Trespassing Across America – by Ken Ilgunas

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.

kenilgunas.com

Most of the folks he met were supportive of Keystone XL Phase IV — but over the months Ken didn’t come away with even one good argument in support of the project.

Few jobs. Short term jobs. MOST of the money kept by the corporation, not those people who had dirty oil flowing over their property.

Most of the dirty Canadian oil is shipped overseas.

There are plenty of pipelines in North America. If you must ship Petrotoxins, pipelines are likely the least terrible way.

But Keystone XL became symbolic of the debate over how to slow or reverse climate change.

On January 20, 2021, Biden revoked the permit for the pipeline on his first day in office. It may never be completed.

I QUIT the Long Crossing of Lofoten Archipelago, Norway

BestHike editor Rick McCharles

Inspired by Cam Honan’s 2018 adventure, I set out for the Long Crossing – a 160 km (99 mi) hiking route through the spectacular heart of the island chain. 

It’s not all that popular yet. In fact, AllTrails doesn’t have it. And it has every trail everywhere.

After one day — 9 hours in perfect weather — I’ve decided to QUIT. That day was too difficult and too dangerous for me carrying a heavy pack.

Olderfjorden pass

It LOOKS easy in the photo. But it’s mostly route finding through marshy terrain. Worst was a risky descent clutching a water pipe and safety ropes. Starting up near the top of the waterfall.

This was the Kleppstad to Svolvær leg.

I’d already visited Lofoten on another trip, doing most of the popular day hikes.

I’ll follow the general path of the Long Crossing. But camp low. And climb high with a day pack. Weather will dictate which established day hikes I choose.

I’ll be following recommendations set out in the Rando-Lofoten guidebook by Souyris & Brede:

Hiking the Lofoten islands

Wish me luck. Things tend to #fail in Arctic Norway — usually due to weather.

Island of the Blue Dolphins

I’d recently enjoyed reading the young-adult wilderness survival novel series written by American writer Gary Paulsen. It starts with The Hatchet (1986).

Island of the Blue Dolphins (1960) is some what similar.

… the story of a 12-year-old island girl named Karana, who is stranded alone for years on an island off the California coast.

It is based on the true story of Juana Maria, a Nicoleño Native American left alone for 18 years on San Nicolas Island during the 19th century. …

… the subject of much literary and pedagogical scholarship related to survival, feminism, the resilience of Indigenous peoples, and beyond. …

Both books won the Newbery Medal for distinguished contributions to American literature for children.

It was made into a film in 1960.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

British Columbia Hikes NOT Requiring Reservations

British Columbia is a fantastic hiking destination. BUT campgrounds and some of the best hiking areas require difficult-to-aquire permits — most famously, the West Coast Trail.

Happily, Taryn Eyton, author of Backpacking in Southwestern British Columbia, details many great hikes that DO NOT require permits:

No permits required for the Sunshine Coast Trail

Vancouver Island

  • Juan de Fuca Trail in Juan de Fuca Marine Provincial Park near Port Renfrew (requires backcountry permits)
  • Wild Side Trail on Flores Island near Tofino (requires a water taxi to reach the trailhead)
  • Forbidden Plateau Core, Bedwell Lakes, Elk River Trail, and Arnica Lake in Strathcona Provincial Park (All require backcountry permits except Arnica Lake.)
  • Nootka Trail on Nootka Island near Gold River (requires a water taxi to reach the trailhead)
  • North Coast TrailCape Scott Trail, and San Josef Bay in Cape Scott Provincial Park near Port Hardy (requires backcountry permits, North Coast Trail requires a water taxi to reach the trailhead)
  • Raft Cove in Raft Cove Provincial Park near Port Hardy (requires backcountry permits)
  • Carmanah Valley in Carmanah-Walbran Provincial Park (requires backcountry permits)

Interior and Eastern B.C.

  • Trophy Meadows in Wells Gray Provincial Park near Clearwater (requires backcountry permits)
  • Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park near Keremeos (requires backcountry permits)
  • Okanagan High Rim Trail near Vernon and Kelowna
  • Spectrum Lake in Monashee Provincial Park near Cherryville (requires backcountry permits)
  • Gwillim Lakes in Valhalla Provincial Park near Slocan
  • Kaslo Lake in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park near Nelson (requires backcountry permits)
  • Earl Gray Pass in Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Provincial Park near Kaslo
  • South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park near Lillooet

Northern B.C.

  • Hunlen Falls in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park near Bella Coola (requires backcountry permits)
  • Monkman Memorial Trail in Monkman Provincial Park near Tumbler Ridge
  • Wokkpash Valley and McDonald Creek in Stone Mountain Provincial Park near Fort Nelson
  • Mount Edziza in Mount Edziza Provincial Park near Dease Lake

Backcountry permits are not reservations. And they don’t sell out.

Taryn has more advice for hikers in this post:

How to Go Backpacking in BC Without Reservations

The Hatchet by Gary Paulson

Hatchet is a 1986 Newbery Honor-winning young-adult wilderness survival novel written by American writer Gary Paulsen.

Brian Robeson is a thirteen-year-old son of divorced parents. As he travels from Hampton, New York on a single-engine Cessna bush plane to visit his father in the oil fields in Northern Canada for the summer, the pilot suffers a massive heart attack and dies.

Brian tries to land the plane but ends up crash-landing into a lake in the forest.

He must learn to survive on his own with nothing but his hatchet—a gift his mother gave him shortly before his plane departed.

… He discovers how to make fire with the hatchet and eats whatever food he can find, such as rabbits, birds, turtle eggs, fish, berries, and fruit. …

Over time, Brian develops his survival skills and becomes a fine woodsman. …

I enjoyed the short book. But it’s far from realistic. The Alone (TV series) documented just how difficult it is to survive on the much easier west coast of Vancouver Island.

The film adaptation is even more over the top.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Many readers asked the author WHAT would have happened to this teenager if he had to try to survive the Canadian winter. Brian was rescued by floatplane in The Hatchet.

So — in 1996 — Paulson published what would have been a sequel IF Brian had not found the emergency beacon.

Brian’s Winter

… still stranded at the L-shaped lake during the fall and winter, constructing a winter shelter, building snow shoes, being confronted by a bear, befriending and naming a skunk and learning how to make a bow more powerful. …

There are more books in this series. I’ll read those as well as I’ve grown to wonder how Brian adapts to civilization.


There are 3 other Brian books. All quite good.

I thought Brian’s Return was quite good. He meets a mysterious Indian mentor in the woods.

FINALLY – the Camino de Santiago

I’ve many times been asked IF I’d done the Camino. Surprisingly, the answer was NO. Until now. 😀

The Camino de Santiago … known in English as the Way of St James … is a network of pilgrims’ ways or pilgrimages leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition holds that the remains of the apostle are buried.

As with most hikes that can be cycled, I prefer to cycle. At least 10% of pilgrims cycle rather than walk or arrive on horseback. They are known as ‘bicigrinos’ or ‘bicigrinas’, bike pilgrims.

My PLAN is to ride León to the famous cathedral. About 325km. Perhaps a week. No rush.

The total length starting in France is 825km.

You need to cycle at least 200km in order to receive a Compostela certificate in Santiago (as opposed to minimum 100km walking).

Nearly 350,000 Compostela pilgrim certificates were issued in 2019. I won’t be lonely. 😀

The Camino Francés, or French Way, is by far the most popular of many routes. Roughly 60% of pilgrims choose this camino over other options.

Though no guidebook is needed, I picked up a paper copy of Mike Wells’ Cycling the Camino de Santiago (2019). I’d listened to a good interview with the author.

Wish me luck.

Many folks only know the famous pilgrimage from the 2010 Martin Sheen movie. It’s very good, by the way.

Click PLAY or watch the trailer on YouTube.

R.I.P. Dervla Murphy

An Adventure Badass I much admired, I was sad to hear Dervla is gone.

Of her many travels, I think I liked best those she did with her daughter. Trekking Peru, for example, in Eight Feet in the Andes, over 1,300 miles high altitude with a mule.

Dervla Murphy (28 November 1931 – 22 May 2022) was an Irish touring cyclist and author of adventure travel books, writing for more than 50 years.

Murphy took a break from travel writing following the birth of her daughter, and then wrote about her travels with Rachel in India, Pakistan, South America, Madagascar and Cameroon.

…. In 2005, she visited Cuba with her daughter and three granddaughters.

Murphy normally travelled alone without luxuries and depending on the hospitality of local people. …

Cam Honan’s Himalaya Book

… Described by Backpacker Magazine as “the most travelled hiker on Earth”, Cam has trekked across 56 countries and six continents, logging more than 60,000 miles (96,500 km) in three decades. We sat down with him to discuss his experiences in exploring this region, and creating Wanderlust Himalaya in collaboration with gestalten. …

Q: What sets the Himalaya apart from other mountain ranges you have hiked before?

A: Apart from the fact that they’re higher, distinguishing qualities of the Himalaya include its iconic teahouses, Buddhist monasteries, and rich folklore. …

Q: Was there a specific moment or place during your hikes in the Himalaya that was memorable to you? And if so, why? 

A: I couldn’t pinpoint one specific moment or place. That said, among the standout features of all my journeys in the region has been the friendliness of the locals. Irrespective of the country, the hospitality I’ve encountered during my Himalayan treks is something I’ll never forget.  …

gestalten.com

Wanderlust Himalaya: Hiking on Top of the World is a coffee table photography book with route-plans for over 50 hikes.

This is the latest in a series. All excellent.

Wanderlust: A Hiker’s Companion (2017)

The Hidden Tracks: Wanderlust – Hiking Adventures off the Beaten Path (2018)

Wanderlust USA (2019)

Stein Valley Divide hike, B.C.

Stein Valley is one of the best hikes in North America.

It’s high on my personal list of hikes to do … SOON. 

Wild and remote, the “route” is about 90km and has a total elevation change of at least 4300m. High elevation is about 2150m.

It’s tough. You probably want to schedule 7 days. Perhaps 9 days to enjoy some side tripping. Carry ALL your food.

Click PLAY or watch it on Vimeo.

Without question you should purchase the only guidebook. And perhaps maps, as well.

2nd edition 2013

purchase at MEC

Life Lived Wild by Rick Ridgeway

Wow.

What a life. What a life story.

Rick Ridgeway was one of the first Americans to summit K2 in 1978.

He’s climbed new routes and explored little-known regions on six continents.

Spent a total of 5 years sleeping in a tent while adventuring.

A pioneer in filming extreme outdoor pursuits.

You might have read one of his other books — Seven Summits (1988), an account of how Frank Wells and Dick Bass planned to climb the highest mountain on each of the world’s seven continents.

Ridgeway later had some adventures with Reinhold Messner. In this book he doesn’t mention the controversy that Canadian alpinist Pat Morrow and then Messner claim to have completed the Seven LEGITIMATE Summits. 😀

Ridgeway — born 1949 — has outlived most of his climbing partners. A rare survivor.

His wife of near 40 years died too before he published his life story in October 2021.

It’s a summing up.

BEST in this book are his lifelong adventures with Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, and Doug Tompkins, who cofounded The North Face.

In fact, it was Ridgeway who was paddling with Tompkins in southern Chile 2015 when they capsized. Rick was rescued. Tompkins died of hypothermia.

Yvon Chouinard is still alive as well. Age 83.

All three of the do boys, as the friends called themselves, eventually made environmental protection the main focus of their lives.

I highly recommend this book.

Life Lived Wild by Rick Ridgeway.

It is hard to imagine my life if I hadn’t met Rick Ridgeway. Rick invited me on my first National Geographic expedition and taught me how to film, but more importantly he shared how to tell a good story. In Life Lived Wild Rick recounts the most poignant moments of his legendary career as an explorer, climber and conservationist, but mostly, as an extraordinarily observant and compassionate human being. He captures the essence of a lifetime of storytelling. — Jimmy Chin, Adventurer and filmmaker

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