From Rivers to Mountains

It’s been over a year since I’ve posted here, but after another amazing trip out west I had to share about my adventures. Wendell, Ethan, Marshall and I spent two weeks throughout Montana and Wyoming. Hopefully these 21 photos give you a little snapshot of the awesome journey we had.

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Early in the trip we fished the Deerborn River in Montana, a stream of crystal clear water that flows through several deep canyons. The clear water made it tricky to fool the fish, but we all landed several wild cutthroat trout.
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The Deerborn had some incredible scenes and rock formations. We took a long break at this spot before heading upriver towards an evening thunderstorm.
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We also made sure to fish the North Fork of the Blackfoot. The day was cold and unrelenting, similar to our fishing. But we fought hard and hooked into some fat Cutts and Bulls.
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After driving Southeast several hours we made it into Idaho where we fished the Warm River Canyon. A hot day was followed by a pleasant evening. The luscious valley was the perfect antidote after a stormy Montana the day before.
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Part II: The next day we booked it to Pinedale, Wyoming where we began our backpacking trip into the Wind River Range. Here is a view from our campsite at the Trailhead with warm evening views of Squaretop Mountain. In the morning we woke with frost on our sleeping bags.
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The crew ready to start backpacking! Our plans were to target some unique fishing opportunities and attempt a summit of Gannett Peak, Wyoming’s tallest mountain.
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The first leg of our trip wandered by the Green River Lakes. Beautiful turquoise water was created from glacial silt.
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After a night spent along the Green River and sub-par river fishing, we headed up Tourist Creek. The valley was steep and littered with fields of large boulders. Hiking with our heavy packs was brutal, but after several miles we made it to a small oasis at around 10,000 feet elevation.
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The bright moon illuminated our campsite amidst some towering peaks.
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We spent a day adventuring up the valley where wildflowers were in full bloom and bundles of Black Rosy Finches sang. We hiked up to a large alpine lake where a frigid swim topped off our day.
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On the next day our sights were set on Gannett Peak. We traversed across the rocky alpine landscape for about four miles. It was rugged terrain, with loose rock and boulder fields. The sun’s warm rays over this lake was the only calm thing.
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Eventually Gannett came into view. It loomed over us with feelings of doubt and fear. But we pressed onward.
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After about four hours of hiking we arrived at the base of Gannett. From here we had the hardest 3000 vertical feet to go.
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Crampons and spikes allowed us to easily scale our way up Minor Glacier. Ethan is working his way across towards the summit.
Up Minor Glacier I go! Photo by Ethan Miller
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The glacier led us to this steep rocky section. It was slow going to ensure that we didn’t fall on loose rock.
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This was the scariest section. A steep finger of snow cut through our route and there was no detour. We carefully worked our way across without any missed steps.
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Upon reaching the ridge, we were at our last section: a couple pitches of class 4-5 climbing. It was intense but doable. After making it over the ridge we only had a couple hundred yards to the summit!
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We made it! The Gannett summit at 13,804 feet. What a journey! Looking Southeast towards several other large peaks and glaciers.
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At the summit! Photo by Ethan Miller
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Looking north along the ridge. No slipping now!

After a break at the summit, we began the descent. It was easier than expected and after about 2 hours we were down off the glacier and happy to be on flat ground. We made it back to camp at 7:30….12.5 hours of hiking and climbing. We had one more day in the wilderness before beginning our long drive back east. It’s hard to truly capture the beauty of Montana and Wyoming, but I hope you enjoyed the photos!

 

The Final Tropical Month

I’m home!! I got home on August 13 after three long flights. It has been a busy final month in the jungle, but I am glad to be home in Pennsylvania with my friends and family. I’ll post a few more photos to highlight my work and journey in the Amazon. Enjoy!

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Morning light shining through the dense jungle while mist netting.
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I was able to do some Tenkara fishing on the Loboyoc quebrada. These fish loved big dry flies!
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Batman; the Pink-throated Becard that we banded.
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We also captured and banded this rare Violaceous Quail-Dove, which is only the 3rd documented record in all of Peru.
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Ivory-billed Aracara. One of the final birds that we banded during my time. We banded about 350 birds of 90 species!
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Several Sundays were spent swimming at the famous waterfalls.
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The bird team also found many reptiles, amphibians, and mammals such as this Osteocephalus taurinus.
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I was lucky enough to find another Harpy Eagle. This guy perched right above me before flying off with huge wing beats.
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We found a couple of these beautiful Rainbow Boas near camp.
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I had an unforgettable 10 weeks in the Amazon. I gained a TON of experience with mist netting and bird banding, and shared so many incredible moments.

 

Stranded in the Amazon

It’s been nearly four weeks of off-the-grid living; four weeks of wonderful jungle experiences and amazing work experience. I have loads of photos so they’ll do most of the talking, but I’ll give a quick paragraph of updates too. I’ve been “stranded” because I wasn’t quite sure if I’d ever return back to Puerto Maldonado due to the fact that the transportation system is extremely disorganized and spontaneous. I was told that I’d be leaving on the 8th, 10th, 5th, 6th, and the 7th. I eventually made it back on the 8th. Well that’s the Peruvian way of doing things I guess. Over the past 30 days I’ve done a ton of mist netting and bird banding with Alexis and other volunteers. Now I can band and process birds 90% of the way, which is a crazy improvement from when I started at nothing. We have had some great captures in the nets, which only adds to the official list for the ARC property which sits at 185 species in one month. My personal list is 178 species with only a few repeat birds from the U.S. Crazy! Other highlights have been a 6 foot Bushmaster Viper, a 5 foot Rainbow Boa, an elusive Jaguar seen by Holly, and lots of whittling during the evening. With construction of a new Environmental Academic Center going on nearby there have been several Peruvian workers that I’ve become friends with. It is always fun to spend time with them and also improve my Spanish. I am returning on the 13th for one last month in the jungle so I’ll be receiving emails for 4 days. I’ll let the photos tell the rest! Enjoy!

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To start, the monkeys always entertain us while walking in the jungle. This Squirrel Monkey came down for a closer look.
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The trees are truly breathtaking. This giant supports itself with huge buttresses. I spent 2 hours exploring the base of this tree during the early morning fog.
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Every tree in the jungle provides habitat for many vines and plants, not to mention insects and birds.
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This creek runs right by camp and it is a hotspot for all sorts of widlife. I attempted dry-fly fishing twice and caught two tiny fish.
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The creek is also full of tiny Caiman, like this one that Patrick caught one night.
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Now for the birds! Aldo found a Striped Owl nest one day and brought me out to get a quick glimpse. What a sight! This species puts their nest on the ground which doesn’t seem too smart with all the mammals nearby.
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It’s not the Amazon without a Toucan! White-throated Toucans are the most common species of about 10 varieties here.
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This Hairy-crested Antbird was plucking off ants from a huge swarm. By standing in the middle of the swarm, this guy popped up really close to me.
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On a walk along the Central Trail I flushed a couple of bizarre but beautiful King Vultures into the tree. They were feeding on a dead mammal near the trail.
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When the birds are lacking, insects always fill the void!
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These insects are beautiful, but the jungle is also full of deadly ones. One night I had a Wandering Spider in my bed, which is one of the worst sleeping partners!
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After sunset everybody makes their way to the long table. Cards, whittling and talking are the usual, but occasionally Chino breaks out the harmonica and plays some of best music I have ever heard.
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After a relaxing evening we wake at 5:00 to start mist netting. Here Alexis explains the wing molt of a Band-tailed Manakin (Pipra fasciicasuda).
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Data is collected and specific photos are taken for the banding database. Hummingbirds, like this Long-tailed Hermit, are always exciting to net.
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Now sensei Alexis passes the work over to me. Here I’m taking the beak measurement of a fiery Band-tailed Manakin.
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Some days are slow, but others have big surprises like this Lined Forest-Falcon! I was on duty to extract this guy from the nets which was exciting.
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Alexis made sure I had good photos of him with this bird.
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Another day we got a Semicollared Puffbird, which was one of my most-wanted birds. I was so pumped that I had to get my puffbird look going too!
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This Rufous Motmot was our most recent surprise. I was blown away by the rainbow of colors. Unreal.
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After an early morning, siesta is always nice. Photo by Harry Turner
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Another cute visitor at camp: A Mouse Opossum.
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A huge surprise was this rare Harpy Eagle that flew directly over the boat on the Las Piedras River. The bird was massive and offered amazing views as it perched along the river.

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Finally, a grand morning view of the canopy. I sat here on a fallen log for a while simply watching the unbelievable jungle around me.