A Long Walk Across America's Most Hopeful Landscape: Vermont's Champlain Valley and New York's Adirondacks
The acclaimed author of The End of Nature takes a three-week walk from his current home in Vermont to his former home in the Adirondacks and reflects on the deep hope he finds in the two landscapes.
Bill McKibben begins his journey atop Vermont's Mt. Abraham, with a stunning view to the west that introduces us to the broad Champlain Valley of Vermont, the expanse of Lake Champlain, and behind it the towering wall of the Adirondacks. "In my experience," McKibben tells us, "the world contains no finer blend of soil and rock and water and forest than that found in this scene laid out before me—a few just as fine, perhaps, but none finer. And no place where the essential human skills—cooperation, husbandry, restraint—offer more possibility for competent and graceful inhabitation, for working out the answers that the planet is posing in this age of ecological pinch and social fray."
The region he traverses offers a fine contrast between diverse forms of human habitation and pure wilderness. On the Vermont side, he visits with old friends who are trying to sustain traditional ways of living on the land and to invent new ones, from wineries to biodiesel. After crossing the lake in a rowboat, he backpacks south for ten days through the vast Adirondack woods. As he walks, he contemplates the questions that he first began to raise in his groundbreaking meditation on climate change, The End of Nature: What constitutes the natural? How much human intervention can a place stand before it loses its essence? What does it mean for a place to be truly wild?
Wandering Home is a wise and hopeful book that enables us to better understand these questions and our place in the natural world. It also represents some of the best nature writing McKibben has ever done.
What Others Have Said About Wandering Home
"In this latest addition to the Crown Journeys series, McKibben, the author of bestseller The End of Nature, writes with his usual wry, approachable power about the Adirondacks, his chosen home. While hiking from Vermont's Mt. Abraham to the wilder forests in New York, McKibben stops in at various ecologically-minded business concerns, including an organic winery and a prototype small college garden. He is accompanied by a who's who of environmentalists, including the president of Greenpeace, USA, and a founder of the revolutionary Earth First! Journal.
"Because of his longtime friendships with his fellow hikers, McKibben is able to capture them at their best, speaking with great knowledge and love for nature. But none is more eloquent than McKibben, who writes, 'It's a quiet day, nothing spectacular except the mushrooms sprouting obscenely in this wet summer, but quietly grand, just like this country ... it's the impressions that linger with me, the sense of the woods as a whole—the relief, the density, the changing feel underfoot and overheard.'
"Here is a nature writer who can consider all sides of an argument and happily end up uncertain of the precise solution, but sure of his nearly evangelical passion for the mountains he calls home. This book could single-handedly spur a rush of tourism to the Adirondack area—it's that good."
"As McKibben hikes across the land he loves, setting out from tidy Vermont and heading into the wilds of New York's Adirondack Mountains, he rhapsodizes about gorgeous mountain vistas, pristine lakes, and deep woods. It's a boon to find the author of eight cutting-edge books about grave environmental concerns, including The End of Nature and Enough, in a hopeful state of mind, especially since McKibben, charmingly self-deprecating and funny, isn't only communing with nature but also visiting individuals committed to living 'green,' including organic farmers, a vintner, a beekeeper, environmental studies students, wildlands philanthropy promoter John Davis, and writer Don Mitchell.
"Thanks to their efforts, this once hard-used land is now restored and rebounding. As McKibben considers nature's 'lessons in flux and resiliency,' he also reflects on the evolution of environmental thought and his own eco-awakening, ultimately positing the possibility of our forgoing 'hyperindividualism' and unbridled materialism to achieve a balance between the wild and the cultivated, and a sense of community that embraces the entire web of life."