restricted access Day 7: The Journey of a Lifetime
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138 d ay 7 The Journey of a Lifetime I am glad I shall never be young without wild country to be young in. Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map? —Aldo Leopold, 1949 The dawn is clear and cool, but without the frost that has greeted us the past few mornings. We sleep in for a while, but being in our forties and accustomed to rising early for work, that means only an extra thirty or sixty minutes. For me, no matter how much sleep I get, it is never enough. One of the symptoms of the disease is fatigue, as weakening muscles make all tasks more difficult (and eventually impossible). Some of the medications I take—to help deal with other symptoms, there being no treatment to control the disease—cause drowsiness, exacerbating the fatigue. So, I take naps when I can and try to budget nine hours for sleep, but still find myself yawning a lot. Chores of daily living not only are more difficult, but they also take longer. Showering and dressing expand from twenty minutes to an hour; preparing a simple breakfast of yogurt and granola, from two minutes to ten; buckling a seatbelt, from almost nothing to a couple of laborious minutes. Add to this stretches and exercises intended to help me retain the use of my muscles as long as possible (“use it or lose it,” for ALS sufferers , becomes “use it or lose it even faster”), and my day can become a series of energy-draining tasks, with little time to relax. Friends and visiting family take care of laundry, cooking, and cleaning for me, but they cannot eat my meals or take my showers. I have compensated by working shorter days and four-day workweeks, and by carving out time to sit and read at the start and end of each day. These have turned the   THE JOURNEY OF A LIFETIME 139 forced-march nature of life with ALS into something more enjoyable, but having a full day of nothing to do but relax—my plan for today—is still a rare luxury. For breakfast, Eric prepares a pot of “African porridge,” which I first learned from my friend Dave Lee, who hiked through the Thorofare with me in fall 1998. It is a dish he learned while in the Peace Corps in West Africa, in which one stirs peanut butter into a bowl of cornmeal mush. With some sugar sprinkled on top and raisins mixed in (the latter being my addition), one has an easy backcountry breakfast that, unlike many other such breakfasts, is loaded with fat and protein. All three of my paddling partners like it so much that a wilderness trip with me would not be complete without it, they tell me. Here on our last full day of the trip, it seems appropriate to take a retrospective look, not only at this trip but also at my three decades of experiences here, to see if we have indeed succeeded in preserving the Thorofare’s wildness and beauty. In this case, such experiences are a relevant form of “data,” for several reasons. Not only do my experiences encompass the great majority of trails in the Thorofare (along with a fair number of off-trail experiences), but they are from the time period in question, the modern era. More importantly, those data are uniquely appropriate for answering a question that is fundamentally experiential : Do the signs of wildness we encountered on our second day (from natural processes to vastness and a lack of development or disturbance to the ability to find solitude or partake in traditional wilderness activities ) actually confer a feeling of wildness in the Thorofare? Why or why not, and what does it matter? Certainly, the experiences on this trip thus far suggest that wildness may be found in abundance in the Thorofare, along with natural beauty (figure 7.1). If my earlier experiences are any guide, they confirm that the area is very much defined by wildness and beauty—but they also reveal a surprise or two, and they contain threads of richer meaning. e For starters, thinking of Dave and his African Porridge reminds me of our first two nights on that trip, camped at Cabin Creek. Like every 140 DAY 7 campsite I have used in the Thorofare, this one had a nice view, out over the sprawling stands of willow covering the delta (figure 7.2). It...


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