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Exploring Wilderness: From Heart-Racing Adventure to Tranquility

ISBN: 9781643437262
Binding: Paperback
Author: John Rust
Pages: 328
Trim: 6 x 9 inches
Published: 10/10/2023

"These are adventures that were once common in human history, but not in our time. The author brings a real and useful humility to his encounters with the larger world." —Bill McKibbon

Exploring Wilderness could just save your life. What would you do if a 600-pound grizzly bear approached your campsite during an evening rainstorm in Denali National Park? How would you react if you heard a wolf growling just a few feet away outside your tent at night in Yellowstone National Park? Would you be able to survive alone in remote Alaskan wilderness after your kayak fills with water on a cold rushing river surrounded by hundreds of hungry coastal brown bears? Have you experienced the electric jolt of a charging tiger in the wilds of India and lived to tell the story? Could you find your way back to civilization after losing your map while trekking across a maze of frozen lakes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wildernes? By reading this book, full of awe and humility for the natural world and its wild inhabitants, you will gain insight into surviving these and other dangerous situations in wilderness.

Includes 16 maps and 5 black-and-white illustrations by Sven Bellanger


John Rust has spent a lifetime exploring and living in earth's wild places, pristine and primeval areas where both predator and prey exist. He has visited Yellowstone and the BWCA a multitude of times and has hiked and paddled the wilds of Alaska, including Denali, Kenai Fjords, Katmai, Admiralty Island, and Wrangell-St. Elias, over twenty-five times.

John has been charged by brown bears in Alaska and Bengal tigers in India. He has been confronted by growling wolves at night in Yellowstone and has spent lazy afternoons hidden in snow while large wolf packs napped nearby. He has kayaked braided glacier rivers with Alaska brown bears on nearby islands, and he has paddled rivers alongside porpoises, freshwater springs with manatees, and estuaries with basking alligators. He has trekked the frozen maze of lakes of the Boundary Waters during winter and hiked the Superior Hiking Trail—all with a keen eye toward observing wildlife and detailing his wild experiences in his journal.

John lives in the Twin Cities and is president of the Minnesota Division of the Izaac Walton League.


"These are adventures that were once common in human history, but not in our time. The author brings a real and useful humility to his encounters with the larger world outside our walls; these are not macho and mindless encounters, but the opposite." - Bill McKibben, author of THE END OF NATURE and FALTER

"From the boreal forest of Northern Minnesota's Boundary Waters, where my home is, to the arctic tundra of the far north and the wilds of Africa, I have spent a lifetime photographing unique moments in nature, including magnificent wolves, lions, and rhinos. John Rust's adventures encountering large predators in primeval nature take me back into the wild and create a feeling for place and terrain. While reading John's quite visually descriptive accounts with deep nature, I felt that I would have very much liked to be at his side to photograph what he saw. If you have never been to these places, you will feel the wonder, electricity, and awe of being in the wild and in presence of some of earth's greatest predators." - Jim Brandenburg, award-winning NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC photographer and author of BROTHER WOLF

"John Rust's journeys among America's most magnificent predators will leave you breathless. His observations are vivid and his insights penetrating. I'd rather go hiking with him in wild country, myself, but these pages are the next best thing." - Sy Montgomery, author of THE SOUL OF AN OCTOPUS and SPELL OF A TIGER

"Fueled by an unquenchable desire to experience nature as intimately as possible, John Rust has sought out the remotest, wildest corners of North America and the world, with often only pen and paper as his traveling companions. The result is these vignettes: a beautiful articulation of the elation, peace, and trepidation we feel when fully within nature's grasp. Written with honesty, self-awareness, and a careful eye for detail, this was an engaging read." - Jonathan C. Slaght, wildlife biologist and Northeast Asia Coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society, author of OWLS OF THE EASTERN ICE

"This is a contemporary remake of the meaning of wilderness in an urbanized world. It portrays life on the landscape with large predators, of time in tranquil nature punctuated by suspense and danger. Woven throughout is a grand story about the ecology and value to humanity of primeval landscapes." - Lee E. Frelich, Director, University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology, and author of FOREST DYNAMICS and DISTURBANCE REGIMES

"A book highlighting encounters with top predators on wilderness treks might seem like a fix for adrenaline junkies. But these contemplative essays read more like a Buddhist monk's pursuit of enlightenment. Writing with an engaging 'in the moment' style, John richly illuminates his day-by-day trail experiences with a feast of reflections, deep dives both into the natural and human history of the regions he visits and the greater cosmos, putting our life here on earth into perspective. As though answering William Blake's challenge 'to see a world in a grain sand,' John finds deep meaning and provocative insights along each step of the trail." - Paul Schurke, Arctic explorer and coauthor with Will Steger of NORTH TO THE POLE

"Reading about John's adventures in nature rekindles our desire to stay connected with wild lands and their inhabitants. He writes in an infectious way. John's words remind us of the need to act if we've been captive too long in our urban shackles. The adventures recounted by the author fill the need to find, to feel, to taste, to be exhausted by wild country, and in the process to feel fragile and small." - David Zentner, former national president of the Izaak Walton League of America

"John Rust's account of time spent living in the company of apex predators on magnificent public lands in North America and India is the perfect antidote to a misguided ideology that says economic utility is the sole measure of the value of wild places. Rust is an exemplar of those who understand that spiritual sustenance is the ultimate prize to be gained from the wonder and mystery of life in the wilderness. We can only hope that his view will ultimately prevail. Human survival depends on it." - Becky Rom, national chair of Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, former national chair of the Wilderness Society, and governing council member of the Wilderness Society

"The book consists of a very interesting series of vignettes and longer chapters describing in detail the observations of a 'modern day explorer' in areas of the globe where observation of Nature in all of its manifold glories leads one to ask the question, 'Why did these organisms occur and evolve/survive?' Yes, Darwin did this in the Galapagos over 150 years ago, but these are the observations of a self-taught naturalist, asking questions from his observations and then trying to determine the answers. One very interesting story, of a number, is the role of chemical agents from observation of nature, specifically from wings of butterflies, where compounds, building on discoveries in the 1940s to 1950s, led to both antibiotics and antitumor agents (specifically Pemetrexed also known as Alimta)." - David Newman, DPhil., former director of the Natural Products Branch at the National Cancer Institute and coeditor of CHEMICAL BIOLOGY of NATURAL PRODUCTS

"Portraying a wild and wondrous world, John Rust's essays will inspire readers to take up their own wilderness adventures. His tales of marvelous encounters with wolves and grizzlies convey a deep respect that overcomes the uninformed prejudice that these persecuted predators too often face." - Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity