What Wilderness Teaches
[imgbelt img=Amalialake528.jpg]When we arrived in Alaska, we heard about efforts to build more trails into wilderness areas — to alter the way the half-century old Wilderness Act is interpreted. We learned what a mistake that would be.
Just last month, attorney Ted Stroll wrote in The New York Times that the U.S. Forest Service had grown too severe in its interpretation of the act, restricting even minimal trails and signs that would open wilderness areas to more people. “The result may be more pristine lands, but the agency’s zealous enforcement has also heightened safety risks and limited access to America’s wilderness areas,” Stroll argued.
Stroll was thinking of places exactly like this.
We had spent three days reviewing routes and planning our itinerary. In Anchorage, we sought advice from guides who worked in the Lake Clark area. In all this time, however, we never imagined that the light shade of green on the topographic maps would in reality be such dense and relentless forests.
We headed in from the shore, fighting through the brush at an achingly slow pace. We typically walked (or crawled) four to five hours a day. Carrying heavy packs, we traveled about a mile, if we were lucky.
Hours began to feel like days, and days like weeks. Our spirits were as low as the clouds that surrounded us. I got sick — a fever of 102.5 degrees, chills, and a severe headache. And there was always more alder.
But as we listened to Monroe describe the importance of this wilderness area and its history, all of the pain and suffering of the past 14 days slipped away.