The Sandstone Blog

Ron Strickland sheds a tear over ‘masterpiece’ Grizzly Bears and Razor Clams

Posted by RLD on 3rd July 2012

Ron Strickland is the founder of the Pacific Northwest Trail and a legend among American outdoors people. We have been waiting nervously for his judgement of Chris Townsend’s Grizzly Bears and Razor Clams. Nervously, in fact, is barely the word. Now it has arrived on Ron’s web site,, and his assessment is, to say the least, positive. We are very proud to publish Ron’s review on this web site and send warm greetings across the ocean to the trailblazers and wayfarers of America.

Many people have been waiting for a photo book about the Pacific Northwest Trail, so forgive a bit of self-indulgence as I introduce this wonderful paperback about my favorite trail.  In Grizzly Bears and Razor Clams (published in Scotland in an illustrated 9.5” by 6.6” format), famed Scottish adventurer Chris Townsend describes his 2010 PNT thru-hike with charm and artistry.  This is Chris’s 23rd title, and it confirms his rank as the all-around world champion hiking memoirist, guide, photographer, blogger, and techie.  I first met him two decades ago after he had completed an astonishing 1600-mile, 4.5-month Canadian Rockies trek, mostly through hellish brush and impossibly grand mountains.  Reading Grizzly Bears And Razor Clams now reminds me why I so strongly admired him way back then.

This morning I read aloud several passages to my wife Tine.  I had to stop when my voice broke in the middle and my eyes grew moist.  Tine later said that she had been waiting since our first meeting in 2005 to discover what Ron Strickland tears would look like.  Well, yes, I am emotional about the Pacific Northwest Trail and about my decades-long love affair with it.  Chris Townsend writes, “The meaning of the walk is in the days and weeks spent in wild places; in the feeling of rightness and oneness with nature that comes with time spent in the outdoors; the feeling of fitness, both physical and mental, that comes when every day is spent walking and active; and in the feeling of restoration and completeness that comes with immersing myself in one simple but profound activity - walking in the wilderness - for a whole summer.”

Paging through Chris’s beautiful pictures is a pure delight.  But his writing’s magical moments will ensure that I return to Grizzly Bears And Razor Clams for years to come.  “It was dusk as I walked beside the lake, and the trees were casting deep shadows on the blue water.  Gentle ripples ruffled the surface occasionally, but I could feel no wind.  This was a quiet, subtle beauty, soft and calming and totally unlike the stark, exciting and challenging beauty of the mountains.”

What Chris found between Glacier National Park and Olympic National Park was not a “social trail” like the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.  Out in the Rockies, Selkirks, Cascades, and Olympics our blazes and signs are still as rare as PNT hikers.  Our famous precipitation quickly separates the prepared from the depressed.  Perhaps that is why it took someone from rainy Scotland to publish this delightful book.  “Some people like to know the route and plan their food in great detail,” writes Chris.  “I do neither of these.  I like an element of surprise.  In fact, I like as much surprise as possible.  I don’t want to know much about the landscape or the wildlife or even the trails.  It’s one reason I like routes like the Pacific Northwest Trail that are unfinished and offer a degree of challenge.”

This is a book for thrus who are curious about the PNT.  And it is also a story for all hikers who love beautiful places and grand adventures.  Pre-order Chris’s masterpiece now, and get ready to hike the Trail in 2013.

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