Carter Niemeyer: Meeting the Man Himself

“The Man, the myth, the legend.” I took Carter Nimeyer’s outstretched hand. He gave a chuckle.

I had been trying to track down Carter since I first learned of his existence back in June. Over the summer a handful of people—then it began to seem like everyone—I talked to in the wolf business, and in the wildlife business in general, told me you know who you really should talk to? Carter Niemeyer.

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Adventures with Jackson Blog

Monkeying around at Victoria Falls

Vervet MonkeyZambia was what I was looking for in Africa. A red soil dotted with dry thorny trees, acacias and baobabs, where animals roamed freely. Birdsong filled the trees. Women wore their hair in elaborate braids swirling around their heads making them look regal. Taxis came in every make and model of car, their unifying characteristic a secondary aqua blue paint job. Monkeys were everywhere. Baboons hitchhiked on cargo trucks and scampered around in the streets like comedic vagabonds. The gray vervet monkeys with their quizzical eyes and pointed moustaches approached fearlessly stealing food, shoes and other unattended items from inattentive owners.

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The Life and Death of a Bison Calf

I have spent the last two months in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem working on a book about public lands, wildlife and people’s connection to ‘wild’ spaces. I’ve had countless conversations with strangers about the famous bison calf who was put into the back of a tourist’s car and then euthanized by the park service when the herd failed to take it in. The sensational headlines have grabbed the public, demonized the sympathetic father and son, blaming them for a tragedy that likely was never going to have a happy ending for the lone calf. Not one person I met had thought about how the tourists got the calf into the car or read the few articles in circulation that include perhaps the most important fact: the calf was not happily standing by mom before it took that famous ride in the back seat of an SUV. It was likely already abandoned.

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In the Light of a Blood Moon

The sun set behind the distant ridgeline and left a yellow glow on the horizon. I had returned to the ridge where we watched the moonrise the previous night. Soon the moon would rise again, but tonight was the last lunar eclipse in the tetrad. The last light of day suffused purple on the yellow and red soils of the Painted Hills. I kept an eye on the horizon imagining a bitten orb[1] rising bright above the hills, but it took its time.

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Crystal Lake Reflections

This morning I arose with the sun, or shortly there after, which is an anomaly for me, a night owl who is more likely to see 2:00 AM than six—even seven—in the morning. I wanted to get a good hike in before a long day on the road. The alarm went off at 6:01am and by 6:50 I had rolled out of bed, dressed, refilled water bottles, stowed everything for the drive, cranked Anita’s top down, driven to the trailhead and began climbing the switchbacks from George Lake, just out side of Mammoth Lakes. By 7:30 I had hiked 1.75 miles, climbed close to 1,000 feet and arrived at Crystal Lake’s glassy water nestled beneath granite cliffs and spires.

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Jackson: Like a fish to water in Hidden Lake, Trinity Alps

Raindrops began falling and gray came in all around the pushed out the morning’s blue sky. So the three of us put on rain gear—my dad and I in matching rain pants and thin-shelled jackets, Jackson in his red coat. We set out for Hidden Lake with no notion of the distance or difficulty but free from the car and content to venture out until half way ‘til dark.

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Walking at the Bottom of Trinity Lake

Curious about the capped spigots in the campground I wandered into the Coffee Creek ranger station. A young looking ranger with piercing blue eyes and a military hair cut greeted us shyly.

“Can I help you?”

“Yeah, I was wondering which of your campgrounds have water.”

“I’m not sure miss, I’ll have to ask my supervisor.” He disappeared into the offices in the back and was promptly replaced by another ranger in baggy forest service pants and a cobalt T-shirt that hugged his muscular arms. He looked like a younger George Clooney but with bright hazel eyes and a casual manner.

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The Sound of Silence: Ackerman Campground, Lewiston Lake, Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area

The sweetness of scotch broom hangs in the warm, soft air. It is still, and the stillness is filling, as if the quiet peacefulness of this place might hold you up in it. A light breeze picks up and rustles the thick leaves in the tree above me. The echoing wind high in the pines stirs the soul; then the quietness returns. Chirps and whistles of birds in the nearby pines accent the silence, for it is not really silent at all, but void of all the noises we grow accustomed to in cities. When those noises no longer sound we sense their absence as perfect stillness; it is only after a moment of drinking in that silence that our ears make room and we begin to take in the sounds of nature—the buzzing insects and the whispers in the grass, the depth to the birdsong, each song overlapping, from near and far their melodies intermixing.

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Home Sweet Home on Wheels

IMG_6085Jack and I are taking to the road. Our mode of transportation is a beast, or more lovingly the beast: a combination of Wiley, a three quarter ton Chevy pickup with four wheel drive AND four wheel steering—a grandiose hand-me-down from my soon to be father-in-law—and a slide in, pop-up camper nicknamed Anita after my maternal grandmother who had a travel bug to rival mine.

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Homegrown Chili Rellenos

IMG_8107I picked our first poblano peppers of the season—beautiful, shiny green, almost as big as my hand. In celebration, I made them into delicious chili rellenos topped with avocado from our neighbor’s tree and served with home made rice and beans and a fresh green salad—straight from the garden. So fun to eat food you grew yourself, and its better for YOU and the PLANET. Can’t beat that!

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Faith in Transportation

I am not a morning person. I never have been one and I doubt I ever will be. So it was not for the love of mornings that I arranged a taxi pickup at 4:30am. The hotel staff said to leave an hour before our 6:10am flight, but this was Africa and I wasn’t going to take chances. Experience in traveling has taught me that building in extra time is always a good idea.

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A Birthday Under the Sea

 

DSC05192 - Version 2I could not have asked for a better day to celebrate turning 26. I received the best birthday present I could have asked for: Duct Tape. The fiber optic cable connector for my strobe arrived faulty so I have been unable to use the brand new strobe I got for the trip. Over delicious cinnamon ice coffee and a banana pancake, I was able to jerry rig the fiber optic cable to the camera housing with duct tape.

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Nusa Lembongan

Off southeastern Bali lie the small islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan and their much larger neighbor Nusa Penida whose landmass is bigger than the bukit peninsula off southern Bali. We are staying in the town of Jungutbatu on the western side of Nusa Lembongan in a villa right on the water and directly in front of two beautiful waves: Shipwrecks and Lacerations.

IMG_6850 - Version 2 Most of the local people are sea weed farmers. Roughly three inch thick branches are sharpened on one side by hand and stuck into the sand in the shallows inside the barrier reef. Two parallel lines of these branches are set out with rope hanging in between for the seaweed to grow on. These dark rectangular plots make a patch work in all the inland waters and shallow protected coastal areas. The locals go out at low tide to harvest the sea weed, plant more and maintain the plots. They push motorless boats along with long poles, gather sea weed in vast baskets and in the bottom of their slender boats. When the tide gets exceedingly low the area inside the outer reef looks more like an agricultural field than a beach.

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Gili Air

We took a taxi to Padang Bai, where we boarded a boat that brought us across the channel between Bali and Lombok over to the Gili Islands. Off the north west coast of Lombok lie three tiny dots of islands known for good diving, beautiful beaches and a wonderful atmosphere—the Gilis. Each of these islands is supposed to have its own ambiance, Gili Trawangan is the party island, Gili Meno is the locals island and Gili Air is the romantic quiet island. We had heard about the surf of Gili T so naturally that’s where Dave wanted to go.

The boat ride skirted the beautiful Bali coast, crossed the channel and pulled up along the equally beautiful coast of Lombok then over to Gili Air. As we pulled towards the white sands of Gili Air, a wave and a few surfers caught Dave’s eye.

“Honey look.” The swell was down so we weren’t expecting to find waves on Gili T.

“Should we get off here? Does the wave look like something you’d want to surf?”

It did, so we made the instantaneous decision to jump off the boat.

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