Sunday, August 24, 2008

Coming of Age in the Wallowas

This was a fitting book for me to read.  I have visited the Wallowas three times and it easy to see why the author was attracted to this mountain range.  Instead of your typical isolated Cascade volcano, this mountain range in Northeast Oregon offer dozens of peaks concentrated in area the size of Los Angeles.  Not only does this mountain range offer at least 31 peaks over 9000 feet, but you can find the highest non-volcanic point in the Pacific Northwest here.

As I read William Ashworth's book, I was transported back to places like Pete's Point, Cooper Creeek, Eagle Cap, and Sky Lake.  More than a climbing memoir, this book is a account of one person's spiritual development in the outdoors.  The author shares how his outlook on the outdoors shifts from adventure, to understanding, and then to peace.  As he explores the valleys and ridges of the Wallowas, the author struggles with lousy weather, setbacks, disappointments, and a restless longing.  He is repulsed by how civilization tarnishes the wilderness.  While dealing with all of these he notices his transformation from a visitor to a part of wilderness, familiar with it as the back of his hand.  Then he advocates for the preservation of the wilderness, pointing out we as a species need places where we can find ourselves.

Like the author I enjoy the challenge that hiking, climbing, and backpacking offers, but I have opening myself to developing deeper aspects.  Now I believe that one will miss something critical when focusing purely on the goals.  I have found appreciation for the moonlight on fresh untouched snow, the soft flutter of tree bows in the wind, and the felling of teamwork.  I find this more meaningful than the thrill of standing on the mountain summit, which sometimes can be anti-climatic.  As an achievement oriented individual, I need every reminder that I can get to be present when I'm on the trail.  Not only did this book serve that purpose, but it got me looking forward to my next excursion into the Wallowa Mountains. 


Anne said...

Hey Andrew-- sounds like a book I should put on Anton's Christmas list! Thanks for sharing.

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