Ryan Jordan

Wild Places Here and Afar


The Brooks Range from the Western Arctic
Photo by Ryan Jordan, June 2006.


I really miss the Alaskan Arctic because it’s a Big Wild Place.

I don’t know that I’ve trekked anywhere else where I’ve discovered as much about who I am. Some of that was related to the challenges the Arctic delivered to me, but much of it was related to the magnitude of its sheer remoteness from the clutter of modern living in a first world country.

And so, although I haven’t been back since 2006, I still dream Arctic Dreams. Big ones. And I even have a pal who can live them for me!

I think one reason why I love trekking on plateaus surrounding the Yellowstone Caldera, and in the Absaroka Range, is that they remind me of the Arctic. They too, are Big Wild Places. The difference is that the Big Wild Places Down Here are surrounded by Stewards of Greed.

Fortunately, there are Wilderness Boundaries, and within them, something sacred and quiet.

The challenge is recreating that quiet within the constraints of where those of us other than Andrew Skurka live.

Perhaps I don’t see the fight for a wilderness boundary in the backcountry to be much different than the fight for a psychological wilderness boundary in the frontcountry, like the walls of my home, the people and companies that I write checks to, or even my internet router.

This is why in 2009, I gave up Facebook, my Blackberry, and freecycled our family’s second car, and why our family has been unchained from TV for several years. You’ll have to trust me when I tell you that each of these decisions has resulted in freedom, and a more quiet, wildernessy state of living.

But these were experiments – test cases if you will – and now it’s time to get serious.

Remember earlier in this post that while in the Arctic, I learned more about who I was? My hypothesis is that this introspection is translatable to daily living, via simplicity.


So 2010 will be our family’s Year of the Purge: Backpacking Light for modern living.

With the simple of goal of creating a Little Wild Place for everyday living. Not something that we need to “escape to” like the Big Wild Places of the Alaskan Arctic or the Northern Absarokas, but something we live, and work, within.

In other words, the norm…

…rather than the exception.