Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A personal journey

In the preface, Jill Fredston writes, "In the process of journeying, we seem to have become the journey, blurring the boundaries between the physical landscape outside of ourselves and the spiritual landscape within" (XVI).  This quote perfectly summarizes Fredston's relationship with nature and highlights the difference between her attitude and that of the other authors we've read.  Fredston's travels are very personal; even though she travels with her husband, they row in separate boats.  She emphasizes that her journeys are not about achieving firsts or farthests, but is rather a spiritual journey of growth and self-discovery.  She expands upon her relationship with nature by describing her concept of "zen"; just as Fredston experiences a blurring of boundaries "between the physical landscape...and the spiritual landscape," so too does she recognize a blurring of boundaries between herself and the boat.  She personifies her boat not as a separate character but as an extension of herself.  Interestingly, though, her motivation for writing this book did not originally stem from some internal need to share her experience with the world.  Rather, she wrote the narrative after receiving encouragement to do so from friends and family.  Perhaps this is simply another testament to the fact that Fredston rows for entirely personal reasons, not to break records or gain publicity.

Paddling to Latitude

Rather than saving my opinions for a comment for Thursday, I'm going to do it now. I am impatient, and impulsive, and at this point in the semester there's no sense in slamming on the breaks. I am also a fan of multiple perspectives, and since Claire has talked a little bit about what it's like in the front of the canoe on Saturday, I will talk about being in the back. 

The latter half of a canoe team is in charge of steering. By grace of having canoed before, I was granted this auspicious seat in the boat. But I did warn Claire that I'm horrid at steering, but she had a vague trust in my abilities, and that was good enough. Being in a canoe with someone is rather like playing doubles tennis: a team should work in tandem, know which area of the court to guard, and call dibs on balls lobbed down the middle. I was never great at doubles tennis. I am impatient, and impulsive, and dreadful at on-court communication. But on a tennis court, not much will happen if you don't call the middle ball and lose the point (though this hinges on a relatively uncompetitive spirit). In a canoe, lack of communication means that you are passing under a fishing line and oh shit I hope Claire hasn't been garroted on my watch (There was no spider web - that was sensationalism). In his attempt to help us out with the teamwork in a canoe thing, Andrew Jillings called himself our therapist, which seemed fair to me. Because I know that Claire likes to be in control, and I know that I have a tendency to overreact and shout completely useless directions at people, and I know that Claire despises incompetence, and I know that I wasn't exaggerating when I used 'horrid' to describe my steering skills. 

Obviously, Nine-Mile Swamp is a pretty tame adventure, especially in comparison the sorts of things we've read about this semester. But getting into a canoe with your best friend, trusting that you'll still be best friends at the end of the trip in spite of a gross lack of skills and the presence of two strong personalities, is still an adventure, and there are still risks. That's the big reason I'm enjoying this book - Jill and Doug clearly know a thing or three about teamwork and the roles they must each play every day. The adventures would be interesting without the element of their partnership, but it is the element that makes the narrative engaging.

Wildness (Paper Excerpt)

Many adventure writers have touched on the tension between our ideas of civilization and wildness because we tend to be more impressed by adventures carried out in arenas and conditions that otherwise repel human settlement. Fredston, however, gravitates towards the areas of the world that remain unaffected by human interests, not those considered most challenging or difficult to conquer. She demonstrates this distinction throughout her book, both consciously and unconsciously, making it very clear that she considers the experience of pure, unaffected nature to be an important and worthy reason for one to pursue outdoor adventure. She also points out examples of how these areas of pure natural life are being threatened by human politics and society, adding an underlying message of conservationism to the narrative.
            After spending her childhood just outside of New York City, where even most parks were built by humans within the last two centuries, Fredston spends the rest of her personal narrative actively seeking areas with the least possible human settlement. This drives her decision to move to Alaska after completing her education, explaining that “my whole self, every fiber, craved Alaska’s uniqueness, its possibilities, its wildness” (31). This explanation carries some important implications. Having previously experienced the landscape of the Alaskan coastline on a wilderness adventure trip, Fredston understood enough about the area to feel confident in her decision to move to the state full-time. While it is worth remembering that she writes with the advantage of hindsight, so she can frame her expectations in reaction to her then-future experiences, the unconditional devotion to her future life in Alaska shows how heavily her priorities are influenced by the access to wildness. She knew nothing about the living situation or specifics of Alaskan life, but her brief experience with the wildness of Alaska convinced her to move there without much second thought. She expresses a similar enthusiasm for Labrador after her rowing trip there, gush that being “able to travel a twenty-three-day stretch without seeing or hearing any signs of modern man” for her and Doug “revived our hope in persisting wildness” (174). This quote clearly demonstrates how directly Fredston’s idea of wildness is tied to the absence of humanity’s influence over nature.

Everything is different

This book is so unbelievably different from everything else that we have read that I am having trouble putting it down.  It's tone is so different from everything else that we have read and the way it was set up from the very beginning travels down a totally different vein of outdoor narratives.  There is no exclamation on the cover about unveiling the truth or flashy picture on the front.  Instead there is a calm picture of Jill sitting in her row boat in front of a glacier with caricature drawings of whales beneath her.  This cover captures a dynamic of mystery and true human curiosity in the unknown that has escaped mot of the previous narratives that we have read.  Even in the preface she makes the remark that she is no expert and that she is not interested in being the first or greatest; she is not looking for sponsorships or glory.  Jill paddles because she needs to see what nature holds, not to take domain over it.  Her comparison of her own journeys to that of Uncle Al, who paddled because he had to know what there was at either end of the river, separates her from other explores who set out to conquer mountains for themselves or their countries.  She goes and explores not because she needs to prove that she is bigger or better than others, but to fulfill her own need to see nature in the absence of people and understand her own place in the greater context of the natural world.

A Rave

In advance, I’d like to apologize for what could inevitably be more of a raging positive review of this book than a truly intellectual study of it in some way. Like Anna, I’m only partway through, but I’m really loving it, more than anything else we’ve read thus far. I’m glad Janelle left it for last, because I do think it’s the best written, most engaging, most relatable, and isn’t giving me stress headaches in anticipation of difficult struggles for survival. The subtitle, “Journeys Along the Arctic Edge,” gives the impression of campfire stories rather than a study for posterity of how a tragedy unfolded, like so many of the other books on the syllabus.

I especially love the way Fredston focuses on the parallels of her relationship with the wild places she explores and her personal relationships. Even more than paralleling, these relationships inform each other. Fredston apparently adventures / explores not out of the intense need for “creative expression” as we’ve read about previously, but because she learns so much from the places she visits. I especially appreciated the lack of summit fever thus far – neither Jill nor her husband are trying to prove anything or win any renown; they just love to explore the farther reaches of the habitable world in an emotionally, mentally, and physically stimulating manner. On page XVI of the preface, Fredston remarks on the nature of journeys: “In the process of journeying, we seem to have become the journey, blurring the boundaries between the physical landscape outside of ourselves and the spiritual landscape within.” She speaks a few sentences later of using the rowing and the journey through unknown places as a means of discovering an “interior compass.” This supports what I’ve developed as my own thesis for the question “Why adventure?” We adventure, we challenge ourselves in places bigger than us, in order to discover ourselves. The challenge teaches us what we can and can’t do, inspires us to respect the world and everything in it, reminds us of how small we are, and teaches us to instill the greatest value possible on our own brief lives. We adventure that we might live bigger, because it is human nature to want more. Steve Jobs would understand. I bet he was a fan of adventure narratives.
I'm only about half way through this book and I must say that I'm absolutely loving it, and not just because of trip envy. Her style creates a sort of rhythm that I think echos her descriptions of the rhythms of paddling and the process of falling into a sort of flow. I am finding her story to be one of the easiest for me to relate to, and maybe that's just because sections remind me of my time kayaking in Alaska. In particular, when she describes the instances of fear she experienced when the humpback swam under her boat, I was immediately reminded of the time when a humpback swam under my own kayak. I also appreciated her descriptions of how her process of getting into her flow while rowing and the ups and downs of trail life, especially when out for such extensive periods of time. In a way it reminded me of descriptions my friends have about hiking the AT - the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Those good days are unbelievable, and the not so good days are just unbearable. Good days could have the worst weather but still be phenomenal, depending on how long it takes to get into your flow.

One of the parts of the text that I have found most interesting so far is Fredston's definition of wilderness, especially because going to areas "untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain" (1964 Wilderness Act, Section 2c) seem to be part of the motivation of where she and Doug chose to journey. When describing the Yukon River, she writes "Though it is wild and relatively unaltered, Yukon River country is not wilderness...Their [inhabitants] hopes and needs and cultures are as integral a part of the landscape as the surrounding green hills and spindly black spruce trees swaying in the breeze" (87). So my question is whether or not she considers, or is going to portray, any landscape with visible human impact to not be wilderness, or whether landscapes can have varying levels of naturalness. I think it's interesting to consider her considerations of concepts of wilderness in the context of what defines an adventure. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the text.

Adventure In The Realm of "Real Life"

Jill's description of her growing relationship with, and subsequent marriage to Doug recalled Janelle's story at the beginning of the year about her greatest adventure.  I think it's an important reminded that though we've spent a lot of time separating adventure from our everyday life, adventures don't need to occur on icy mountain passes or frozen seas.  This was particularly important for as I prepare my final paper because I am planning on writing about a novel unrelated to the wilderness in order to further flesh out this idea.

I was particularly drawn to the line "I fell in love with Doug because there was no danger in falling in love with Doug."  The idea that there was no danger implies that she did not go into this relationship looking for love--perhaps the most dangerous adventure of all--and as such was forced to be spontaneous and react to the unforeseen highs and lows that arose. This is another reason I think it qualifies as adventure.  The implications of classifying this as adventure means no longer can we only consider world class ice climbers or pioneer sailors as adventurers--all of a sudden, we are all eligible for this title.

I was also interested in the role place played in her adventure.  "I would not have had the courage to fall in love with Doug anywhere by Alaska," Jill said.  The state taught her to "love and live life less conditionally," which allowed her to take this chance which she likens to a "trust fall."  So while adventure can happen within the normal sphere of our everyday life, it may still involve a change of mindset--whether this is a change of setting, change of activity, or change of companions, adventure still requires some aspect of risk, but this does not necessarily mean our lives must be at stake.

Rowing to Understanding

In Jill Fredston’s Rowing to Latitude, she doesn’t waste much time in answering the age-old question: why are you doing this? Given that this is the last adventure narrative we are reading, her answer is not far from what we would expect at this point. She says, “They might as well ask us why we breathe or eat. Our journeys are food for our spirits, clean air for our souls” (pg XV). The best part about this answer is that Fredston seems to cleanly articulate what many other adventurers have attempted to say before. She is not trying to hide her real reasons, as if her journeys are something selfish that need to be hidden under the guise of science. Fredston and her husband Doug are not like the Krakauer of The Devil’s Thumb; they aren’t running from something, or trying to fix an unwanted job situation by escaping to the outdoors. Nor are they like Maurice Herzog. They do not have a “conquer or die trying” attitude about their boat adventures.
            While thinking of all the other books we have read this semester, I can clearly see how the perspective of self-awareness has developed. Earlier writers like Herzog and Krakauer did not seem to have a reason for their adventuring, or else they couldn’t articulate the answer. It is much easier and more fulfilling to read a narrative like this, where the adventurer is aware of the way that others perceive her adventures, and who possesses self-understanding of the point to these adventures. About her trips she says, “they are neither a vacations nor an escape, they are a way of life” (pg XV). This brief paragraph in the preface doesn’t drone on; Fredston is not trying to argue her reasons for adventuring. She simply lays out her answer and moves on to more exciting aspects of her journeys. However, this introductory section is very useful for the reader to relate to and appreciate the author’s adventures. 

Living the Adventure Life

Fredston's amazing wit gripped me as I was reading Rowing to Latitude. Her style of writing was one of the most interesting we've read all semester. I loved reading about the relationship between her and her siblings, her childhood, and her journey in life before talking about her journeys rowing in Alaska, Canada, etc. I really felt oriented in her life and how she relates her adventure experience to her "normal life" experience. We haven't been exposed to this much detail of an adventurer's dormant life, or at least that I can remember.

This writing really emphasized the idea that we have been getting at the last few weeks -- how we can each have our own adventures. Fredston really puts it into the context of her relationship with Doug, her family, and so forth. She handles adventures with such grace and strength. We can be as quirky by living an "unconventional life", as the back of the book so appropriately puts. Adventures are put on a pedestal in that people seem to devote their life to a goal, instead of enjoying the journey itself. Fredston does exactly that.

Perhaps it is the structure of the book -- that she focuses on a series of events rather than just one that convinces me this is a more luxurious or lifestyle text. She comments on the process in the text: "We had always prided ourselves on savoring the process of traveling and exploring rather than focusing on reaching a particular place" (Fredston 134) So much of our course has been based on the concept of success or failure. Some adventurers such as Herzog put the summit as the only source of true joy or accomplishment. Fredston reminds herself to enjoy the journey.

Reflecting on the past semester in this class, I can take a few points home from Fredston. Instead of focusing on a goal, such as getting an A, or answering a question such as , "How do we define adventure?" it may be better to relax and enjoy the journey. We can learn so much just by reading the books and experiencing nature, so how much more could we possibly want? Trying to get a good grade or answer these philosophical questions are important, but instead of getting wrapped up in questions concerning adventure, we should go out and live adventurous lives.

I want to get to a point in my life where having adventures isn't a goal to be achieved, but a process I seamlessly immerse my normal life in. Obviously, that sort of lifestyle takes lots of funding, so if anyone wants to donate to my travel-the-world fund, go ahead. 50 years from now, I'd rather have many fond adventure memories than one seminal conquering adventure moment.

Fredston's text also didn't hurt to have absolutely gorgeous color photos. While it may seem like an insignificant detail, Rowing to Latitude had hands down the best photos out of any text we've read this semester. I appreciated the inclusion of a very diverse set of environments. The photos really emphasized the idea of an "unconventional life".

An adventure is what you make it

In the very first pages of her text, Jill Fredston answers the question of why adventure, which we have been wondering at all semester: "people question why we undertake these trips at all. They might as well ask us why we breathe or eat. Our journeys are food for our spirits, clean air for our souls. We don't care if they are firsts or farthests" (xv). She suggests that there is some part of a human being that cannot be satisfied by the usual means (food, water, shelter, even contact with other humans). In fact, it can only be satisfied by risking the accessibility of these life sustaining elements. Why adventure? Because it's soul sustenance.

But (there's always gotta be a "but" when it comes to definitions of the word "adventure"), is this an overarching definition? Can we apply it to ALL the texts we've read? Of course not! With the exception of Norgay, and possibly Bancroft, I don't think any of our authors were trying to feed their spirits in a way they couldn't in the real world. Many of them were determined to be "firsts and farthests". But does that mean Fredston's definition is wrong? I don't think so. If there's one thing we've learned this semester, it's that everyone has their own personal definition of what an adventure is. On the occasions we've been asked to share our adventures with one another, we each chose very different stories. We told of new experiences in which we risked nothing more than humiliation; or serious life-threatening events that we had gotten ourselves into. We told tales of fear and of fun, of nervousness and anticipation. And while there may be some very general way to fit all of our personal adventures under one umbrella (like "something that happens"), I don't think we can pinpoint every exact personal definition of the word. And you know what? I think that's pretty awesome. I don't think I was alone in entering this class with a very clear idea of what adventure was. For me I defined it as a big journey, in which your life was threatened in some way. When Janelle first asked us to come to class with a personal adventure to share, I panicked. I'd never had a personal adventure that fit my very narrow definition. But then I started to think about my life. I thought about working in British Columbia for 6 weeks, leaving my family and very new romantic relationship behind to be with 18 people I only knew by name (and barely even that much). I thought about how I'm starting my own business this summer, and how I very well could be pissing upwards of $300 down the toilet. Now that I've read Fredston, I'm thinking about all the kayak trips I've taken with my dad (my kayak's name is Geraldine and my dad's is Clifford, if anyone cares) where my life wasn't at risk and I was pretty sure of the outcome, but I still spent some time alone with my thoughts (I'm not a big talker and neither is my dad), which is really an adventure in itself. You never know what you'll learn. So, in short, I don't think we'll ever be able to develop a perfect, concise definition of the word adventure. It's one of those things that varies by person. But I think the fact that we've even come to that realization shows how much we've learned, about one another and about ourselves.

Thoughts on an Adventurous Final Semester

     I have a split personality.  Not in  A Beautiful Mind kind of way, but a split one nonetheless   For all of what my mother likes to call my "hippie tendencies" (Read: A lack of appropriate outfits/etiquette for family get- togethers at my fancy aunt's house), I have decidedly Type-A tendencies.  Those less concerned about my self-esteem would probably call me bossy.  I like to be in charge.  I have had an almost life-long struggle with authority figures.  So Saturday was an adventure in more ways than one.
     I didn't go on AA, mostly because I hate group  bonding activities, but also because I had to work.  So Saturday was the first time I had seen a canoe, other than in Pocahontas.  My lack of outdoor experience is pretty much common knowledge at this point, as is my semi-codependent friendship with Rachel, and so I'm sure it's no surprise that we ended up in the same canoe, with Rachel in charge of steering.  Here's where the adventure really begins; as I mentioned before, I hate being told what to do, particularly when it does not go well. We ran into the banks, into bushes, and at one point into what I told myself was a fishing line, but was probably a spiderweb.  Rachel yelled directions at me, and at first I resented it, but then we began to get the hang of paddling (Sort of. We're still us).  It was then I began to realize what I can only really articulate now: this semester has been about me giving up the need for control.  No matter what activity I have engaged in in this class, whether it be jumping off a ledge in the climbing gym, wearing shoes worn by others (still gross), or paddling a boat I am not in charge of, I have had to loosen the reigns a bit.  In the second chapter of Rowing to Latitude, Jill Fredston writes of how falling in love with Doug forced her to give up control, a shift reflected in the meandering style of the narrative.  So while I would still be gun-shy about providing a universal definition  I would say that for me, adventure is, in the spirit of my last few weeks in the Hamilton bubble, about being pushed out of my comfort zone.

Monday, May 6, 2013


I've always had a particularly fond place in my heart and on my bookshelf for Henry David Thoreau's Walden. I often find myself coming back to it year after year -- I even considered choosing it for my final paper -- because I love the simplicity and purpose that Thoreau finds through his sojourn at Walden pond. I was reminded quite strongly of Thoreau's tenets of limiting material possessions,  prioritizing nature, and self-reflection in Rowing to Latitude, and I was glad to see that Fredston quoted my favorite passage from Walden in the opening to chapter three. The quote reads: "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

Fredston's outlook on her journeys correlates perfectly to Thoreau's quest to strip his life down to the bare necessities in order to truly think and live. He argues that this simplicity is necessary for a meaningful life, which Fredston's experiences affirm. Fredston went on her trips in order to find herself through nature. Thus there are parallel journeys in this narrative: besides the original journey towards a chosen destination, there is also the equally, if not more important, journey towards self-discovery. Rowing is thus both an emotional and physical experience requiring intense focus and separation from modern-day amenities. Rowing also serves as a spiritual medium to achieve fulfillment. Fredston describes rowing as a "union between body and soul" (28), and says that her "boats [didn't] allow much insulation from the environment; they force[d] [them] to be absorbed by it" (21). This connection between her and the environment allowed her to both discover things about herself by being removed from distractions, while also strengthening her relationship with Doug. She learned life lessons through rowing, such to measure time "not so much in miles as in moments" (69).

Fredston beautifully answers the "why climb/adventure/journey" question we have brought up again and again throughout this semester. In the preface she says: "People question why we undertake these trips at all. They might as well ask us why we breathe or eat. Our journeys are food for our spirits, clean air for our souls. We don't care if they are firsts or farthests; we don't seek sponsors. They are neither a vacation nor an escape, they are a way of life" (xv). Fredston and her husband seem so genuinely happy rowing and kayaking, and one reason I find Rowing to Latitude to be refreshing is because of Fredston's constant commitment to the joy of rowing.

Simplicity and romance metaphors

Our last blog post! After 14 weeks of adventure narrative reading and writing, I truly can’t believe we’ve made it this far. Not to sound cliché. I guess I’m feeling a bit nostalgic.

Although I’m only about 2/3 the way through Fredston’s Rowing to Latitude, 200 pages have given me a pretty solid grasp of the text. First off, I’d like to know what qualifies a book for the “National Outdoor Book Award”; I can’t deny the quality of Fredston’s writing, but I often find her anecdotes and stories of her Arctic travels a bit repetitive. Perhaps the warm weather has begun to fry my attention span. Each trip seems to contain the same elements: wildlife sightings (bears, whales, sharks), crippling winds, impenetrable ice sheets, seemingly endless miles covered, and rather tacky love metaphors. After the first few chapters, my attention began to waver.

Back to the romance metaphors—an example:  “I fell in love with Doug the same way I learned about avalanches: in small increments, by observation, by discovery, by a series of small surprises” (43). Not to digress. But again, “Our intimate collaboration feels a lot like sculling. To keep the boat moving in a reasonably straight line, we must stroke separate oars as one” (47). I could go on.

While I easily criticize a variety of aspects of Fredston’s storytelling style, she incorporates messages and implications in her writing I find quite thought provoking. For instance, when reflecting on the introspective aspects of rowing, she writes, “How can I explain that I treasure these trips for the focus that comes with simplicity?” (62). Her comment reminded me of the time in my life when I feel I lived the simplest—my semester abroad in East Africa. Devoid of most modern conveniences of technology, my simple existence immensely heightened my sense of awareness and focus of in-the-moment living. Her reflection, along with my own application of the sentiment to my own life, enabled me to better relate to her emotions while rowing.

Something I forgot to mention—my high school experiences as a coxswain for my school’s crew team slightly alter my perceptions of Fredston’s narrative. I very strongly disliked being a coxswain. Perhaps my numerous memories of long hours on the water in the freezing cold subconsciously taint my view of Fredston’s stories.

The end of my last blog post! To say I am feeling sentimental is an understatement.
Most, if not all, of the books that we have read this semester focus almost exclusively on the human stories generated by moving through or adventuring into the wilderness.  Even Norgay's Touching my Father's Soul, which examined the impact, both positive and negative, of European climbing in the Himalayas on the Sherpa community was primarily anthropocentric.  Although Norgay approached Everest in a more respectful way because, as a man rediscovering his Buddhist roots, he believed that the mountain was a goddess, he rarely, if ever, mentioned the environmental impact that climbing has had on Everest.  There was no mention of trash or the need to remove it.  Rowing to Latitude, however, with its eloquent and lengthy passages describing the wilderness and signs of human habitation that Fredston and Dave pass through stands in sharp contrast to the other books we have read.  Unlike the other authors we have read, Fredston makes it a central purpose of her book to describe the environments that she and Doug have rowed through and the insights that those journeys have given them into the impact of anthropocentrism and human expansion have had not only on the indigenous peoples they meet but on the environment at large.  In doing so, she recognizes and attempts to show her reader that virgin wilderness no longer exists.  Even the preserves, where human contact technically should not have occurred, are littered with the refuse of human activity.

While Fredston and Doug saw hints of human activity even in the most remote parts of Canada and Alaska, they were largely able to avoid it.  The abundance of wildlife helped to create the illusion that they were traveling through a virgin wilderness, even as they encountered stone tools, dilapidated cabins, and rusted barrels.  Norway, however, shatters this illusion completely.  Whereas Fredston and Doug were often able to pretend that they were the first to see the landscape they traveled through in Norway, as Doug writes, "we always have the feeling that everything has been discovered once, twice, hundreds, maybe thousands of times before.  We need a few more secrets" (216).  The frequent presence of sheep and other domesticated animals, apart from driving Fredston bonkers when they camp, further emphasizes that Norway has no unadulterated nature left to offer them.  As such, Dough ironically writes, "Mostly we see sheep (even in nature preserves!) and cows and salmon farms, though on a good day, we might come across a land otter or mink, a seal, and a couple of deer" (216).  This domesticated wilderness could not be more different from their trips along the Canadian and Alaskan coasts, where they were often discovered and examined by bears in the middle of the night.  Although their journey through Norway disheartens them in many ways, it teaches them a valuable lesson: "It made us realize that, like the perpetually grazing sheep, centuries of human habitation have nibbled away not only at the earth but at our perception of what constitutes nature.  When we do not miss what is asent because we have never known it to be there, we will have lost our baseline for recognizing what is truly wild.  In its domestication nature will have become just another human fabrication" (217). Norway illustrates the dangers posed by continual human expansion; however, Fredston goes beyond a simple environmental message.  She powerfully suggests that human expansion will pose not only a danger to the wilderness and wildlife, but to humans as well.  The development of Alaska, she shows, not only diminishes the habitat and quality of life of wild animals, but it also does so for humans by shrinking the amount of wilderness available for human exploration.  This, in turn, irrevocably alters how people interact with one another in the wilderness: "In Alaska, meeting another group of paddlers used to be an occasion to socialize.  But now it is not uncommon for two groups of paddlers camped on opposite ends of a beach to adopt the same avoidance behavior.  As development shrinks the open spaces and technology makes the remaining spaces more accessible, this may become a standard coping mechanism.  We will have replaced the privilege of solitude with isolation" (220).  Thus, Rowing to Latitude becomes a chronicle of the changes wrought by humans on the natural world and the dangers that this poses to nature and to humans as well.  In destroying or minimizing wilderness, people are destroying or minimizing their abilities to escape from everyday life and to explore not only the wilderness but themselves and the people they are with.

First post on Rowing To Latitude, wahooo!

“Our journeys are food for our spirits, clean air for our souls. We don’t care if they are firsts or farthests; we don’t seek sponsors. They are neither a vacation nor an escape, they are a way of life.” (Fredston, XV) Why adventure? Well this is clearly why. Fredston’s account is, clearly, the best relief we have gotten from the goal/summit oriented way of life. We have talked a fair amount about whether or not these adventures are a sort of second world; an escape. Janelle always cautions us something along the lines of- if we view adventure as an escape, then is the rest of “real life” something that inherently needs escaping?” On the other hand, is a vacation just a necessary escape, or is it an outlet for fun, or do vacations actually add a different kind of meaning to our lives. I honestly think that every setting we are in is a new way for us to learn about ourselves, and the accumulation of all these settings, along with the frequency which we are placed in them, accounts for our general outlook on life, our general personality and attitude. For Fredston, what she has experienced whilst rowing is not a side adventure, but a huge defining factor of who she is and what she values. If we talk about adventure as an escape, then is it contradictory that we learn more about ourselves the farther we are away from society? Fredston states, “With hours to think, it is also a little harder to escape from ourselves.” (Fredston, XIV). So is an adventure an anti-escape, a confrontation of our true selves, without the distraction of the rest of society? Yet this is again problematic because it means separating nature and wilderness adventures from how we define society.
            Fredston looks to the oceans not as an unknown land she wants to conquer but as a part of this world that “seem(s) even bigger and more compelling because I know I can never explore them.” (Fredston, 100) The world is fun to explore precisely because we can never see it all, can never figure out all its mysteries. On a similar note, Fredston believes that, “The finiteness of a lifetime adds intensity to our search for truth, for beauty, for happiness, for love, for ourselves” (Fredston, 99/100). I can relate to Jill much more than I’ve been able to relate to any of the other authors thus far. For me, conquering something takes all the magic out of it. We have to learn to appreciate what we cannot obtain, and therefore love the world because we get to stand amongst its mysteries and wonders. For these reasons I really enjoyed what I have read so far of “Rowing to Latitude”, and am looking forward to reading the rest in hopes to find a definition of adventure more like my own.