This week’s blog post I can sure sink my teeth into. Sadly, it is from a scholarly prospective, and not one of an actual Alaskan living close to the land. I am an outdoorsman trapped in the confines of northeastern Ohio. We have some parks, and some of them are a bit on the wild side in areas where you forget you are in Ohio. But not many are. Urban sprawl has destroyed the wild areas that are not parks here near Lake Erie. We do not live close to nature. Sure, there are farms to the south. They live closer to the land, but not as a wilderness type setting. We have hunting lands south of my area, though they fill up fast during season with a wave awash in blaze hunter safety orange. The true wild feeling areas are of centuries past in Ohio. We grasp at blades of grass to feel like we are communing with nature in this area, and return to our subdivision housing complexes.
The wilderness in the writer Cronon’s eyes is a paradox. We feel close to nature, we must remove ourselves from it as we are destroying it. We seek it to feel renewed and cleansed from the modern world. Chris McCandless aka “Alexander Supertramp’, felt the modern world was completely evil, and tried to distance himself from it and his family. He became a vagrant that followed the roads and rail road tracks, eventually leading to Alaska. He was ill prepared in his romantic state on what nature was to him. He died in an abandoned bus turned wilderness shelter from presumably starvation and poisoning from eating tainted seeds. We try to figure out why he did that, so unprepared. A map of the area would have shown that close by there was a cable bridge across the river that trapped him in his own personal wilderness prison. He did so much wrong on not preparing for his journey, but why did he do it? Is it the notion the less modern conveniences he brought with him would make the trip that much sweeter? Would he be closer to the wilderness then? He did donate his bank account contents and burned what money was in his wallet before his great odyssey. What really was he thinking? We shall never know as his thoughts are just left in his journal he left behind, and nothing more.
In any wilderness situation, resupply is essential. If there is ample game and fish, and resupply once in a while for items such as ammunition, flour, salt, equipment of needed types, etc., then the living in that area is a possibility. Striking off in a direction with no plan and squatting on the land is foolish, romantic, and led to Mr. McCandless’s death. Richard Proenneke lived in a remote section of Alaska, and he was resupplied by float plane at regular intervals of necessary items. He lived a true wilderness life with an added safety net for supplies that was much needed. Even hardcore wild men such as “Wild Bill Moreland’ who lived as a hermit in the rugged mountains of Idaho came to human habitation for resupply, mainly stealing from cabins. The true Native American style of living of centuries past is over. The land cannot supply what is needed in this modern age and mankind has been altered by modern conveniences. In a sense, human kind has become “soft’. Ipads, television, video games, all make for great human zombies. This is especially true here in Ohio. But I digress.
So in the end, wilderness means so many different things for different people. I seek the solitude of such areas and try to connect to my Native Chickasaw Ancestry. I feel most alive when I am in the wilderness, or here in Ohio, anywhere in nature. I lust to the thought of one day living in Alaska near vast wild places where I may roam and see nature at its finest. I choose that over the current conditions of Walmart around the corner, but woods are miles away. Over two centuries ago Ohio was blessed with true wilderness that fell quickly to greed. We must protect the Alaskan wilderness for ourselves and our future generations.