Even at its silliest, Abbey’s work, like Stegner’s, never neglected that element that had gone missing in the writing of so many of their East Coast contemporaries: wilderness.
—David Gessner, from his book All the Wild That Remains
It’s getting harder to find wild country around these parts, at least south of Alaska. Nature free from the impact of Homo sapiens is becoming a memory. Even wilderness areas are at risk of becoming like zoos, protected managed habitats for tourists and filmmakers. Never mind the fact that the land they set aside was once the home range of Native Americans. Big fauna is on the retreat everywhere.
The frontier is a shifting baseline, to borrow a term from Daniel Pauly, the marine biologist who first wrote about how each generation thinks of its era as the “original” state of Nature. You can see the degradation in your own lifetime, but vastly…