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10 d ay 2 Into the Wild Garbed in snow from top to bottom, they presented the most wonderful spectacle of mountain that I have ever seen. . . . I shall never forget the hour on Big Game Ridge, nor shall I forget the thrill that I experienced when I realized that I was standing in the midst of more wild country than exists anywhere else in the United States. —Superintendent Horace Albright, 1920 Clouds greet us as we emerge from the tents, wet with rain that fell overnight . Rain is not falling right now, though, and as we break camp the sun emerges. Glittering off the lake, it warms our bodies and our spirits . We all know that today’s weather forecast is for more rain and high temperatures only in the forties, so the warmth and sunshine seem like a special gift from the weather gods. We take advantage of it, enjoying a leisurely breakfast of egg burritos and drying the tents. It is after ten o’clock before we finally have all the gear down by the two boats. Already, my three canoeing partners are working together so well that I can just sit and enjoy the view. Which I do, but not without feeling guilty that I am not contributing, even though I know my disabilities make that impossible. The three of them tell me that I contribute in other ways, such as by walking them through preparation of the backcountry meals that they have learned from me. True enough, but I am still reminded of how dependent on them I am. Certainly, almost all wilderness travelers depend on their trip partners for one thing or another , whether something as mundane as helping carry the group gear or as extraordinary as coming to the aid of a stricken companion, but in this case, I would be instant grizzly bear food without them. INTO THE WILD 11 With continued sunshine and the promise of a day of wilderness exploration ahead of us, spirits remain high as we stash our gear in the boats. That puzzle complete, my friends help me into the canoe, and we push off for a day of paddling. I am in the middle of the boat, propped up on assorted drybags containing our gear. Should the rain return or—perish the thought—we capsize, our gear will stay dry in these rubberized plastic bags. As we set to paddling, we begin encountering the host of landscape features that collectively create the wildness of this place. Some are the actual sights and sounds we experience as we paddle , while others are recollections from my earlier journeys through this area, triggered by something we see. The day will end up being both a welcome to the Thorofare and also a survey of the attributes that make a landscape wild. Before we begin, it is worth taking a moment to look beyond the wilderness literature for other clues as to what constitutes wildness in a landscape context. Standard reference materials (mainly dictionaries) and law (mainly the Wilderness Act) contain important insights. Both Webster’s New World College Dictionary and, for example , provide similar definitions, including wildness as a cognate of wild. The online source defines “wild” as (1) “living in a state of nature; not tamed or domesticated”; (2) “growing or produced without cultivation or the care of humans”; and (3) “uncultivated, uninhabited, or waste.” I am not sure whether wildness in a landscape has anything to do with waste, but the dictionaries agree that it is the state of being natural, outside of human control and habitation. This is helpful, but insofar as we are concerned, overly broad and lacking precision. For example, weeds growing through the cracks in a parking lot could meet this definition of wild, even though few would think of a parking lot as a wild landscape.1 The Wilderness Act offers more precision and is probably the most relevant authority, since all of the Thorofare is either protected as wilderness under the act or recommended for such protection. Furthermore, almost all wilderness historians and critics ground their work in the act and its definition of wilderness. Like the dictionaries, the act does not define wildness (or wild), but the oft-quoted definition of wilderness has several hints of what it might mean for a landscape to be wild. That 12 DAY 2 is not surprising, for the architects of the act (especially its primary author , Howard Zahniser) took great pains...


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