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The Ice Cave

A Woman’s Adventures from the Mojave to the Antarctic

Lucy Jane Bledsoe

Publication Year: 2006

For Lucy Jane Bledsoe, wilderness had always been a source of peace. But during one disastrous solo trip in the wintry High Sierra she came face to face with a crisis: the wilderness no longer felt like home. The Ice Cave recounts Bledsoe’s wilderness journeys as she recovers her connection with the wild and discovers the meanings of fear and grace. 

These are Bledsoe’s gripping tales of fending off wolves in Alaska, encountering UFOs in the Colorado Desert, and searching for mountain lions in Berkeley. Her memorable story “The Breath of Seals” takes readers to Antarctica, the wildest continent on earth, where she camped out with geologists, biologists, and astrophysicists. These fresh and deeply personal narratives remind us what it means to be simply one member of one species, trying to find food and shelter—and moments of grace—on our planet.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. v

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pp. vii-ix

have had the extraordinary good fortune to travel twice to Antarctica as a guest of the National Science Foundation. The stupendous Artists and Writers in Antarctica program, which fosters dialogue between scientists and artists, was administered for many years by Guy Guthridge; without his vision and good will, this book never...

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Prologue: Hope Valley

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pp. 3-12

I was three years old and camping in Oregon’s Mount Jefferson Wilderness with my large family and our friends. I don’t remember toddling away from camp, but I do remember the luminescent ice cave and my sense of extraordinary wonder as I crawled into its deepest recess where the translucent blue encompassed me. The cave’s interior had slowly melted out over the summer...

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The Freedom Machine

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pp. 13-22

My hiking partner and I were doing some high-speed desert driving, me riding shotgun with my bare feet up on the dash, on our way to a backpacking trailhead in the Rockies. We had promised ourselves that we would enter the Mojave in the early morning, even before dawn, but delays in packing put us on the road about ten in the morning. As we drove the...

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On Being at Sea

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pp. 23-47

Sarah died at a time in my life when I had come to terms, more or less, with the basic challenges of my youth. My books were getting published and I’d found a partner who made me laugh everyday. It was a life I felt I had created, willed into existence out of the tangle of childhood. But the idea of will felt wiped...

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Above Treeline

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pp. 48-59

I lifted my backpack out of the trunk and propped it against a tree, pleased that I’d made the trailhead so early in the day. The sky was an icy autumn blue and a breeze made the golden aspen leaves talk. Late October, snow would soon fall, could even fall this week. This would be the last trip of the year during which I’d...

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pp. 60-71

The air in the desert is like hot breath, menacing and demanding in the way it is all over you, all around you. You have no choice but to give in, let it have your skin. We lay naked, belly up, on top of the cotton blanket, a good couple of feet between us, our legs and arms spread to allow the air, which hadn’t...

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How to Prey

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pp. 72-94

You are entering mountain lion habitat. I stopped in front of the sign, which was affixed to a metal roadside pole, and stared at the blue stencil of a mountain lion, its long tail seeming to swish back and forth territorially. I had just cycled up residential Grizzly Peak Boulevard toward Tilden Regional Park, the urban wilderness capping the East Bay hills, and...

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Dead Horse Pass

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pp. 95-102

Katie and I hiked out of the town of Ten Sleep into Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains in the pouring rain. We had ten days—ten sleeps, in fact—of hiking ahead of us, with only one planned layover day, near the end of the trip, on which we hoped to climb Cloud Peak. Committed to the goal of reaching that...

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Girl with Boat

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pp. 103-116

For example, I’m hiking in the desert, stepping around the woody remains of Joshua trees, avoiding the dagger-thorns of cacti, trying to endure the sight of endless pale sand. I come upon a dolphin lying in the sand, emaciated, its eyes scratchy-red, a tiny lift and fall of its mid-body suggesting the last breath of life....

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The Black Wolf

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pp. 117-120

The water of Adams Inlet, on the eastern side of Glacier Bay, buoyed me and my kayak. Rain had fallen for ten days and would fall for the next ten days. This morning it had joined forces with the wind, driving into the faces of me and my companions as we paddled north from the mouth of Muir Inlet. My...

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Winter Den

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pp. 121-128

Great steaming piles of bright purple scat on the trail reminded me daily that the huckleberries, thimbleberries, and salmonberries were gloriously ripe and plentiful and that the bears were hungry. Katie and I also stuffed ourselves on the berries along the trail, rejoicing in the fresh fruit on this twelve-day...

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The Breath of Seals

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pp. 129-172

I feel terrifically fragile, a pile of bones held together by juicy cells, inside the Air Force LC-130, a menacing aircraft manned by lean men in camouflage suits. The camouflage is for the jungle, a mottled green and tan pattern, and I wonder why the military wouldn’t wear white when deploying to Antarctica. The inside of the plane looks like a multifaceted torture chamber with a tangle...

E-ISBN-13: 9780299218430
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299218447

Publication Year: 2006