Lost Angel Walkabout


By Linda Ballou


From Alaska to Costa Rica, California’s Sierra Nevada region to New Zealand, and beyond, travel writer and author Linda Ballou discusses her various travel and outdoor adventures as covered in her memoir “Lost Angel Walkabout: One Traveler’s Tales,”  on Big Blend Radio.


My travel memoir Lost Angel Walkabout contains my most meaningful outdoor adventures. It opens with “Raven’s River.” I chose this story because rafting the Tatshenshini River through one of our last truly wild places in the shadow of the magnificent Fairweather Range was a life-changing event. My family went to Alaska from California to homestead 5 acres of land when I was 13. They remained in Haines, the prettiest little town in all of Southeast Alaska, but I returned to California when I was 18. My pioneering mother rafted the “Tat” with Chilkat River Guides headquartered in Haines when she was 65 and raved about this magical experience.

Meanwhile, in 1993 a huge Canadian consortium was applying for permits to shave off the top of Windy Craggy Mountain to stage an elaborate copper mine and install a toxic tailings lake on what is one of the most active seismic areas in the world. This plan threatened the 140-mile Tatshenshini-Alsek river corridor from the Yukon Territory of Canada that ends at Dry Bay in the Gulf of Alaska. The salmon-rich river would be flooded with poison killing all the flora and fauna depending on the water. This environmental battle was hugely overlooked by people in the lower 48, while then Vice-President Al Gore was working to halt the mine.

I decided I needed to see the place firsthand. I began the river run in roiling rapids, settling into rockabilly wave trains, and then mellowing into a serene glide through glacier fields calving chunks of apartment-building-sized ice. Something happened to me then. I realized I wasn’t just on a joy ride; I was in one of the last places that grizzly, moose, eagles, and many others roam and soar with abandon. The entire river corridor is devoid of the human footprint. The Tlingit Indians once used the river as a trade route and had a village here, but it was washed away when an ice dam broke in 1852. This immersion in the pulsing heart of mother earth made me feel the need to preserve what remains of our wilderness areas. I was no longer a happy-go-lucky adrenaline junkie. I was an environmentalist. This fact caused a major rift between me and my family in Haines where the proposed copper mine meant jobs for the locals.

Since then I have had the good fortune to visit New Zealand, Costa Rica, Mexico, The British Virgin Islands, and many parts of North America and Hawaii. Everywhere I have gone there are threats to the environment, the wildlife, and often the people. Today global warming is exacerbating these problems around the world. At the end of the chapters in Lost Angel Walkabout where the problem was so striking that I could not ignore it, I included eco-alerts highlighting a situation uncovered in my travels.

“Look Both Ways on Small Islands” set in Tahiti and “Irish Mist” in Ireland were published before I was formally a travel writer. “Look Both Ways” appeared in an anthology titled I Should Have Stayed Home. “Irish Mist” is in Why We Ride, a collection published by Seal Press. Both experiences were a test of my character and played a big role in my becoming who I am today.

I included an interview with Tim Cahill in Lost Angel Walkabout because he is my travel writing hero. Tim raised the bar for outdoor writing by using fiction-writing techniques to enhance responsible journalism. I have read and admired the work of many other respected travel writers. Still, Tim’s well-researched stories delivered with a self-deprecating, conversation style never fail to make me smile. I continue to emulate him. It is gratifying to know that I have received accolades for my own writing from my peers.


“Lost Angel Walkabout by Linda Ballou takes the reader out of their armchair and into the vast world as few travel writers can. Her eye for detail combined with intimate knowledge of her surroundings sets Ms. Ballou heads above most of the travel writing pack. In this age when everyone with a backpack proclaims him or herself a travel writer, it takes a book like this one to re-define the genre. The stories are personal and inviting, giving the reader not only a feeling of participation but leaving them with a memory of where they have just visited. This is just plain great travel writing.” James M. Dorsey – Vanishing Tales from Ancient Trails

On reviewing my files for this article, I found a letter from Vice-President Al Gore dated 1993 thanking me for my efforts to stop the Windy Craggy Copper Mine. He reached across international lines to join hands with Mike Harcourt then Premier of British Columbia to form a 24-million-acre World Heritage that includes parts of Canada and the U.S. Together they stopped the mining company from getting permits to drill. Today, there is another Canadian mining company threatening the region. We must be vigilant and not look the other way from the actions of the extractive industry because we are tired from the assault. It seems daily that the Trump administration is rolling back environmental safeguards that it took years of struggle to get into place. We must continue to fight to save our planet from rapacious greed. I hope that if people enjoy a little armchair travel with me they will feel as I do, compelled to care. We must work together to save our wilderness areas from development. Not just for the children who are rising up in protest, but for all living creatures great and small.

More at www.LostAngelAdventures.com


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