Was it worth it? A wilderness warrior's long trail home

Doug Peacock

Book - 2022

"Recounting sojourns with Abbey, but also Peter Matthiessen, Doug Tompkins, Jim Harrison, Yvon Chouinard and others, Peacock observes that what he calls "solitary walks" were the greatest currency he and his buddies ever shared. He asserts that "solitude is the deepest well I have encountered in this life," and the introspection it affords has made him who he is: a lifelong protector of the wilderness and its many awe-inspiring inhabitants. With adventures both close to home (grizzlies in Yellowstone and jaguars in the high Sonoran Desert) and farther afield (tigers in Siberia, jaguars again in Belize, spirit bears in the wilds of British Columbia, all the amazing birds of the Galapagos), Peacock acknowledges that C...ovid 19 has put "everyone's mortality in the lens now and it's not necessarily a telephoto shot." Peacock recounts these adventures to try to understand and explain his perspective on Nature: That wilderness is the only thing left worth saving."--Amazon.com.

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 363.73874/Peacock Checked In
Ventura, California : Patagonia 2022.
Main Author
Doug Peacock (author)
Physical Description
304 pages : illustrations (black and white, and colour) ; 23 cm
  • Preface: Winter Count
  • The Hayduke Ancestry
  • Treasure in the Sierra Madre: 1985
  • Counting Sheep
  • Why I Don't Trophy Hunt
  • Sheepherder Stew for Abbey
  • Monsoon
  • Headwaters
  • Stalking Polar Bears with Doug Tompkins
  • Spirit Bears
  • Tiger Tales
  • Cheating Robinson Crusoe
  • Galapagos
  • Reburying the Arrowheads
  • Postscript: The Perfect Bait for an Outbreak
Review by Booklist Review

With a contemplative tone, the author (In the Shadow of the Sabertooth, 2013) reflects on solo trips as well as adventures with his friends and family. Peacock's descriptions--whether of exploring the ranges and valleys of the Sonoran Desert, floating and fishing in a river in Montana, or studying grizzlies in Yellowstone and tigers in Siberia--are detailed and vivid, immersing the reader in the experience. Glimpses of his personal life, from preparing a meal for the memorial of his friend Edward Abbey to canoeing the Shiawassee River to repatriate Indigenous artifacts he collected as a child, offer insights. Also woven through the text is the importance of spending time in the wilderness, whether it is to deal with grief, to sleep well, or to hide out from the FBI for a bit. Peacock's concern for wilderness and its inhabitants is clear as he discusses climate change and its impact on habitats and the diminishing wild spaces around the world. His passion for the subject and his compelling writing make for a captivating and thought-provoking read.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Naturalist and explorer Peacock (In the Shadow of the Sabertooth) presents a captivating retrospective on his life in the wild. Using vivid imagery, he reflects on humanity's relationship with the natural world, his tour of duty in Vietnam, living among Grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park, and, appropriately, mortality. Each memory encapsulates Peacock's profound compassion for humans and animals alike, and his deep sense of responsibility. After attending to "too much collateral damage--that cowardly phrase they apply to the pile of small, dismembered bodies after a botched air attack," as a Special Forces medic in Vietnam from 1965 to 1968, Peacock "applied the anger I had built doing that to the defense of wild things." Readers will appreciate his madcap yet reverential takes on nature; recalling a close encounter with a snake on the Missouri headwaters, he wonders, "How the hell could anyone believe humans were the center of the world when facing poisonous reptiles, grizzlies... or polar bears on equal terms and neutral turf?" While ruefully aware of the prospect of catastrophic global warming ("The beast of today is climate change"), Peacock's "heightened awareness" of the beauty of the wild never wanes. This passionate work is a welcome and worthy addition to the growing canon of environmental literature. (Jan.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Preface WINTER COUNT I log my life by winter counts, in the fashion of Plains Indians who etched significant events on the inner side of a buffalo hide. This might be a battle, a treaty, an encounter with a dangerous creature or finding a spirit animal and possibly a winter so cold the cottonwood trees split apart. Though the Indigenous Tribes tended to mark each year, not every year of my life was worthy of a winter count. Some counts could come bundled in decades with only the rivulets of spring runoff and the emergence of bears to mark their passage. So it was with me. I started a new count in 1968. There was my life before the war that prepared me for a life in the wilderness: a good life full of swamps, rivers, woods, deserts and mountains. From 1965 to 1968, I worked as a Special Forces medic who attended too much collateral damage--that cowardly phrase they applied to the pile of dismembered small bodies after a botched air attack. After March 1968, I applied that anger and wounding to defense of wild things, dimly realizing that that the fate of the earth and her inhabitants depended on an uncompromising protection of the wilderness homeland and wild creatures. My war experiences, good and bad, prepared me for the fight; it was a gift. I learned to love grizzly bears but as a slow learner, this took a while. I also fell in love with the Lower Sonoran Desert, a romance of the sixties, broken by the separation of the war: Space, endless, clean vistas unbroken by the forests I so cherished up north. By late 1968, I had two polar mistresses: grizzly bears in the Northern Rockies and the desert. When the bears hibernated, I high tailed it south. *** It's winter now and I sit in a sun-filled desert wash; a few ground flowers are blooming and the stalks of brittlebush show a rare yellow blossom. I sit several days walk from where Ed Abbey is buried. This Lower Sonoran Desert country is still considered a wilderness and I miss my buddies with whom I shared those wild adventures: Ed Abbey, Peter Matthiessen, Doug Tompkins and Jim Harrison, though camps with Jim were on a decidedly tamer scale. Stories, even common ones, have endings and I always dreaded the loss of wild country, so much I cared not to live without it. Now another plague, far worse than the current industrial trashing of the land, has edged into the sky, and every creature on earth bigger than a field mouse is of risk of decimation or extinction. And there it is. Back to Abbey's ancient quandary: What to do, what to do? Duty textured in the joy of living fully and loving the earth. Except for a pledge to fight to the literal end I never quite solved this problem. Everyone's mortality is in the lens now and it's not necessarily a telephoto shot. So I've spliced together some stories to fill the spaces between the infrequent books I've written. I've omitted writing about the eight epic walks I took in this vast desert wilderness stretching before me. It's the huge roadless country between Ajo and Yuma, Arizona. Or more precisely, between places like Welton, AZ and Quitobaquito Springs in Organ Pipe National Monument. The core of the area is the Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge. I made seven of these walks from end to end and another from the I-8 freeway south to the Mexican border. They take 10 days and cover around 130 miles, depending on the different routes I chose, never the same. I seldom if ever saw a human track on any of these walks. All were solo and I carried my own water, though you also had to find wild water in the high tanks every three days or so. You have to know where the water is out there or you die. These solitary walks were the greatest currency Ed Abbey and I ever shared. Ed finished one and attempted another even after he had begun to die. So, with three friends, I buried him out there. Solitude is as deep a well as I have encountered in this life and I found most of it either down here in the desert or up in grizzly country. Introspection arrives easily, blowing off the two-needle pines or on the desert breeze. It's also a human luxury, best indulged in before your children are born. My long west to east walks were often taken during the holidays and I had to give them up cold turkey once my kids were old enough to know what Christmas was. But what trips they were! Looking across a creosote bajada to a distant mountain range 40 impossible miles away and then just walking there. Startling bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, javelina, deer and crossing mountain lion tracks in the uninhabited, seemingly endless expanse of arid terrain: Finding broken pottery ollas of prehistoric Yuma and Pima people. Sitting on a memorial hill fasting and meditating for the entire day. There's more recent human sign out there too, most of it graves of the 1849 gold rush hordes and signs of a few miners from the turn of the 19 century. Of course, since the border wall and desperate immigrants, many unmarked and recent graves have been added. The one name I have run across out there is "John Moore." I've stumbled across it four times, etched on boulders in some of the most rugged and remote parts of the Cabeza Prieta: twice in the Cabeza Prieta Mountains, once in the Sierra Pinta and another rock scratching in the Growler Range. The dates range from 1906 to 1909. Twice the name John Moore is punctuated by a startling phrase: This was very rough country in the early 1900s. Sometimes the water tanks ran dry and the temperatures soared to 130 Fahrenheit. The closest wild water west of where I sit is in the mountains, up 700 feet over treacherous scree and ankle-breaking basaltic boulders. Prehistoric people visited this natural tank. A boulder not far from the water is etched with a name and that enigmatic inscription: "John Moore 1909 Was it worth it?" Excerpted from Was It Worth It?: A Wilderness Warrior's Long Trail Home by Doug Peacock All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.