June 30, 2017

Annual high country backpacking with the Utes


About 5 years ago Mel and I were invited by our good friend Elton Blackhair to help take a group of Ute kids up in the high Uintahs. This area was once part of Ute land and is an important part of their culture. This year our usual spot was closed so at the last minute we were forced to find new country. I am glad we did. Elton scoped out the area of the Reader Lakes which are about 11,000 feet above sea level. It was amazing. We had a great group of kids this year. They all did great.Lonnie with Lower Reader lake in the background. Lonnie has done a lot to help this program.
Larry Blackhair is a large part of why we do this. He and I spent some good time chatting about the old ways over the camp fire. He told me some amazing stories about his grandfather who was a medicine man. Amazing.
Eton braving the cold.
Elton Blackhair has been a good friend of ours for about 12 years. He is one of the most generous people I have ever met and is the reason we do this camp out every year. He works hard to get the funding and get kids out in the sticks so they can have a great adventure they can remember forever. I have learned a lot from him and admire him greatly. 
Mike Johnson’s backside. This is the view I have when I hike with Mike. He kicks my butt.
You have got to be hardy to live up there.

It is easy to get lost on this trail as it doesn’t seem to get visited very often. Without these cairns we would have been toast. Even with them we managed to get lost more than a few times.
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Elton headed back. Larry telling scary stories.

Lakes at 11,500 feet are generally not very warm. Last year after spending two weeks with my family in Yosemite and Sequoia we spent a lot of time in freezing cold water. We decided as a family that the best policy is to just jump in without thinking about it.  Mel and I at North Pole Pass 11,800 feet just before a big hail storm hit. COLD!! I was sitting by the fire one morning and Larry walks up and throws a couple of his shirts he had worn the day before onto the fire. I had never thought about it but this is a great way to save on weight in your pack and get rid of old shirts. The birth of a new ritual.  I went down to get some water and turned around and bam, there she was.  This is Sami’s (my daughter) second year with us in high country. Fording the crick.

May 18, 2017

A great opportunity for your teen…in Guatemala!


When I was 16 my dad saw fit to send me off for the summer to work in Las Vegas on his friend’s concrete crew. Being away from home with new people in new surroundings changed my perspective on life. I can’t tell you how glad I am that my parents sent me off on that adventure. I came home more grateful, more focused in school, and I loved my family and my hometown more than ever. You have heard the old saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”?

If you are a parent looking for a good experience for your teenager I want to recommend a great week long opportunity in Guatemala on a farm run by a good friend of mine and his family. We have stayed with our friends on this farm two times and I promise this would be a life changer.

The farm is located in the hills of Solola, Guatemala in Mayan country. It is a beautiful and safe location away from just about everything we call modern. Greg and Lucy have worked to help local families learn modern farming techniques so they can be self sustaining. It is really amazing! As part of this expedition your child will take a boat across Lake Atitlan, eat local foods (delish), and help on the farm and meet locals. You can look at the weeklong itinerary here: https://cultivainternational.org/expeditions/

I consider my experience in this part of the world with this family one of the best and most beautiful of my life! I am happy to discuss or you can contact the Jensens on the link above. 

April 24, 2017

Sleeping over at Warren Jeffs House


Mel and I just returned from a weekend trip/service project in one of the most isolated places in America. It’s known as Short Creek which borders Utah and Arizona, Hildale on the Utah side and Colorado City on the Arizona side. We were there with the Fern Foundation helping rebuild a zoo that once had a bear, a zebra, and a camel, etc… When Warren Jeffs ( I am making an assumption you know who he is) took over many of the basic things this community enjoyed were outlawed and the animals in the zoo were sold. It appears that things are on the mend now after many years of crazy leadership!

On Saturday we helped to build a new outhouse, re-landscape nearly an acre, plant a bunch of new plants, put up a pergola, etc.. The kids in town are out riding bikes, running around on 4-wheelers and playing sports again. All of these things were forbidden under Warren Jeffs. We were told that the minute his brother Lyle Jeffs fled after the food stamp scandal kids began riding bikes again.

I can’t pretend to know the slightest about this community. I do know however that there is a division here between those that still follow Jeffs and those who have left the FLDS community.  Many of the people who have left the church are hoping to rebuild this community and put the nightmare in the past.

Warren Jeff’s old home is now vacant but under the control of one of his ex wives. It’s hard to believe that it once housed dozens of children and dozens of wives. Each night Jeffs would stand at the end of a large room and his wives would wait in line and each in turn would give him a peck on the lips and then go to bed. Ugh!  It’s creepy yes but we had a blast in a creepy kind of way sleeping in one of those rooms.

We met many ex-FLDS and some who are still followers of Warren. Say what you want about Warren, these people are some of the most kind people I have ever met. Words cannot describe how much we loved this experience with all the friends at the Fern Foundation and We absolutely fell in love with the people in this community and hope to return again soon.  Here are some of my favorite pics.


Brick work on the side of Jeff’s house. A basketball hoop in the same courtyard.  I took this picture because all basketball hoops were taken down during his last years there and now some are back up.

I purchased a fine bird house from this young FLDS faithful. His name is Warren. Good kid.

Colorado City is gorgeous!

These young FLDS girls braided the hair of some of the workers including my wife.

I asked these two what they do for fun. They said they had been camping three nights in a row and stayed up till midnight washing eggs to sell our volunteer staff. They said someone rustled their tent and it spooked em.
Flower bush in front of Warren Jeffs home. You can find some kind of symbolism there, maybe?
A morning road in Hildale.

The pond at the zoo. The wave runner is not fully active but when it is the kids can putt around on it.

These ducks were donated by the Fern Foundation. I think.

Fern Foundation leadership. They did an amazing job of getting this all together.

Andrew was our tour guide on a beautiful hike on the back side of Zion National Park. The kids in the above picture have hiked this canyon so many times they can’t remember. They were all a pure delight.

I made Candice pose to look like she was working. 🙂

Amazing kids!

We had some wonderful talks with many great people. Edna has seen some hard times. Her dad was banished 5 years ago and was only allowed to shake their hands before he left. She was so fun to talk to and very open about her experience.

This is Warren Jeffs front door and one of the many hall ways. Many of the homes in Short Creek having the word “Zion” written over the door.  You would be surprised at the pink, blue and green carpet we found in there. Not to mention the secret door leading to a vault.

One of these girls is getting evicted this month. She told my wife they are best friends and will miss each other. Warren Jeffs is still communicating from prison and is not permitting the faithful FLDS to sign documents that would allow them to stay. These families are among the faithful.

On Friday we went to Mountain Meadows for a tour but it was freezing and windy I had already read the book so we bailed.

What a contrast this concert was. It was a small music festival but it attracted such a wide variety of people it was surprising who showed up.

Little Steven.

My wife slipped near a water hole and literally was baptized by complete immersion, a funny joke while hanging out with ex-flds. Baptized at Short Creek!

I took this picture simply because we were on a hike with “Fern Foundation” and Bam! A Fern! That is a fern right?

Candice and Lance are my good neighbors in Northern Utah. She introduced us to this project.

Colorado City Music Festival participants.

Great food prepared by the Galloway family!

August 15, 2016

Washington, the Puget Sound and Mt. Rainier


I feel like there has been one huge conspiracy to keep Washington a secret from me. I can’t believe something like that exists. For three days straight we didn’t shop for groceries because the land and sea provide. Blackberries every morning and crab every night. Left just in time to not get used to it.washington 3
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Mt. Ranier gets like 90 inches of rain a year. Beautiful!!washington 11 washington 12 washington 13 washington 14 washington 15 washington 16 washington 17washington 19 washington 20washington 18 washington 21washington 1

April 7, 2014



Took the kids to the HOLI festival. They were a little unsure at first but once they each had a bag of color in their hands they lost all inhibitions and had a blast. I have to admit I was a little scared to pull my camera out unprotected but I found a lull and got everything you see in about 5-10 minutes. Dangerous business!


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March 17, 2014

Guatemala and the Mayan Eco Homestead


Some of you may remember that I spent some time in Guatemala last April. A couple of years ago I started to research locations for my family to go for a month or two during my slow season in the winter. I stumbled across the Dennings and their travel blog  Discover, Share, Inspire. We became online friends and subsequently I traveled to meet them and interview them for a video project I was working on. We had an incredible visit with them. The Dennings introduced us to the Jensens who were living near them in Panajachel, Guatemala at the time. We have all kept in touch and I have become increasingly interested in both Guatemala and the humanitarian efforts both the Dennings and the Jensens founded and have had success with. It is titled Mayan Eco Homestead.

At its heart the Mayan Eco Homestead is an onsite school where people can come and learn and earn various methods of agriculture to bring a wider variety of foods into their diet. Currently corn is king especially in the rural areas where malnutrition is very prevalent. Even though there are other fruits and vegetables at the market, most of it is out of reach financially for many rural people. Meat is rarely eaten. Still 40% of Guatemala is Mayan and Guatemala is the 4th most malnourished country in the world and this causes problems from infant death to stunted growth to just plain not being able to concentrate in school because of hunger. The homestead is located in the 2nd most malnourished area in Guatemala. Here is an interested article about this issue.

Mayan Eco Homestead is in its infancy but for one man so far he is now feeding his family of 7 more food than ever and has increased his income nearly seven times. His 1/5th of an acre went from corn to now having chickens for meat and laying eggs, a pig, a tilapia pond and various plants for vegetables. He is now sharing what he has learned about self sufficiency with a local orphanage. The homestead is now a place where anyone can come learn while they earn essentially a start up kit that can be used on their own property. These people are eager to learn and work hard and this is going to grow quickly with more people taking interest.

Take some time to browse their Facebook page and see it in action. My wife and I stayed there for three days last week and we could see how very few dollars can impact entire families in dramatic ways. Currently, a family of 5 who lives in a small tin house the size of half my bedroom with floors made of dirt, is building a sweet little home with donations from America. You can see the progress on the Facebook page. They are at a stand still waiting for more funding so I am putting it out there that even a few bucks can make a huge difference. For those that wish to donate you can do so here. If nothing else please take time to like their page on Facebook. Thanks!


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Greg and Lucy Jensen and their family operate the Mayan Eco Homestead. Josh is their oldest. I made him pose with his new machete he bought across where us boys all went and got our hair cut super short for $1. Best hair cut ever!

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Greg does running tours in the mountains of Guatemala and on old dormant volcanoes. His running business is here if you have any interest in a running tour of the area. The mountains are incredible!

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Me and Melanie down the lane. Short haircut! Love it!cmp_4140 cmp_4154

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This is Zeke. He guided us down a steep, steep mountain to a little city on the lake. He is part of the family building a new house. He is a very hard worker and strong as two or three of me.




February 3, 2014

Pilgrimage: Israel















About the time the sun was coming up as we approached Tel Aviv on the plane, I knew this was going to be a very different trip. About a dozen Orthodox Jews stood up and began praying and reading from the Torah right on the plane. I had never experienced anything like it. It was just the beginning. I have read about Jerusalem but nothing can prepare you for it. It is so completely different than my everyday life that it is mind boggling.

We experienced a lot in a short period of time, incredible hummus and falafel to the incredibly powerful and well designed Holocaust Museum, Yad Vanesh.  The beauty, the devotion and the history make this place the most interesting I have ever been to, EVER!! You simply must go.  If you want some beach time Tel Aviv is only an hour away and has some incredible beaches on the Mediterranean. Drop your plans to Europe or to Hawaii and go. I won’t even try to explain it any further.

If a picture says  1000 words here are about a million.











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January 16, 2014

Could’ve kept going…


We are back!! I had a strong urge to keep going south. I love the road. It has taken me years to discover that my life is a cycle. I get extremely busy in the Spring, Summer and Fall and when winter comes around and I have too much time on my hands, I scheme about traveling. It happens every year without fail. Today, I have a great desire to go to India. Let me explain. I am currently enrolled as a student at USU. I have been a senior for 11 years. For no particular reason, I decided to finish up my few remaining classes and graduate after what will be 19 years. I will discuss that another day. Suffice it to say, I am taking my final two classes right now, both of which I am enjoying tremendously. The first is “Religion and Play”, which essentially is a class about Hinduism. The second class is called “Living with Wildlife”.  Both interesting, but my Hindu class is mesmerizing! Hence, the desire to go to India. Not to mention Indian food is ultra fantastic!

Travel is a large part of my McFarland family culture. We are bred to explore and if an adventure is not had for a period of time we get the itch. In the winter, I never stop itching! Experiencing different cultures is one of the quickest ways to learn that really we are all the same in so many ways.  When it boils down to it though, for me food is the ultimate travel experience. I will travel across the planet to try new foods. I think I can remember just about every thing I have ever eaten while traveling. While I love traveling abroad, I have a deep appreciation for the gems we have right in our midst. There are many!



You couldn’t find someone who embodied the image of a forest ranger better if you tried!  Jim took us on a two hour snowshoe tour across the rim of Bryce Canyon that blew our minds. It was freezing and the wind was piercing but my boy Jack didn’t flinch. He was a rock! Jim was so excited to be out and about. I always love seeing people who love getting up to go to work.






If you go on KSl deals right now you can stay at Ruby’s Inn, one mile away from Bryce Canyon, for two nights for only $70. It was a real nice hotel and the swimming pool was piping hot! Best of all, we had the entire Bryce Canyon National Park to ourselves.













I felt so sorry for this deer because just getting out to take the picture I almost got frost bite.






We are National Park Fanatics! I love that Maddi loves her Jr. Ranger badges. If you have kids, you simply have got to do the Jr Ranger programs at any National Park. Below, Melanie is working with the kids to fulfill the requirements and when they are done a ranger swears them in as Jr. Rangers. The kids love it! If you must know, Utah has the second most National Parks in America, maybe the world. California has nine and Utah has five. They are ALL incredible and can only be experienced to be believed.







We headed to lower elevation, down to St. George where it was almost 60 degrees. We soaked it up like lizards. HEAT!! YES!!








We threw these pants away during the trip. Jack loved these pants.cmp_7377


Brigham Young’s winter home in St. George.



This couple below has been volunteering for 10 months to give tours at the Brigham Young home. They were super nice and probably annoyed by my questions.cmp_7406



The oldest tree in St. George. Brigham Young ordered a ton of silk worms to make silk with so they planted Mulberry Trees for the silk worms to eat.He also brought carp to Utah! The silk didn’t last long but we know how carp ended up.cmp_7411






We Spent two entire days exploring Snow Canyon. I am blown away with everything we have within a half a days drive of my home. cmp_7427






The kids fed these birds for like an hour. I laid on my stomach for like an hour trying to get one to eat some bread off my back. I think I could have done it if I had another hour or so. cmp_7557



December 10, 2013

Some people dream of white sandy beaches…..




Ok, if you haven’t been on a photo shoot with me or don’t know me very well then this may seem a bit strange. Well, thinking about it, even if you know me it might sound a little strange. Anyway, I just went on a dream vacation, not to Hawaii, but to the DMZ which if you don’t know is the border of South and North Korea. What ??? Yup, it was on my top 5 list of things to do along with the Transiberian Railway, Mongolia, Morocco and Jerusalem.

Why in the heck would anyone want to go to the DMZ?



Well, the answer for me is mystery and curiosity. Let me be clear in saying that I have no sympathies for North Korea. My grandfather fought against North Korea in the Korean War and used to tell me stories while we fished. I think their leaders are crazy. How can you resist looking at crazy though? I can’t. I understand people are living in extreme conditions over there and it maddens me but you have to laugh about the leadership over there a little. I mean come on. Not only did they discover a unicorn lair there last year but their leaders also invented the hamburger, got 11 holes in one their first time golfing and they chose our worst citizen (Dennis Rodman) to visit for “diplomatic” purposes. You can’t make this stuff up.


That is North Korea in the distance. I wasn’t allowed any closer with my camera.

All laughing aside though North Korea is full of people who have little touch with the outside world. I have read so many books on this region and frankly still so little is known and that blows my mind.

The DMZ is not the only reason for going to South Korea though. Truthfully, I think South Korea has the most under appreciated Asian food in existence. That is my opinion. Seoul is home to over 15 million people and I swear there is like 1 restaurant for every 10 people. The food is everywhere and it is



Forget about what you have heard about kimchi. If you can’t get past this fermented spicy cabbage then you are missing out on so much. The soups, the barbecue, the gimbap (basically sushi), the Kalbi grill, etc… are unforgettable. And honestly, to me there is nothing more interesting than open air food markets and Seoul has a bunch of them. The Gwangjang market is the oldest in Seoul and I swear 90% of the stuff I saw there I had never even heard of. It is like an open aired museum with shoulder to shoulder activity. There is a palpable energy in food markets. Food brings people together. I do not exaggerate when I tell you that I could spend an entire day in one market. Pretty impressive for someone who can’t stand shopping at home, eh.


Oh yeah, for you people who do like Kimchi, did I mention that I am a graduate of the Kimchi academy? Yup, I went to Kimchi school in Seoul. It wasn’t planned but I am so glad I did it. It was a blast!!


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My fellow graduates. The Heng family from Singapore. They are hoping to come visit us soon and go to Yellowstone. They were fantastic!!kimchi



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February 12, 2013

Jamie Oliver and Italy

Jamie Oliver and Italy

Jamie Oliver is one of the few people I follow on Instagram. I gained a lot of respect for him a couple years ago when I watched a video of him on a culinary journey through Italy. As some of you know I spent 2 incredible years in Italy as a missionary for my church. It is hard not to love Italy and the Italians. There is a food depth there that is difficult to explain. It is so traditional and fresh and fantastic that in their eyes they have reached the pinnacle of perfection and why change perfection? Jamie Oliver, even though he had been mentored by an Italian chef I don’t think he quite understood Italians until he went on this 2 month journey and tried to do the impossible, cook for Italians. It is not that he is not capable, it is simply that he didn’t understand that his embellishments would not be accepted. From top to bottom there is little variation in ice cream and pizza for example. It is not like here where we try to be original and unique. In Italy there are no pizza chains. In fact, except for some McDonalds here and there there aren’t really fast food chains at all. Each pizzeria is unique yet tows the line to tradition. Difficult to explain. Anyway, on his journey he discovered that Italians in general were not as progressive as his Italian mentor.

He doesn’t care. He does what might be the closest thing to a gladiator today. He cooks for Italians and every where he goes they are not pleased. As I watched it was like a scary movie. Don’t go in there!! Don’t do that, you don’t know what you are getting into!! Yet, like Rocky he just keeps getting up and trying. It was pure grit and I learned why he is so successful. He is fearless. What a quality. Watch all the parts of this on youtube and you will understand Italy more than anything I have seen.

P.S. He is also a great photographer palermo  Unknown