Six Years, Four Sore Feet, 2,650 Miles

America’s glory is its cathedral of wilderness. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, visionary Americans like Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot fought to protect public lands for collective use.

The upshot is that today every American inherits a stunning patrimony, a piece of some of the most beautiful terrain in the world. You may not be able to afford a weekend house, but you’re already a shared landlord of spectacular wilderness. For a day at a time, my daughter and I “owned” dazzling camping spots that even Jeff Bezos or Warren Buffett can never buy. On our public lands, no one can pull rank on you — except a bear.

Speaking of which, on the Pacific Crest Trail over the years we spotted: two bears, one cougar, one pine marten, one fisher, one lynx, 14 rattlesnakes, and surprisingly few humans.

Nature offers perspective. In America, we live in a world where we mostly control our environment. If we’re warm, we may adjust the thermostat by a single degree.

In contrast, the wilderness is almost always too hot or too cold. It is vast and unbending, reminding us that we are not the lords of the universe, but atoms in the firmament. We are put in our place.

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