To reach the clandestine training camp where he photographed "The Jesus-Kissed, War-Fringed, Love-Swirling Rangers," South Africa-based lensman Jonathan Torgovnik was smuggled across the Burmese border in a pirogue. Then he was guided at night through a jungle laced with land mines. At the camp, Torgovnik met a former U.S. Special Forces soldier turned minister who is teaching freedom fighters to survive the conflict in Myanmar. "It's a bizarre story," says Torgovnik, who also shoots for The New Yorker and Wired. "His wife and three kids are there with him, living like Robinson Crusoe at the edge of a war zone."
"I never want to write another one of these personal-crisis stories," says Megan Michelson, who wrote "Tunnel Vision," about narrowly escaping an avalanche that left three of her skiing partners dead. It's her second feature story for Outside. Her first, "In a House by the River" (February 2011), explored the killing of her stepfather. "Reporting these excessively personal stories isn't cathartic for me," says Michelson, an editor at ESPN.com who lives in Tahoe City, California. "They raise more fear and sadness than if I just let time ease the pain. I took this assignment hoping it would help people make better decisions in the backcountry than we did."
FROM THE CUTTING-ROOM FLOOR
"When I was a kid in Ohio, the neighbor boys told me about the monster that lived in the woods by our house. I was six when I heard it screem: hoooowhat. For two years it haunted me, a donkey braying in the field. But my memory of the terror the Hoowhat caused, and the place it lived, remains completely vivid. Monsters, spirits, strange beasts—these fantasies give us a way to connect to the outdoors. We've lost that mystery. Technology—the great destroyer of fantasies—has reduced a part of our world."
—Contributing editor Ian Frazier