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    • Drue, any suggestions for getting yourself more in such contact with animals? I remember vacationing in Utah and climbing up a mountain cliff wall while holding onto chains: at one point it briefly rained and we were on all fours to avoid falling off. When we reached the top and had lunch, we were greeted by some adorable scavenging chipmunks. They were oridinary chipmunks, so no pictures worth sharing, but it was amazing to see them at the top after what we went through to get there.

    • Hi Stephen, I remember the chipmunks on top of Angel's Landing in Zion! They were everywhere. Is that where you were? Or were you rock climbing?

      I'm no expert on getting safely in close contact with wildlife. I have made two seperate trips specifically to see tigers in the wild and spent several days in each location... NOTHING. There are no guarantees where nature is concerned. The best advice I can give is (a) make the effort, research where and when to go and be willing to go to some fairly remote places (depending on what you want to see); (b) be really patient, most animals have huge territories; (c) Time of Day matters usually - know when the species you are interested in are most active; (d) If you are really serious, have a naturalist guide with you who knows how to spot things; (e) be really quiet and calm (unless you don't want to see them... so if you are hiking where there might be mountain lions or rattlesnakes, maybe better to make a lot of noise so they leave you alone). Sometimes the animals are all around you and you won't even know it if you are making noise or talking or walking too quickly.

      For example, on another jungle walk in Borneo (in 2000), I was walking with a guide and there was another group of people who were chatting and laughing as they were making their way through the trees. So I asked my guide to hold back and let the others get some distance from us. After only a few minutes when we started walking very quietly again, we heard a commotion in the trees above us. Turns out we were surrounded by a troup of endangered proboscis monkeys (this photo is from 2018 again, due to the better camera than what I had in 2000).

    • Ok, I'm on a roll with the monkeys now. December 2005. There is a famous Onsen (Hot Spring Bath) & Ryokan (Japanese Inn) in the mountains in Japan outside of Nagano that is really hard to get to. The area is appropriately translated as Hell Valley. Long train ride, followed by a long bus ride, followed by a 30 minute walk up hill through the snow. The food is pretty nice (Japanese Kaiseki style), though I do remember one of the items on the menu was a deep fried cricket, which actually wasn't too bad. You sleep on the floor on a futon on the tatami mat. There is not much to do there. It is COLD has hell.

      So WHY is it famous? This is where the Japanese Macaques (aka Snow Monkeys), the northernmost species of monkeys in the world, I think, come down out of the mountains to soak their weary bones in the healing waters of the natural hot springs after a hard day of doing whatever monkeys do. The Onsen has two separate baths, one for the monkeys and one for the humans. The humans aren't allowed to use the monkey bath, but alas, monkeys can't read and don't know they aren't allowed to use the human bath. Now I love monkeys, but they will just go about their number 1 and number 2 business wherever the urge strikes them, so there is no way you will catch me getting into a bath that has been occupied by a troup of Snow Monkeys! Nonetheless, this was something that prior to 2005 had been on my "bucket" list, and it was absolutely worth the trudge through the snow with our bags, braving the freezing temperatures and blizzard-like conditions, and even eating a cricket.