An excellent book. Even if you have no interest in hiking or pipelines. 😀
In fact, you won’t learn much about hiking. A thru hiker would not be impressed. Ken’s gear was too heavy. And he hiked the wrong months of the year.
Ken Ilgunas has a Masters in English from Duke. He’s a terrific writer.
This book has given me the best insight into how poor North American rural people think. An insight into why they vote for political Parties that make the rich richer, the poor poorer. Worse education and health care.
Children and grandchildren leave for big cities. Life is tough for those remaining.
Ken mostly sought out small town religious leaders, asking them for advice on where he could tent safely. He was astonished by the generosity of those spiritual leaders.
Ken worked as a backcountry ranger in Alaska. And was forced to take a job as dishwasher in a high Arctic oil camp.
Jobs there were high pay — very low quality of life.
Those arguing for the Petrotoxin industries usually shout JOBS, JOBS, JOBS. Ken came away thinking these were actually lousy jobs. High rates of alcoholism and drug abuse.
In September 2012, I stuck out my thumb in Denver, Colorado, and hitchhiked 1,500 miles north to the Alberta tar sands. After being duly appalled, I commenced my 1,700-mile hike south following the route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast. It would become a 4.5 month journey across the Great Plains. To follow the pipe, I couldn’t take roads. I’d have to walk across fields, grasslands, and private property. I’d have to trespass across America.
The book is about my journey–fleeing from cows, taking cover from gunfire, and keeping warm on a very wintry and questionably-timed hike. But it’s also about coming to terms with climate change and figuring out what our role as individuals should be in confronting something so big and so out of our hands. It’s about taking a few months of your life to look at your country from a new perspective. Ultimately, it’s about embracing the belief that a life lived not half wild is a life only half lived.
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