Ken Ilgunas was not entirely sure he had a good plan. Should he walk the route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline? It had its allure, sure, but what if? (So many what ifs?) Ultimately, he got himself ready, threw on his backpack, and hitchhiked 1,500 miles North to the Alberta tar sands, ground zero for the pipeline. From there he began his 1,700-mile hike to the pipeline’s endpoint in Texas.
Moving exclusively on foot (minus a short police ride to a county’s edge), Ilgunas finds himself crossing private property (hence the trespassing in the title) more often than not, initially feeling completely alone and gradually missing the isolation as he reaches further South.
This is a multi-faceted book, with the author exploring myriad issues and somehow intertwining them. From our petroleum footprint (everything we have in our lives is touched by the oil so many of us bemoan) to religion’s place in our lives, to the idea of private land ownership is looked at both through the lens of the author as well as its place here in the USA.
Ultimately, Ilgunas’ book is less about the pipeline and more a paean to the Plains: “With a little perspective, the mundane can become miraculous, and something as unimposing as a field of winter wheat becomes a hidden universe.” It’s also a call to optimism, as moments we live in are not endpoints, but rather never-ending beginnings.
About the Author:
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.
[*For more environmental issues, check out Jumbo Wild.]