Trespassing Across America

Trespassing Across America

One Man's Epic, Never-done-before (and Sort of Illegal) Hike Across the Heartland

eBook - 2016
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Winner of the Nebraska Center for the Book Award, Travel * A Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award Notable Book * Honoree of the Society of Midland Authors Annual Literary Award for Biography/Memoir

Now that President Donald Trump has revived the Keystone XL pipeline that was rejected by former President Obama, Trespassing Across America is the book to help us understand the kaleidoscopic significance of the project. Told with sincerity, humor, and wit, Ilgunas's story is both a fascinating account of one man's remarkable journey along the pipeline's potential path and a meditation on climate change, the beauty of the natural world, and the extremes to which we can push ourselves--both physically and mentally.

It started as a far-fetched idea--to hike the entire length of the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline. But in the months that followed, it grew into something more for Ken Ilgunas. It became an irresistible adventure--an opportunity not only to draw attention to global warming but also to explore his personal limits. So in September 2012, he strapped on his backpack, stuck out his thumb on the interstate just north of Denver, and hitchhiked 1,500 miles to the Alberta tar sands. Once there, he turned around and began his 1,700-mile trek to the XL's endpoint on the Gulf Coast of Texas, a journey he would complete entirely on foot, walking almost exclusively across private property.

Both a travel memoir and a reflection on climate change, Trespassing Across America is filled with colorful characters, harrowing physical trials, and strange encounters with the weather, terrain, and animals of America's plains. A tribute to the Great Plains and the people who live there, Ilgunas's memoir grapples with difficult questions about our place in the world: What is our personal responsibility as stewards of the land? As members of a rapidly warming planet? As mere individuals up against something as powerful as the fossil fuel industry? Ultimately, Trespassing Across America is a call to embrace the belief that a life lived not half wild is a life only half lived. It's the perfect travelers gift for fans of Free Solo and Turn Right at Machu Picchu .
Publisher: New York, New York : Blue Rider Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2016
ISBN: 9780698198388
Characteristics: 1 online resource : illustrations, maps
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Jul 04, 2019

Engaging content and well-written.

Jul 15, 2016

This is an interesting read about a young man's hike along the Keystone XL path covering two provinces and six states in 146 days; however, the book is a bit of a mixed bag. Though at times bordering on the sagely philosophical and attempting to understand others' lives and thinking, the author, 29 year old (at the time) Ken Ilgunas, tends to occasionally wallow in gross overgeneralizations, born of naivete.

An example: after spending all of two days in Fort McMurray, taking an aerial tour and speaking to a few people on the ground, he opines towards the end of his book, "And from what I saw, Fort McMurray, Alberta - where the oilmen of the tar sands live - is no Norman Rockwell painting. Men aren't walking to work in hard hats each morning carrying lunch boxes and coming home to hugs and kisses from their children each night. Most all of the workers in Fort McMurray have left their families, and between the long hours, the morally ambiguous nature of their job, and the utter absence of spirituality and civic engagement in their lives, many turn to alcohol, drugs, gambling, and prostitutes." While it is true that Fort Mac has quite a few single males who perhaps live the lifestyle he has heard about, there are also people there I know who live with their families, teach, go to church, and yes, come home to their children each night - but he paints all 80,000 with one tarry brush.

An example from his own country: " Oklahoma is nothing like Alberta . . . this was poor country. I felt pity but also a sense of disgust: pity for the miserable living conditions and disgust for the cultural poverty that was as much choice as affliction: the garbage, the obesity, the drug addictions, the alcoholism, the glowing television sets in living rooms, the obsession with huge fuel-inefficient pickup trucks." Again, perhaps some truth in his observations, but also somewhat overgeneralized. Thankfully, there is much better writing in between these forays into psychological analysis.

The strengths of the book lie in his descriptions of landscape and his attempts (usually) to make sense the lives of those he meets along the way, some of them true characters. He genuinely seems to want to see both sides of the issue, and gives us much to think about; the naivete in the overgeneralizations I'll put down to his relative young age and inexperience in life (highlighted when he struggled to explain to a police officer what his occupation was, beyond "student", or when he refers to himself as a "philosopher bum").

Oh - and then there's a strangely recurring fear of cows (?!), bordering on the obsessive, found in most every chapter . . . not quite sure what to make of that, but it did add some amusement for me!

Climate change, the environment, and our era's over-reliance on oil are certainly issues worth thinking, reading, and talking about, then acting on. Ken Ilgunas takes us along on his journey of discovery, bumpy as it may be. Overall, a worthwhile read.

Jun 11, 2016

This book really picks up when the author starts on his journey. It's an inspirational tale of his adventures hiking near the pipeline route, from coping with the physical demands to his interactions with a wide range of people inhabiting and working in the area. The real-world complexities of our oil addiction are a continuing if hardly resolved background to his walk.

May 15, 2016

It took me a while to get to like this book.


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