A ‘Wild’ walking tour | VailDaily.com

A ‘Wild’ walking tour

Staff Reports

According to an online search, the average person walks somewhere between 70,000 and 120,000 miles in his or her lifetime. That would be like walking around the equator three times or more.Assuming this is true, I hope the average person has a decent pair of shoes.Imagine walking from Yellowstone, along the Rocky Mountains then up through Canada; through biting bugs, snow, heat, rivers and rocks, all the way up to the Yukon. That’s what Karsten Heuer did, and in his book “Walking the Big Wild” (c.2004, The Mountaineers Books), he writes about why he did it.In 1991, Heuer learned that, while a certain wolf was being tracked, she was found to have traveled thousands of kilometers, through Canadian wilderness and United States parkland. Fascinated, Heuer studied this phenomenon and learned that many animals roamed across huge territories that knew no borders. Unfortunately, due to housing developments and other sorts of human civilization, territories were shrinking or worse, they were islands surrounded by oceans of human presence, which meant that wildlife inside those islands had little chance to roam or to diversify the gene pool.Concerned about this, Heuer became involved with Y2Y, or Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, a program to help insure safe corridors that wildlife could pass through on the way to new territory. In order to learn of the feasibility of Y2Y, Heuer decided to hike the area proposed for the program.On June 6, 1998, Heuer and his then-girlfriend, Maxine, set out from Mammoth Hot Springs in Wyoming. From there, they headed north through Montana, while their relationship went south. Maxine dropped out of the trip just short of the Canadian border, while Heuer hiked on to Alaska, joined at various times by his sister, his dog, his publicist, other scientists, old friends, and journalists.Oh, and a few new friends: wolverines, wolves, caribou, moose, and at least two very unhappy grizzlies.Books like this can be a little hard to read unless you’re actually crossing the meadow, cresting the ridge, or facing the mountain that’s being described. It’s hard to follow a map in your mind, when you’ve never been to the place you’re reading about. All that aside, the part of “Walking the Big Wild” that’s most fascinating are Heuer’s accounts of the wildlife that he loves. You can almost hear the thunk of skulls colliding when Heuer writes of watching two caribou spar. His description of being stalked by a grizzly bear will raise the hair on the back of your neck.Be aware that there is controversy in this book. Heuer stirred up plenty of argument from land owners, loggers, and conservationists, and it doesn’t appear to be solved. The epilogue gives you an update and a way for you to find out more information.If you are a hiker, an explorer, or if you’re interested in conservation, lace up your most comfortable shoes and go find this book. “Walking the Big Wild” is a book that’s big on adventure. VT

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