On August 17, 1985, William Sullivan kissed his wife and two children goodbye and embarked on a 1,300-mile walk across Oregon. The journey would begin on the western edge of the continent where Pacific breakers batter Cape Blanco and conclude on the rim of Hell's Canyon overlooking the Snake River. His route would "traverse four mountain ranges and eighteen designated Wilderness Areas. It would lead through fog-bound rain forests, windswept glacial cirques, and sunbaked desert canyons." Averaging 20 miles per day, Sullivan completes the trek in just over two months, reporting his progress in the daily entries that make up Listening for Coyote
. Equal parts trail log, regional history, and personal memoir, Sullivan's recorded journey is also a captivating look at Oregon's natural heritage and the conservation efforts to safeguard its treasures. Entering the Rogue River Canyon, for instance, Sullivan meets a pair of contract loggers clearing a road for a timber harvest; he observes darkly that he's in the "largest roadless forest in Oregon," a place being fought over at that very moment, and one can only wonder what has happened to it since. Elsewhere along the way Sullivan recounts past Indian wars, outlaw exploits, and gold-mining boondoggles. More immediate are his surprise encounters on the trail with wildlife, hunters, environmental activists, and other hikers. Deep in the Cascades' Three Sisters Wilderness, he meets a couple of backpackers who turn out to be engaged in an even more ambitious adventure than his--a hike clear across the country that "could take years." And of course there is the inspiring coyote chorus--perhaps to be rivaled by the howling of wolves in the not-so-distant future.
Since the publishing of Listening for Coyote, the "New Oregon Trail," as it's now called, has been added to the state's long-range trail plan, although many sections remain undeveloped; Sullivan's pioneering work will be of special interest anyone considering the trek.