Guided by Moonshadows

Tent. Check. Sleeping bag. Check. Liner. Check. Day pack. Check. Backpacking bags. Check check. Stash o’ Clif bars. Check (mmmm).

I came to Uganda ready to camp. Ready to hike, backpack, trek, climb, and traverse the myriad outdoor opportunities that this continent has to offer, all in true mzungu fashion. Two things I didn’t pack: an inflatable ground pad, and an ability to navigate equatorial weather patterns.

The rainy season, I was told, would be coming. Just not yet. It would linger on the horizon and turn the village roads into muddy soup once I was good and acclimated to the beautiful consistent low 80s temperatures. October, they said. Maybe November.


The rainy season has come. Which has sent the village women scrambling to the gardens every morning in hopes of capitalizing on the concomitant higher crop yields. And it sent my friends and I scrambling for shelter in the lush Mabira forest in Eastern Uganda this weekend when the torrential downpour began to take it’s toll on our freshly erected camp.

Flooded tents. Check. Soaked shoes. Check. Soaked clothes. Check. Cancelled hiking plans. Check. Moonshadow…WINNING!!!

My love for Moonshadow started in the Grand Canyon. Sierra and I were trekking across the Southwest and were mapping out our descent into the canyon floor at the backcountry permit office. A lively, scruffy young park employee who clearly reveled in waking up every day to his definition of a perfect job (and looked and talked just like Andy from Parks and Recreation) gave us travel tips that ended up taking us to some of our favorite destinations on the road. He also let us tap into the secret stash of abandoned propane canisters locked behind the office and told us about a magical bin where canyon-goers could deposit their unwanted camping gear. Glancing at his name tag, which read “M. Johnston,” I thanked him and asked what the M stood for.
“Is that a Burner name?”
“No, it’s my real name.”
He pulled out his Arizona ID. Something along the lines of Michael Davis Moonshadow Johnston. Having a deeply resonating connection with any word with “moon” in it, I was floored. He informed us that when you get your license in Arizona you can put basically anything you want in your name. So we followed Moonshadow’s recommendation, scored a tent, some chairs, cooking gear, the works. Hiked the 7 miles down into the Canyon, pitched the tent, and low and behold, the name of the tent was Moonshadow.


(It’s those moments, when the universe just matches up. When most would default to coincidence but those of us who have taken the time to listen to the heartbeat of this universe know full well that She is always conspiring in our favor. We’re reminded of the infinite possibilities that exist in this world. And sitting there sheltered from the pouring rain with some of my favorite people around, I was reminded of how each possibility that comes my way, even if some seem to deviate from my imagined ideal, only serve to reinforce my belief that this whole cosmic THING we are living out is orchestrated so perfectly for each of us)

So we made it work. Buying (and trying to sell) food from the frantic flocks of food hawkers at the trading center in Lugazi that serves as the entrance to Mabira Forest, trekking through the drizzle up to the Rainforest Lodge for some stunning scenery, cold beers and the sort of laughter that makes your jaws ache for days, an impressively large campfire made with sticks collected by us and the small children that insisted on helping us carry it just before the clouds broke, ordering our first rolexes without oil, telling every man who saw me walking with four American girls that yes, in fact, they were all mine, but I was open to more. Camping with Danielle and Julius on their first camping trips added so much more to the experience, shining light on the abnormality of the entire drenched debacle. Not quite like any camping trip I’ve experienced before, which makes it so unique to this chapter of my life.

Maybe camping in a rainforest in the rainy season on the equator wasn’t the BEST plan, but it was an awesome first camping experience in Africa. Here’s to dryer weather.


Mabira Forest…pictures don’t do it justice.


 Way to keep dry (and weird) Rebecca


Building a fire…in front of a flooded tent…these are all good ideas.


Becoming one with the monkeys.


These two…

IMG_8759 IMG_8760 

…are adorable.






Cute-ish shot…

Fun shot!


Who needs Burning Man when you can just camp in the pouring rain instead? Commemoration complete, nonetheless.


Our favorite couple!!!


Orrin forging inch-long friendships.


Danielle did camping!!!


Embracing the sun, for the first time on the whole trip…on the way out.