Sample Chapter - Listening for Coyote
August 18, near Oregon's westernmost point at Cape Blanco.
I awake at first light. The drizzly fog has left everything damp. While my little butane burner boils a teapot of water for oatmeal I stuff my wet tent. By 6:30, all is ready. It takes two tries to swing my huge backpack into place - I must rest it on my knee to do it at all. Then I walk out through the sleeping campground and follow the road east.
On the silent road, doubts loom up through the fog. Suddenly it seems like someone else - someone very naive - drew the 1,300-mile route in red ink across my maps. That red line blithely wanders cross-country through canyons and mountains I've never seen - perhaps over cliffs or into impossible brush. Hundreds of unanticipated problems could keep me from ever reaching the nine checkpoints laid out for me across Oregon. What if I break my leg, or get shot by a drunken hunter? And I'd told everyone weather would not change my schedule - but, but, but! Maybe I started too late in the year. I had wanted to spend most of the summer with my family, and now as a result, my schedule crowds perilously close to winter. On October 29 my route climbs six thousand feet out of Hells Canyon - past an ominous label FreezeoutSaddle - to its finish on Hat Point.
Last week my father insisted on buying a $100,000 life insurance policy for me, with my wife as beneficiary. At seventeen dollars a month, he said it was a deal he couldn't pass up.
A white picket fence appears out of the fog, with a sign: CAPE BLANCO PIONEER CEMETERY. My shoulders are already so sore, I set down my pack to rest. Only five or six thin white tombstones stand crooked in the grass. The first one reads: WILLIAM O'SULLIVAN, BORN IRELAND, DIED 1900, AGE 86."
For a moment I just stare at my name chiseled in the marble. I have found my own tombstone.
Then I smile: At least I lived to old age.
Then I laugh out loud. Suddenly all my doubts and fears seem ridiculous. My only real obstacle has been myself!
I breathe deep the cool, fresh air of the Pacific. Ahead lies some of the most glorious wild country in the world. And by God, I'm going to charge into it whistling "The Happy Wanderer."