O my God! I was totally absorbed into, and moved to tears by this book. It is a dual soundtrack experience, the true story of two young men who become thoroughly lost in the same area, but several years apart (1998, 2001) . The writing is excellent, not much to skip over, plus there are actual maps to refer to.
You are viscerally transported to the boggy, nearly impenetrable landscapes of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Quentico Provincial Park. We’re talking big trees, thick boreal treescapes, black flies, and mosquitoes.
Both stories start off as many of us have experienced, one a solo backpacking weekend, the other a Boy Scout canoeing expedition where the lead Eagle Scout guide become separated from his charges.
I’ve read stories like this before, where the rescuers open a shelter and 100% believe they will find a corpse inside. What comes to mind is the incomparable Great Heart, by Rugge and Davidson.
There are innumerable factual references to wilderness survival skills here as well, as the author successfully yo-yoed me up and down into the consciousness of two suffering, desperate men. The break was needed. Brutal stuff, observing death approaching, in this case cadaver sniffing dogs, capable of detecting a corpse sunken beneath the cover of a sphagnum bog.
I got a glimpse into the portal to real-life terror this past June, in the deep snow cover over the invisible Pacific Crest Trail, when I was twice lost. The courage to survive can take many forms and some may not be easy to stomach.
Best quote of the book: “A great thirst is a great joy when quenched in time.” Edward Abbey.
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