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The story told by James Spring, who I interviewed for this weekend’s Q&A, was so remarkable that my editor Andrew Donohue wasn’t sure we could believe it.

He sent me off to do some fact-checking on Spring’s story of a harrowing journey through the jungles that separate Panama and Colombia, the Darien Gap, and his later offer to venture back to rescue two British men who had gone missing while following his path.

For anyone who was skeptical, here’s what I turned up:

  • The two backpackers, Tom Hart Dyke and Paul Winder, wrote a book called The Cloud Garden that chronicles their odyssey. It mentions them contacting Patricia Upton, who runs a travelers’ website, before they took their trip. She forwarded them a memo from two men from the United States who wrote, “We made it. We would not do it again, nor would we have done it if we had known the extent of the danger currently afoot in Colombia.” Hart Dyke and Winder took this as “proof that it could be done” and “a route map” through the jungle. (Check out pages 41 and 317.) The epilogue mentions that the memo was authored by James Spring, who later exchanged e-mails with Winder’s father and “once again … offered to swoop in and out” of the jungles where the men had gone missing.
  • Patricia Upton of OutBackofBeyond.com confirmed that James Spring had e-mailed her and that she forwarded his e-mail to the British men who wanted to visit the same jungles: “Yes, I do remember corresponding with Mr. Spring and his adventures in the Darien,” she wrote via e-mail. “I did indeed email and warn Paul Winder, in fact, if I remember correctly I was in touch with him a couple of times prior to him entering the Darien.” Matt Schultz, who traveled through the Darien Gap with Spring, also confirmed their trip via a short e-mail.
  • One of the British backpackers himself, Paul Winder, sent me an e-mail to confirm that James Spring had offered to rescue them. Apparently the episode didn’t diminish his enthusiasm for travel: “I’m in Yosemite at the moment climbing and I don’t have regular internet access or a working phone, the joys of being away from the rat race! Yes, James did offer to go back into the Darien to help with our search.” He will be “catching up” with Spring in a few weeks, he wrote.
EMILY ALPERT

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