Tuesday, May 7, 2013

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.


  1. I also marked off the definition of the Yukon as wild but not wilderness on account of the stamp of people / civilization. If this is the case, then the Eiger's face wouldn't be wilderness either because of the train that runs through the mountain and the hotels at the base. And if wilderness is where people aren't, and, possibly, have never been, then it's true that such places will soon be extinct on this planet and humans are able to spread out and survive in more hostile conditions given advanced technology. I find this prospect somewhat depressing.

  2. I also found Fredston's revelations about the dichotomy between the wilderness and the wild especially interesting and arresting. Her implications about how quickly wilderness, which she defines as places uninhabited and untouched by man, also disturbed me, especially because, as Fredston's narrative so eloquently demonstrates, journeys through the wilderness are often central to helping people maintain their sanity, especially as modern life becomes increasingly hurried and stressful. The wilderness offers freedom and also the chance for personal introspection. As such, Fredston makes it clear that we need to work harder to protect these places for environmental and social reasons. She portrays wilderness as essential to human cooperation and friendship, for it has a way of bringing strangers together. Shrinking wilderness, however, brings isolation and hostility as it makes it harder for people to escape from civilization or, at least, to entertain the illusion that they have escaped. I thought this interesting twist to environmentalism made Fredston's narrative extremely enjoyable to read.