trout to be specific. Beautiful, back-country trout swam happily in many of the crystal clear lakes. We had a lot of fun fishing--catching and releasing many beautiful trout along the way. Here's a shot of Hudson, casting his spinner into the cold waters of a high alpine lake.
And another, wider, shot (can you spot Hudson on the far bank?) to give you perspective of our gorgeous surroundings here. The entire White Cloud Peaks Loop could be done comfortably in three or four days. However, we took five days to do the full loop, pushing hard on some days so that we could enjoy some side excursions and fishing on other days. Near the end of our time we took one full day to rest and enjoy some fishing and camping at the Chamberlain Lakes, below. They were absolutely incredible.
We both caught dozens of trout, but Hudson caught the biggest one, a beautiful cutthroat that put up a tremendous fight. At the beginning of our trip he really didn't know how to even cast a line. By the end, he was a pro, having cast and reeled hundreds of times into holes where you could see the trout pursuing the spinners and spoons all the way in until they struck. I haven't enjoyed good fishing like that since my childhood in Brazil, when my own father used to take me into some remote rivers in the Amazon, and we pulled out peacock bass one after another (along with the occasional piranha.)
Here's a few more shots of us fishing, surrounded by God's beautiful creation.
Can you spot Hudson in the photo below? He's standing on a rock, in the sun, on the far bank of the lake. Our camp was just inside the trees on the right hand side of the photo. Not a bad place to spend a night or two!
After I did the trek through the jungles of Borneo, with my oldest son, Britt, back in late 2012, I made a "Man vs. Wild" style home movie about our adventure. It's nothing fancy, but I took video shots all along the way, and then threw it together with some music and later we watched it as a family and had some great laughs and fun as we watched the the memories unfold. For Britt, it was great fun to re-watch the adventure he and I had from the comfort of the living room. For his mom it was a chance to freak out at all of the "horribly dangerous things you guys did that could have resulted in death..." (but all the while beaming with pride and love, on the inside, for the courage and accomplishment of her 'boys'.) And for Britt's younger siblings, it was a great opportunity to celebrate with (and be a tad jealous of) their older brother, while at the same time looking forward to their own future adventures with their dad.
Well, in that movie , Hudson saw his older brother jumping into all of the rivers and waterfalls in the jungle, at every chance he got. To be fair, it was very hot and humid in the jungle, and we were constantly sweating and stinking there--so it was only natural to want to cool off in any and all leech-infested water we found along the way. But conditions here in the Rockies were not the same--we spent much of our time above 9,000 feet, and the temperatures were cool to cold. All of the water was freezing cold! However, Hudson, not wanting to be outdone by his older brother, was determined to jump into the lakes to prove that he was just as 'tough' as Britt. Of course, that meant that I had not choice, but to also jump in, as I wasn't about to be the only one chickening out.
So, one day we chose a very deep, very cold, very clear lake at almost 10,000 feet of elevation and stripped down to our birthday suits. Sorry if that's too much info, but that's part of the story. We wanted to have dry clothes when re-emerged, freezing cold with teeth chattering. Haha. Anyway, the funny thing is that, there we were, standing naked on a large rock in the middle of nowhere, building up our courage to jump into the icy water, when Hudson suddenly points to the other side of the lake and gasps. My first thought was that he saw people--we hadn't seen anyone in the past several days, but that would be just our luck to have someone walk out right about then. But it wasn't people that Hudson was pointing at. It was mountain goats. I don't know how he spotted them, as they were incredibly camouflaged against the white granite rocks. But there they were--about eight of them, not more than a hundred yards away. I think they were as startled as we were--but probably slightly more appalled at seeing us in that state, than we were of seeing them. Haha. I wished I'd had a longer lens with me, but this is the best I could do with what I had. Anyway, we enjoyed watching them for several minutes as they drank from the lake, before heading back up the rugged rock cliffs behind them. Can you see them in this shot? They are right in the middle, just below the cliffs, and just above that large, flat rock. Trust me, they are there... just incredibly well camouflaged.
We also saw a nice mule deer buck one evening. Again, I wished I'd had a longer lens, but still I think you can spot it right in the middle of the shot.
Aside from that, we saw many fresh tracks of Elk, more mule deer, and even wolves. We also heard some wolves howling, but we never saw them.
And one evening as the sun was setting, we had a deer visit our camp, staying just five or ten meters away for about a half hour as we quietly watched.
Check back soon for one final post where I'll share some parting shots of our trek into the White Clouds Wilderness of Idaho.
Saturday, January 28, 2017
Here's a shot that sort of captures the epic wilderness beauty we enjoyed during our little adventure, though none of the photos actually really do it justice. That's Hudson coming up over the hill in the foreground, with 11,815' Castle Peak in the background. We considered many options for our trek, but thanks to great advice from our friend, Patti Kilgore, who has hiked many of the most amazing trails in the American West, we finally decided to do the White Cloud Peaks Loop in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. That was a great choice!
I was really proud of Hudson. He carried his own pack all the way, and it was not light. I do enjoy doing more of the 'ultra-light' approach when it's just me, or me and a few guys, but this was definitely not that. With just the two of us, I opted to bring some extra emergency gear in case something went wrong. We also brought fishing poles and tackle to take advantage of the legendary trout lakes in that area, and I brought my mirror-less camera and three lenses, as well as extra batteries, and an iPhone for video, along with a large charging battery for that. We also had to carry all of our food and cooking fuel for six days, a water filter, bear spray, tent, sleeping bags, bear bags, warm weather gear, etc. etc. When it was all said and done, Hudson's pack weighed about 35 lbs at the start, and mine was close to 75 lbs. They got a bit lighter as we ate food and burned fuel. :-)
Here we are enjoying the epic view from the top of the 10,220' pass above Born Lakes.
Below, Hudson makes his way up the pass above Ants Basin. This was a fun, long, tough day. We left Ants Basin early in the morning heading up and over the pass on our way towards the Four Lakes Basin, then past Quiet Lake, up past Scree and Shallow Lake, and eventually Boulder Chain Lakes area. Most of the day we were off-trail, as the old trail over Devils Staircase was partially destroyed some years ago, and it is extremely steep and a bit technical. I figured that with our heavy packs the 'old route' would have been a bit dangerous, so we opted for the much longer, off-trail route, which offered plenty of incredible scenery, as well as it's own challenges.
Here is a shot of Hudson walking along one of the Four Lakes, after descending down from the pass I mentioned earlier. There were so many trout in these lakes, and the water was so incredibly clear, you could see them swimming everywhere. We would have loved to enjoy some fishing here, but we had a LOT of ground to cover this day, and the terrain ahead was quite rugged, and promised to be challenging, so we kept going.
At these high elevations, even on the exposed East/South faces there were still large patches of snow, even in early August. This is a shot of me (just below the snow drift/cornice) that Hudson took with my phone. He was quite proud of this shot. :-)
And here's another of Hudson crossing a small boulder field above the tree line.
Hudson was especially excited about the snow. It helped that he knew that all of his siblings would be very jealous to see the photos and videos of him in the snow--something that we don't see often (ok never!) in Africa or formerly Indonesia.
We enjoyed a wide variety of terrain and scenery during our five-day trek, from snow fields to boulder and scree fields, from high alpine meadows to deep woods and lush creek beds. The scenery was always changing and always beautiful.
The weather was perfect during the days--blue skies and sunny, with cool temperatures. At night, we froze! Our tropically-acclimated bodies were most definitely not ready for the night time temperatures that usually fell below freezing in the early hours just before sunrise. We definitely should have brought warmer sleeping bags, but we only had our tropical weight ones, which proved to be woefully insufficient. In truth, I didn't mind, as I like there to be some significant challenges on these trips, and this was a great opportunity for Hudson and I to be creative and 'push through' these cold times each night. Challenges like these help mold and shape character--at least they should. Those of you who know Hudson know that he has a great attitude and character. Even when pushed to the point of utter exhaustion on day two, after 10 hours of hiking off trail, with his heavy pack, and after we had run out of water a few hours before (always pump water when you have the chance--the next chance might be further away than you think) Hudson was still smiling, through chapped and bleeding lips, and between deep breaths that seemed to never get quite enough oxygen at the high altitude. The cold temperatures were just another challenge to face head-on, and he did very well! I was very proud of him!
Our rewards for conquering the many challenges along the way, were the endless opportunities to enjoy epic scenery like this!... and the wonderful times sitting and talking around the campfire, drinking hot chocolate (for me coffee) in the freezing cold of early morning, and of course the unbelievable fishing along the way. Can you see Hudson on the far right side of the photo in the shadow of the tree, fishing in the crystal clear waters of Upper Chamberlain lake?
Here's a 360 degree panorama of Hudson atop the Castle Divide pass at 10,000 feet. Although the weather was absolutely gorgeous, the winds were howling at probably close to 60mph as they came through the pass here, at times making it hard to even stand up straight.
Check back soon for some more shots from our trek into the White Clouds Wilderness. Next time I'll show you some of the flowers and animals we saw along the way.