Trespassing Across America

Ken Ilgunas | Nonfiction memoir, 2016

267 pages


Longtime blog readers know I read a lot of books about trails, and the people who walk/hike them and write about their experiences.

Well, Trespassing Across America is about a long hike, too ... only there is no trail.  Ilgunas decided to walk the XL Pipeline from its beginning in Alberta to its terminus in Texas.  He walks prairies, ranchland, gravel roads, climbs an uncountable number of barbed wire fences, and simply uses his compass to walk south/southeast.  He is walking for adventure, and he is also walking to raise awareness of the pipeline.  And much of his walk is illegal.

Because he doesn’t wax eloquent about mountain peaks or other hiker’s trail names, and because there is only so much one can say about prairie land and cows, we also learn a lot about the history of the Great Prairie, oil, and environmentalism.  Ilgunas is not a staunch environmentalist as the book begins.  He is walking and listening to the people he meets in small towns and is open to all ideas and opinions and perspectives on the pipeline, climate change, and government in general.  At least until page 190, when he finally takes a stand.

My Canadian readers might particularly enjoy this book, as he doesn’t leave Canada until page 117, so we learn quite a bit about Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the tar sands.  And, intriguingly, he doesn’t see a “no trespassing” sign until he crosses the border into the US. Us US-types have an unusual relationship with the land we occupy and believe that we “own” and others should stay off.

This is a worthwhile, interesting, and educational read ...