The Last Empty Places
A Past and Present Journey Through the Blank Spots on the American Map
By Peter Stark
(Ballantine Books, Hardcover, 9780345495372, 352pp.)
Publication Date: May 25, 2010
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Americans have shaped the idea of wilderness, and it has shaped us. The Last Empty Places is one man’s love letter to the enduring American wild, where our country’s character was forged and its destiny set in motion.
Memories of growing up in a log cabin in the Wisconsin woods inspired writer Peter Stark to seek out untouched tracts of the American wilderness. What he discovered in these “blank spots” on the U.S. map is that these places are actually teeming with the rich history of our nation.
Stark journeys into the great wild to four of the emptiest expanses he can find—northern Maine, central Pennsylvania, the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico, and southeast Oregon—and in so doing weaves together a majestic and dramatic tale of frontiersmen and fighters, naturalists and philosophers, émigrés and natives. But he also goes beyond that, acknowledging to some of the great minds that first framed our relationship to the wilderness that would become our home—passionate thinkers and writers including Thoreau, Emerson, and John Muir.
The result is a narrative that blends nature and history in a vivid new way, a tale that provides an unforgettable window into our country’s past and present.
Peter Stark is the author of Last Breath and At the Mercy of the River. He is a freelance writer, a correspondent for Outside, and has written for Smithsonian and The New Yorker. He has been nominated for a National Magazine Award and has written a collection of essays, Driving to Greenland. He is the editor of an anthology of writing about the Arctic titled Ring of Ice.