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Reading: Ken Ilgunas

David Locke Hall
 
Ken Ilgunas

Trespassing Across America: One Man’s Epic, Never-Done-Before (and Sort of Illegal) Hike Across the Heartland  


May 9 at 7:00pm
Told with sincerity, humor, and wit, Trespassing Across America is both a fascinating account of one man’s remarkable journey along the Keystone XL pipeline and a meditation on climate change, the beauty of the natural world, and the extremes to which we can push ourselves—both physically and mentally.
 
It started as a far-fetched idea—to hike the entire length of the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline. But in the months that followed, it grew into something more for Ken Ilgunas. It became an irresistible adventure—an opportunity not only to draw attention to global warming but also to explore his personal limits. So in September 2012, he strapped on his backpack, stuck out his thumb on the interstate just north of Denver, and hitchhiked 1,500 miles to the Alberta tar sands. Once there, he turned around and began his 1,700-mile trek to the XL’s endpoint on the Gulf Coast of Texas, a journey he would complete entirely on foot, walking almost exclusively across private property.

Both a travel memoir and a reflection on climate change, Trespassing Across America is filled with colorful characters, harrowing physical trials, and strange encounters with the weather, terrain, and animals of America’s plains. A tribute to the Great Plains and the people who live there, Ilgunas’s memoir grapples with difficult questions about our place in the world: What is our personal responsibility as stewards of the land? As members of a rapidly warming planet? As mere individuals up against something as powerful as the fossil fuel industry? Ultimately, Trespassing Across America is a call to embrace the belief that a life lived not half wild is a life only half lived.


“An epic account.”
—Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth and The End of Nature

“You could argue that a cross-country pipeline is itself a trespass—through watersheds, communities, lives—so moments when various authorities challenge Ilgunas’s route work as tiny cosmic jokes. But this is not heavy book. Trespassing Across America is a delight. In the end, walking across the country turns out not to be about you, but about the country and all the land and people that make it one.”
—Robert Sullivan, author of Rats and The Thoreau You Don’t Know

“When Ken Ilgunas sets out to walk the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas, he knows he is heading into the heartland of the debate about climate change. What he can’t yet know is that, by confronting the challenges of this epic journey, he will emerge renewed, emboldened and filled with hope. An exhilarating adventure.”
—Candace Savage, author of Prairie: a Natural History and A Geography of Blood

“[A] nuanced appreciation of the scope and impact of the pipeline, inviting us to consider the landscape before moving to change it.”
— Booklist


Ken Ilgunas has worked as an elementary school tutor, an Alaskan tour guide, and a backcountry ranger at the Gates of the Arctic National Park. He has hitchhiked 10,000 miles across north America and paddled 1,000 miles across Ontario in a birch-bark canoe. Ilgunas has a B.A. from SUNY Buffalo in history and English, and a M.A. in liberal studies from Duke University. The author of the travel memoir Walden on Wheels, he currently lives in Benedict, Nebraska.
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