Saturday, September 10, 2011
The Last Wilderness
The Last Wilderness: 600 miles by canoe and portage in the Northwest Territories, was written by Peter Browning. (168 pp., 1989, Great West Books, Lafayette, CA) This was the second edition of the book, the first in 1975, about the trip Peter and John Blunt took in 1964. They were totally dependent on themselves and each other, for they were in such remote country that they never saw another human for 74 days. Their only evidence that the rest of the world even existed, what they came to call the Outside, was a jet contrail in the sky once every week or two.
So, the question becomes this. What do two guys, totally cut off from humanity and society, talk about or think about while paddling endlessly for hours on end? Other than the paddler in the other end of the canoe, there is no outside influence or stimulation, no TV, radio, papers, or social media. First, they begin to realize how unimportant the Outside is, how little all the pressing issues in the news matter, and how useless all the material things that crowd and interfere with their lives really are. Then they become introspective and philosophical and start exploring the meaning of life, and how the inventions and social arrangements of our lives accomplish nothing but to complicate and stunt our lives. They pity the poor soul, still ignorant of what life is about, who rushes headlong into higher education, into business or career, into obligations until he finds his life “mortgaged to the ulcerous, corrosive pursuit of money, power, and success” while still having no inkling of what he’s charging toward.
They had one revelation I had to choke on. They decided they were both too old for such an endeavor. Peter was 35 and John 31, and here I am trying to make trips at 67. Give me a break. They decided such a pursuit should be the domain of those in their early to mid-twenties. The best advise they had was the same preached by Lin and Larry Pardey. If you have a dream, drop whatever you’re doing, and go for it now. Tomorrow becomes tomorrow, which becomes tomorrow, and then it’s too late.
From exploring life, following indian trails, fishing for dinner, encountering moose and bear, and portaging rapids, this armchair trip is well worth taking.