Off the Shelf: Breaking into the Backcountry by Steve Edwards

Breaking into the Backcountry cover image Read the beginning of Chapter 1, "Getting There" from Breaking into the Backcountry by Steve Edwards:

"By midafternoon we’ve crossed Iowa on I-80 and started north to South Dakota on I-29. It’s the same route we took on a family vacation to the Badlands when I was fourteen, only on that trip we stopped and spent a night in Mitchell, home of the Corn Palace. Today we hit Mitchell and keep on rolling. All afternoon and into the evening the scenery is the same: the highway’s broken white center line, semitrailers streaming west in plumes of exhaust, the flatness of the plains. Checking our mileage, I’m amazed by how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go. Riddle, Oregon, where my father and I will meet the homestead’s owners at a gas station and follow them into the homestead, is 2,316 miles from my little hometown in Indiana. I can no more fathom this distance than I can fathom the distance from Earth to the moon. And though I have poured over the manual Bradley sent me and spent the last few months reading everything I can get my hands on about the Pacific Northwest, I still don’t totally know what to expect. The moon might actually be more familiar a place to me than the Rogue River canyon.

What is my father thinking as we drive along? I haven’t the foggiest idea. Perhaps he’s nervous about what could happen to me living alone for seven months in the woods. Somehow I doubt it. He stares out the window, taking in the changing scenery. He’s thinking about whether a steelhead will take a night crawler. He’s thinking this experience will make a man out of me. He’s thinking that after the thirty-two years he spent in the pharmaceutical industry, there’s no better way to enjoy retirement than by getting out and seeing a piece of the country. Or maybe he’s not thinking anything, just resting and staring out the window at the changing scenery.

It’s a comfort having him along. From time to time, I just look at him—this man I’ve always known. His shiny bald head. Sideburns beginning to turn silver. Big Popeye forearms with their gold hairs. This is the man who bathed my brother and me when we were small enough to fit in the tub together.

I’ve invited him along because I need help with the drive. I also want him to feel proud of me and to see this as an accomplishment. He’s along, however, to make sure I’m not getting in over my head."

Steve Edwards lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife and young son.


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