Pelton is an adventure travel writer renowned for his swashbuckling forays into global trouble spots. The Canadian-born former public relations executive, who holds dual U.S. citizenship, is the author of four books, including The World's Most Dangerous Places, a guide to global hotspots, and Come Back Alive, a travel advice book billed as "The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Disasters, Kidnappings, Animal Attacks, and Other Perils of Modern Travel."
Pelton previously reported from Afghanistan for National Geographic Adventure, profiling Afghan warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum and the exploits of American Green Beret forces operating in the country. During that assignment, Pelton interviewed captured American Taliban John Walker Lindh for television cable news network CNN.
Carol Wedeven speculated that her son met up with Pelton and Smaker in Panama while registering to cross the Darien.
Mark Wedeven, a college student on leave from formal classes at the University of Colorado in Boulder, had spent the past year traveling in Central America as part of an independent study project. He embarked on his trip last January over the Martin Luther King holiday and was nearing the completion of his year-long journey, his mother said.
Carol Wedeven described her son Mark as independent and adventure-seeking, noting his climbs up "the wrong side" of Mount Rainier and Mt. Constance in his home state of Washington. She said her son's Spanish skills were strong and that he mentioned plans to study at an international school in Bogota, Colombia, and to work his way back to the U.S. onboard a freighter ship.
Smaker works as a seasonal firefighter in Santa Clara County, California, and was described by colleagues as an accomplished world traveler who had trekked across Australia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, according to a report published in today's Oakland Tribune.
Relief Follows Tense Days of Waiting
A statement issued late this afternoon by National Geographic Adventure indicated that Robert Pelton's wife Linda had also been contacted by U.S. and Canadian embassy officials and informed her of husband's well-being.
"Robert is fine and healthy and looking forward to coming home as soon as he can," she was quoted as saying.
National Geographic Adventure Editor in Chief John Rasmus was quoted in the same statement as saying, "While we were very concerned for [Pelton], we also knew how resourceful and experienced he is in situations like these. Once we knew he was safe from the immediate danger, we were pretty confident that he'd come out of it unscathed."
"We're relieved that he and his group are OK, and we're looking forward to Robert's story," Rasmus said.
More than 3,000 Colombians are kidnapped in the country each year. Since 1998, 46 U.S. citizens have been abducted in the country. Three well-known guerrilla groups, the AUC, the National Liberation Army (ELN), and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), are known to engage in kidnappings for profit and for terrorism.
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