Author Page Stegner discovered river rafting in the early 1980s. "For a number of
years I was obsessed with the sport, not so much the thrill of running big rapids, but the
peace of six or seven days without a connection to the 'real' world," he says.
"It impressed upon me how deeply I loathed trudging along with a sixty-pound pack and
living on freeze-dried goo. It quickly became my favorite mode of backcountry
Stegner has made a living teaching literature and creative writing at the University of
California at Santa Cruz, writing books, and selling articles to the likes of Harper's and
The Atlantic. But he relaxes amid the wind, weather, and wilderness of rivers. When things
go according to plan, he finds the sought-after peace. And when they don't? "It truly
scares me," he says. "When I think upon my earlier escapades, harebrained does
not begin to describe them."
Stegner wrote about one such death-defying raft trip down the flood-swollen Owyhee
River in our September/October 1996 issue. "That was an equal measure of stupidity,
inexperience, and bad luck," he says. "I like to think I've wised up a
In Beyond the Sunset, Stegner weighs the significance of one of
the boldest and most ambitious river trips ever--not his own escapade, but an expedition
led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark through the American West almost 200 years ago.
For some historians, the Lewis and Clark journey is a saga of heroism and discovery, for
others the preface to a tale of imperialistic conquest. Stegner calls it "the mother
of all camping trips," and on page 47 packs up a boat and paddles off to see what the
terrain looks like to a modern traveler. What's been lost? What's left? These are
questions that echo throughout this special Lewis and Clark issue. "The more I rifled
through their journals, the more fascinated I became," Stegner says.