Editor’s Note: In his latest memoir, Doug Peacock, iconoclast and environmentalist, observes that what he calls “solitary walks” made him who he is—a lifelong protector of the wilderness and its many awe-inspiring inhabitants. Recounting his journeys to wild places and his commitment to saving them, Doug asks the question many consider in their twilight years: Was it worth it? Doug was also the inspiration for Edward Abbey’s fictional character George Washington Hayduke—and while only Ed could know how those particular threads came together, the part of George that he borrowed from the real-life Doug had distinct origins that were rooted in wilderness and both the trauma and value of recovering from war.
The following is an excerpt from Was It Worth It?, published by Patagonia in January 2022.
The most indispensable wilderness experience in my life arrived quite accidentally in Yellowstone National Park during the decade after I returned from Vietnam. Accidental, because I stumbled into the park’s lodgepole pine forest at the peak of a hallucinatory malaria paroxysm (it started in the high eastern Wind River Range, so I knew what was coming) and dreamed of grizzlies that turned out to be real bears. That experience can’t be replicated today because of human crowding. It occurred long enough ago that the National Park Service didn’t especially think a wacko hiding out in their backcountry was worth looking for. That was the combat vet Edward Abbey met in 1968, and upon whom he later based the fictional character of George Washington Hayduke.
A mother grizzly roams with her new spring cubs. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Photo: Thomas D. Mangelsen
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