Nobody knows her name. “La Escondida,” the hidden woman, that’s what they call her. It’s a good story, one of those that grow inevitably in the telling. A couple of centuries ago a pirate named Andres Drake (brother of Sir Francis Drake) kidnapped a beautiful young maiden from a native Mixtec village along the coast of south-western Mexico, dragging her aboard his illicit ship. His intentions, we can only assume, were nefarious, but the brave young woman would not be held captive for long. A few weeks later, while the ship was anchored in a small harbor she made a daring escape, dove overboard, swam ashore and fled into the thick jungle that surrounded the tiny bay, disappearing without a trace.
The Sawtooth Traverse
A high traverse across the Sawtooth Mountains, 5 days above 8,000 feet, searching the hidden valleys and peaks for first descents while crossing over some of the most rugged and abrupt peaks in the lower 48. The Sawtooth Mountains cradle the headwaters of the Salmon River and surround the town of Stanley, Idaho.
If the Hawaiian Islands and Ireland had a torrid love affair, and their bastard child spoke Portuguese, Azores would be its name. Low lying rock walls divide the countryside into thousands of asymmetrical shapes. Lush green hills speckled with cows and sheep join the valleys and coast. Houses with whitewashed walls and pink tiled roofs line the narrow cobblestone streets of small towns at the end of every road.
We are marooned in the Arctic Wilderness, surrounded by the densest population of Polar Bears on the planet (the only known mammal to actively hunt human beings as prey) and it’s the third day of an intense arctic blizzard. If this storm doesn’t let up soon the entire camp will be under snow and the luxury arctic safari I thought I was going on to witness the mighty polar bear in its natural habitat will be dangerously close to becoming a full on survival mission.
The Cresta Run
Standing above The Cresta Run, a ribbon of ice ¾ of a mile long that the fastest riders complete in just over 50 seconds and reach speeds approaching 90 mph, I make a mental list of the protective gear I’m wearing; leather knee and elbow pads that Cresta riders have used since the turn of the 20th century, check, a neon pink and blue full face helmet straight out of the 80’s, check, a pair of riveted steel plates covering my knuckles and a draconian pair of boots with sharpened metal spikes attached to the toes that look like sinister ninja weapons, check and check. Then I see the first crash.