May 30, 2017

Tracking elusive pumas in Patagonia, Summer 2016

Typically when traveling overseas I like to stay a while. But when an editor emailed and asked if I’d be willilng to travel to Patagonia to track pumas for a week in the dead of the southern hemisphere’s winter, I leapt at the chance even though I couldn’t extend my stay. The journey involved an overnight flight to Santiago, Chile, another flight south to almost polar town Punta Arenas and then a four-hour drive north to Torres del Paine, the national park in Chilean Patagonia. It was a long way to go but well worth it to see the park’s legendary mountains, cobalt lakes, ubiquitous guanaco, and to wake before dawn in hopes of sighting a puma.

By Michael Shapiro

Well before dawn our Jeep crawls over the deserted roads that traverse southern Chile’s Torres del Paine national park, searching for pumas. The day before, my guide and I had spotted puma tracks and scat while hiking, lending support to another guide’s comment that “puma are everywhere” in this park, the jewel of Chile’s Patagonia region.

To read the full story, click the link above.

Seeing Yosemite through a blind man’s vision, Alaska Beyond, April 2016

“Close your eyes and you’ll see what I mean,” says my skiing companion Walt as we traverse the 10-mile trail to Yosemite’s Glacier Point. My friend Walt is legally blind, unable to see the grandeur of Half Dome and the park’s other landmarks. But on that day in February 2009, he showed me that there are many ways of seeing, feeling and sensing the park’s majesty. When my editor at Alaska Beyond (Alaska Airlines’ inflight magazine) asked me to write an essay for a special feature last April to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, skiing with Walt was the first thing that came to mind.

Kayaking to see bears at Alaska’s Pack Creek, Alaska magazine, Aug. 2015

Our guide had us check every pocket to make sure we weren’t carrying any food that might attract bears. Yet the grizzlies seem to be running through the drizzly afternoon straight at us.

Sweet home Chicago: Blues, baseball and barbecue, Inspirato, Summer 2015

Sometimes, if you’ve worked with an editor for a while, she approaches you with an assignment. And occasionally she opens the door to your dream story. When my editor at Inspirato suddenly had an opening for a feature and asked me to pitch a story about Chicago, I sent in essence a three-word reply: “Blues, baseball, barbecue.” Ultimately I got the assignmet and wrote about my favorite aspects of the City of Big Shoulders.
Here’s an excerpt from the story: Wrigley Field has been showing its age, but that’s part of its charm, and a new Jumbotron installed this year adds 21st-century technology to the creaky yard. Mark Gonzales, who covers the Cubs for the Chicago Tribune notes that baseball is “deep-rooted” in Chicago and that loyalty is passed down through the generations. “You can always sell hope, and hope remains strong with the Cubs.”
That hope is captured in Norman Rockwell’s 1948 painting The Dugout. It focuses on a slump-shouldered bat boy with dejected Cubs players sitting in the dugout behind him. Above are several jeering fans, but there’s one smiling kid, thrilled just to be at the game. That’s the symbol of the true Cubs fan.

Anti-cyclist rant by Adam Parks of Victorian Farmstead Meat in Sebastopol

“I have some suggestions for these Tour de Speedbump contestants. First, anyone not in single file and/or on the right side of the solid white line is fair game.” -Adam Parks

Dodgers’ broadcaster Vin Scully suspended for PEDs

LOS ANGELES — Veteran Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully was suspended today by Major League Baseball for 50 games after performance enhancing drugs were found in the announcer’s booth at the Dodgers’ spring training stadium in Glendale, Ariz. A random search found No Doz and Sudafed in Scully’s section of the booth, which contain […]

SF Chronicle: Holding on to a travel companion who wouldn’t let go

“Michael!” my father shouted, shattering my reverie. Behind me, I saw him and the biggest wave I’d ever witnessed, both zooming toward me. My father grabbed my hand — we were too far out to beat the wave to shore. After a few terrifying seconds, the wave began to curl over us in slow motion and enveloped us with unrelenting force. The surf spun us around like driftwood; my father’s grip tightened. As the wave slammed us into the scabrous ocean floor, he held on. And when the undertow began to suck us out to sea, his grip remained strong as he swam us — with his one free arm — toward the shore.

The Bird Men of Mazatlan: Cliff divers wait for tide to come in, Mariner

In the fall of 2009, Mariner magazine asked if I’d go to Mazatlan to write about the cliff divers there. I’d watched cliff divers in Acapulco during the ’70s on ABC’s Wide World of Sports but didn’t know they were still plunging into the sea. I spent three days with the divers, who – if […]

Abolish the one-game playoff in baseball

Here’s the larger issue with adding a one-game wild card playoff: it cheapens the 162-game season.

River a Mile Deep: An unguided Grand Canyon rafting adventure, WorldHum

The feeling of the journey’s first moments, especially on a naturally flowing waterway, is euphoric. Our companions hoot and cheer as we hit our first rapids.