AMER­I­CAN WILD

Ex­plo­rations from the Grand Canyon to the Arc­tic Ocean

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight Travel & Adventure -

Michael En­gel­hard, Hi­raeth Press Soft­cover $17.95 (117pp) 978-0-9889430-9-4

“Call me a bigamist, if you like,” writes Michael En­gel­hard, a wildlife bi­ol­o­gist and con­sum­mate sto­ry­teller whose pas­sion for two vastly dif­fer­ent Amer­i­can land­scapes, sep­a­rated by twenty-five hun­dred miles, has made him kin to those mi­gra­tory crea­tures whose needs de­mand an equally peri­patetic ex­is­tence.

En­gel­hard, who calls him­self “a va­grant by in­cli­na­tion and train­ing” and a Lud­dite who nei­ther drives nor owns a phone, is in love with the high desert of the Four Cor­ners and the Colorado Plateau; with the Amer­i­can far north, Alaska, and the Arc­tic Refuge. He is ad­dicted to land­scapes de­fined by ab­sences, to places that “streams, snow geese and cari­bou cross with­out pass­ports”: “Long sight­lines, the lack of dense forests or hu­man pop­u­la­tions, both in the Arc­tic and the South­west set my heart­strings to hum­ming,” he writes.

Hon­est to a fault, En­gel­hard doesn’t ro­man­ti­cize his ex­pe­ri­ence of hik­ing Glen Canyon: “Black­brush, lo­cust, agaves, and car­niv­o­rous lime­stone gouged my fore­arms and shins,” he writes. “My knees and lower back ached, em­bed­ded spines fes­tered, and the pack’s hip-belt left plum-col­ored bruises.” Yet he also writes of how the days could shine “robin’s egg blue, shim­mer­ing uni­formly, like pearls on a string,” and of the de­light he took in a “cus­tard-col­ored scor­pion.” He reeval­u­ates his place in the food chain when at­tacked by fierce and pro­lific Alaskan mos­qui­toes and writes of two days in a tent, “whopped by wind like a he­li­copter”; of the “Iditabike,” a two-hun­dred-mile race re­quir­ing pep­per spray to ward off wolves; of the joy of pad­dling a soli­tary kayak through na­ture’s deep si­lence; and of “light dense and golden as mead.”

Thor­oughly at home in th­ese wild places and among their crea­tures, En­gel­hard is a wor­thy guide across thresh­olds that can pro­voke pro­found, ir­rev­o­ca­ble change.

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