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Sierra Magazine
Inside Sierra

by Editor-in-Chief Joan Hamilton

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 travel."

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 little."

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.

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