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JOHNSON / ORIGINAL PAINTINGS OF WILDLIFE

: ADVENTURES IN NATURE







4




2002: NEW ZEALAND

I am committed to exploring nature not just in North America,
but around the world.  During the northern hemisphere's winter,
I spent a month in New Zealand's "summer," traveling alone
from its northernmost point (Cape Reinga) to its southernmost
point (Stewart Island), experiencing all of its diverse natural 
environments.  With my folding kayak I was able to descend
rivers, navigate freshwater lakes, reach offshore islands, 
penetrate saltwater lagoons, and cruise the coastline.  Here
was a country full of fauna & flora completely new to me.  Birds
such as penguins, kiwi, kea, kaka, tui, and weka.  Trees such
as the giant kauri, the flowering ratas, the ancient mountain beech,
and the silver tree-ferns.  In just one month I traveled thousands
of miles, criss-crossing the country from one end to the other,
discovering just how incredible life on this far side of the world
can be.


 



2002: LAND OF THE CONDORS


The following November I visited one of the least visited areas in America.  The San Rafael Wilderness seems to be a well-kept secret along the coast of California.  It's the last remaining refuge of the American Condor.  For a week I rambled along its rocky ravines and up over its steep mountainsides, basking in the intense quiet of this roadless paradise.  

 


2003:  BELIZE TROPICAL FORESTS & CORAL REEFS


While exploring the Cockscomb Jaguar Preserve by foot, I paused beneath this giant tropical hardwood.  At my feet was a dancing parade of  leaf-cutter ants, known locally as the "wee-wees."  Overhead a hen-size chachalaca roosted among the dense foliage.   I spent the first two weeks of March experiencing the natural environments of Belize - a central American country bordering Mexico, Guatemala, and the Carribean ocean.  My folding kayak enabled me to paddle out to some of the offshore islands, fifty miles of crystaline waters colored turquoise from one mangrove caye to another.  Snorkeling on the barrier coral reef (extending the entire length of Belize: over one hundred eighty miles), I observed colorful marine fishes, stingrays, and bull sharks; recording what I saw through underwater photography.  Ascending a Mayan temple above the hilltop canopy near the Guatemalan border, I was provided with a tremendous view of inland forests - endless shades green - home to toucans, parrots, howler monkeys, and agoutis.  This was my first experience with both tropical forests and coral reefs.  It was also the first time I utilized local public transportation to journey from one end of the the country to the other, enjoying the company of the mayan, creole, and garifuna peoples, all of whom spoke some dialect of english.  I won't soon forget being the only American on a four hour bus ride, standing room only, sandwiched and packed with laughing native holiday travelers, the bus-driver roaring past every other vehicle on the road.   

 


2003:  ALASKA


The last two weeks of August were spent in Alaska with my family; a much less rigorous trip than I'm accustomed to.  With my wife, her father, her sister, and our 12 month old son Alexander, we toured the easily reached areas of the state by van.  I hope to someday return for a more extensive wilderness adventure.  Shown above is a view of the "Harding Icefield" seen from atop a ridge - the only hiking I did during the whole two weeks.  Along with driving, we also took a day-long boat cruise off the coast of the Kenai Fjiords National Park and a guided shuttle-bus tour along the 60 mile Denali National Park road; seeing just about every form of wildlife known to inhabit Alaska (tufted puffins to grizzlies to caribou).

 


2003: THE BAHAMAS

 
Before going to Andros Island my impression of the Bahama Island chain had been shaped mostly by TV and newspaper ads describing luxury resorts and cruises. Andros Island on the other hand was a step backward in time to an era predating the arrival of Columbus. One hundred miles long by approximately 40 miles at its widest, Andros encompasses vast uninhabited wetlands, pinelands, scrublands, beaches, bays, and shores. Much of the land is impenetrable by foot, covered with dense woody vegetation peppered with poisonwood. I came here to kayak in December 2003, to explore the island’s maze of waterways and shallow bays. During my first 47 miles of paddling I saw not a single boat, house or person, nor did I hear any sounds - no motors, no jets. The only sign of mankind was at night when I gazed up at the stars and traced the distant routes of satellites. I spent 9 days paddling nearly two hundred miles. Besides sea turtles, sharks and stingrays I found little to observe. On maps it had seemed like a paradise for wildlife, but in reality it was a desolate wasteland of no outstanding features, no topography, hills, no distant landmarks, just absolute emptiness and an unending horizon of sky meeting flat watery land.

 


2004: NEW ENGLAND SUMMER


Kayaking on Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond.

 


2004: MONTANA WILDERNESS (THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE)


In my New England studio I often-times find myself wanting to re-visit distant environments I have especially fond memories of, such as my 1990 trek atop the alpine crest of the Wind River mountains in Wyoming.  Those remote, wind-swept peaks with their intense sunlight and autumn colors are hard to forget.  I dreamed of following the “Continental Divide” north through Montana and revisiting similar alpine wonderlands.  The Ananconda-Pintler Wilderness seemed best for me, it lacked the tight rules and regulations of Glacier National Park
and its crest was much higher than that of the Bob Marshall Wilderness.   I brought six days worth of food and just the bare essentials of survival gear – that’s all.  Alone I hiked three days without seeing another human being.  At night - herds of elk thudded through the woods, and bugling bull-elks bro


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