Review: A Backpackers' Journey Into Self and Soul

Author: Daniel Butcher

*Back to Earth: A Backpackers’ Journey Into Self and Soul
By Kerry Temple (Editor, Notre Dame Magazine)
Rowman&Littlefield, 201 pages, $16.95

  • Back to Earth is the answer to Kerry Temples question,Where should I go now that Ive lost everything?Temple, whose essays have appeared in Audubon and Backpacker, chronicles his quest, undertaken following the breakup of his marriage, to rediscover his sense of self and purpose by reconnecting to the natural world.It is crucial to lose oneself . . . in the landscape in order, ultimately, to find oneself there,he writes. And so, facing a life-altering crisis, he decides to follow the example of Henry David Thoreau and retreat to a secluded cabin overlooking a pond (albeit in northern Indiana). Here, in hishermits paradise,he explores the 265 acres of mainly old-growth forest, savoring the smells and sights of the landscape and the creatures he finds there, including a bobcat, nicknamedWood Ghostbecause its so rarely seen. He also recounts a series of backpacking trips through such western wonderlands as Colorados Rocky Mountain National Park and the Bighorn Mountains of Wyomingexperiences he relatesnot as a philosopher, naturalist, or scientist but as a regular guy still trying to figure it [life] out.As he revisits these past adventures while tucked away in his own private Walden, Temple comes to appreciate the universality and therapeutic value of wilderness.My story,he concludes,is shared by many othersand not only by a people caught up in the currents of twenty-first century living but also by a species, a race of people who have let too much accumulate between them and what they knew long ago, people heading madly in all the wrong directions, a culture gone awry.The solution? Read Temples testament to the healing power of nature, then go out and experience it for yourself.

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