Ken Ilgunas’ book Trespassing Across America is another book which has been sitting on a wish list for quite some time. A copy arrived under the mistletoe and after finishing The Revenant I thought it would be a nice change of pace.
While making my way through Trespassing Across America I came across this rather interesting perspective on “America’s great trails”.
From Chapter 2, Preparation:
America’s great trails, like the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, span more than two thousand miles and are by no means easy (and anyone who finishes one of them is deserving of our respect as someone who is certifiably badass), but to me, these trails hardly seemed adventurous. Typically, these megatrails are well marked, come with guidebooks, have three-walled shelters and signs pointing to water sources. And, of course, they’re trails, meaning that someone else has taken the time to blaze and maintain them so thousands of people can walk them. Consequently, the people and animals around these trails are so used to seeing hikers that opportunities for unique encounters and mutual curiosity are rare. And I thought that these trails were hardly representative of America: They divert around towns, industry, poverty, and in so doing divert around reality. They keep their walkers on a thin and protected corridor of wilderness on a continent that is getting increasingly less wild.
To really understand what Ken is getting at with this statement you need a little more context. Trespassing Across America covers Ken’s hike following the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route. His goal is to start at the enormous open pit tar sand mines of southern Canada and walk south into the United States, across the Great Plains, and finish at a Valero refinery where the Keystone XL will terminate.
Comparing the AT or PCT to Ken’s hike, I completely agree with him that the former are barely adventurous in comparison. There is an entire industry built up to promote and support those individuals who want to conquer the AT or PCT. There are numerous web-sites, maps, and guides. Some are so advanced that they give you a day by day outline on how to exactly conquer these amazing journeys.
This fact doesn’t diminish the accomplishment that completing the AT or PCT is, but it does add a certain amount of gravity to the trek Ken is about to embark on.
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