Read the beginning of Chapter 1, "Politics and Passion: The Exploration of the American Wilderness" from Or Perish in the Attempt: The Hardship and Medicine of the Lewis and Clark Expedition by David J. Peck:
"A love for the wilderness and outdoor adventure are born into the heart and mind of nearly every American, or, at the least, learned early in life. It is nurtured and grows in some more than in others, but it is difficult to grow up in the United States without a strong love of the vast open expanses with which we North Americans are blessed. Coupled with our love of the wilderness comes a fascination with the people who blazed the trails into the wild. That sense of awe and admiration for these pathfinders is cultivated and personified by American icons of the wilderness, men such as Jim Bridger, Kit Carson, Joe Walker, John Muir, Richard Byrd, and the most famous of all, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.
Even if one has never visited the wilderness, nearly any city dweller in America that you might stop on the street could tell you something about the Grand Canyon, Old Faithful Geyser, the Everglades, or the Grand Tetons.
Some experience wilderness and its adventure in rather normal ways: camping, photography, backpacking, fishing, hunting, or skiing. Others are more radical in their tastes and perform death-defying (-seeking?) feats by kayaking off 100-foot waterfalls, ice diving, or participating in extreme treks. The majority are content to relax in a lounge chair with a soda or beer and a bag of chips, watching travel and adventure programs on the tube. Any way we do it, Americans love the outdoors and we love the idea of exploration, challenge, and adventure."
David J. Peck is a retired physician and a popular, nationally recognized speaker on the medical aspects of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He and his wife live in San Diego.
To read a longer excerpt or to purchase Or Perish in the Attempt, visit http://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/product/Or-Perish-in-the-Attempt,674841.aspx.