Way Out There: Adventures of a Wilderness Trekker

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by J.R. Harris, 2017. Paperback, 304 pages.

Way Out There is an account of J. Robert Harris’s extraordinary exploits while backpacking in some of the world’s most tantalizing places―largely alone and unsupported. And after almost fifty years of wilderness travel, “J.R.,” as he’s known, has plenty of tales to tell! His stories are by turns funny, tragic, and uplifting, and are all told in his down‐to‐earth, friendly storytelling style.

For J.R. it all began in 1966 when, as a young New Yorker, he impulsively drives his VW Beetle across the country to the very end of the northernmost road in Alaska, searching for an answer to a simple question: What is it like to be way out there? How this happened, who he met, and what he encountered along the way became the foundation for a lifelong attraction to trekking and adventure travel. Subsequent chapters chronologically explore some of his many journeys, revealing an enduring wanderlust honed by his emerging maturity and outdoor skills. Stories of J. R.’s solo treks point to stark contrasts between his urban upbringing and his wilderness wanderings, while tales of adventure with small but diverse groups of friends are enriched by their collective experiences and varying viewpoints about exploration.

Way Out There is a lively yet introspective book by a restless soul that will attract countless readers who love to travel, as well as armchair adventurers and communities looking for outdoor role models. The foreword is by the late Dr. Roscoe C. Brown, Jr., one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen fighter pilots during World War II.

About the Author

Back in the 1950s, as a street-smart kid growing up in a New York City housing project, I got my first exposure to the natural world at a Boy Scout summer camp in the Catskill Mountains. I was immersed in a totally different environment than the one I was used to back home, and the experience was transformative. Years later, as a young college graduate, I journeyed to Alaska alone and entered a much larger wilderness, which instilled in me a deep passion to travel and explore. Since then I've trekked in some of the most remote regions of the planet, mostly alone and on foot.

Now in my seventies, I am an active and enthusiastic trekker who can look back at a life full of adventure and exciting moments. Many of them became the stories told in Way Out There. I hope that those of you who read it will enjoy the stories as much as I enjoyed living them. In addition, I hope that these stories will inspire people, particularly urban dwellers, to get outdoors to experience nature and all the benefits and life lessons it teaches. And if you go out there, consider bringing a kid, maybe a city kid like I was, with you. They can learn skills that will help them feel self-sufficient and capable in the natural world, as well as more confident and well-rounded back home.