In The Footsteps of a Saint
2017 -2018 Expedition - Book - Events
In March 2017, I decided to write a story about the importance of public lands. To begin my research, I took a train, south from Seattle to the border of Mexico and the United States, then with everything I needed, on my back - I began walking north.
I had a simple mission; I wanted to follow a path, through some of America's finest wild places, following in the footsteps of 'The father of our National Parks' and some one who I'd heard referred to as, 'The Patron Saint of Nature' -
After emigrating to the United States in 1839, John Muir, became an ardent supporter of preserving wild places, as well as a founder of the modern day conservation movement. I wanted to learn about where he explored, where he lived and to climb the major mountains where he climbed. I wanted to learn what he saw and I wanted to find out - why was it so important for him, that he dedicated the rest of his life to advocating to protect these lands for us and our future generations.
I had another goal as well - I wanted to find out why - in 2018 - are these lands are important to us - and what will we do to protect and preserve this beauty for our future generations?
Like all adventures, things did not go to plan. Almost from the start, the adventure stripped me bare of expectation. It delivered unfathomable joy, provided unseen challenges and tapped into some deep fears. There wasn't just time to stare into the horizon or night skies - there was time to peer into my own heart and feel deep into my soul, to question meaning and purpose, to experience connection with nature.
There was time to get bitten by a poisonous spider, to get blasted by desert storms (and heat). There was time to get hungry and time to get lonely. There were six weeks crossing the Sierra Nevada in the highest snowfall recorded - in twenty years. Pure solitude and a landscape blanketed in frozen lakes and snow covered mountains. And when all that snow melted... there were river crossings. Some were tame. Some were dangerous. I can still feel the icy water coming up over my waist, legs struggling and the mantra of, "Not now. Not now. You can do this. Breathe....". It was enlivening and I allowed myself to become porous for the things I felt and saw. I filled countless notebooks and camera cards as I went.
And those were the first three months. I walked into Seattle on December 8. Nine months and a day after I left a Mexican border post in the desert.
I walked just over 3,000 miles. I managed to walk the length of the major west coast ranges; San Bernandino, San Gabriel, Sierra Nevada and the might Cascades. Found the summit's of major west coast peaks: Mount San Jacinto • Mount Baldy • Mount Lassen • Mount Whitney • Mount Ritter • Cathedral Peak • Mount Shasta • Mount Hood • Mount Rainier
My boots and shoes carried me through seven national parks, nineteen wilderness areas and three states. I walked on the Pacific Crest Trail • John Muir Trail • Timberline Trail • the Oregon Coast Trail and Mountains to Sound Greenway. In spring, I'm headed to Scotland to walk the John Muir Way, ending on the beaches where Muir first discovered his love of nature and the steps of the house where he was born - in Dunbar, Scotland.
What I actually saw, didn't amount to even half of the adventure. What I found... was that every where I went - I met people with amazing passion for the same thing I have passion for. I met hikers, backpackers, tourists, guides, rangers, emergency service personnel, government officials, non-profit leaders, law-makers, teachers, artists, spiritual leaders, writers and countless other people from various nationalities, walks of life and diverse social, economic, political and religious backgrounds... who over and over again - expressed their desire to be closer to nature and to care for the beautiful places which were protected for us to play and grow and unwind in. Places we can go to de-stress, to find balance, to be awed by. Places where we can find reverence and solace and peace.
I realized, about half-way through, that I was seeing what Muir and Thoreau and Emerson all saw. And I felt it and I realized that we all feel it. We can feel it on an expedition, we can feel it on a weekend hike, a walk in the park or on a beach or by looking at a photograph, reading a poem or looking at a rock or a pine cone on a desk or shelf.
Our relationship with nature is inextricably linked to the pioneers of the wilderness movement. We are no different, we need nature no less and we care not less about how to care for it - or to care for ourselves with it.
I found one truth above all else; the way I care about nature and her wild places, is important for my life.
Over the next few months, I'm be finishing up my work on the, 'In The Footsteps of a Saint' book. I've visited Yosemite National Park several times and plan to spend time where Muir lived in Martinez and neighboring Marin County.
I'm committed to produce a work, worthy of the message and intention which I believe Muir would have wished.