Author retreads Okanagan Home Ground

Naturalist and author David Pitt-Brooke re-explores the land of his childhood in his latest book. He visits Penticton next week.

Author retreads Okanagan Home Ground

When author David Pitt-Brooke set out on his 75-day journey he got a  boots-on-the-ground look not only of the beauty of the Southern Interior of B.C., but the degradation and loss of what once was.

Growing up in the Vernon area, time had ravaged the Interior valleys he remembered.

“It’s an oft-repeated story nowadays. Rapid population growth, an explosion of urban and industrial development and frankly the disappearance of one beautiful place after another to be replaced by the rising tide of ugliness,” Pitt-Brooke said.

Crossing Home Ground is the retired veterinarian and naturalist’s follow up to his  month-by-month almanac Chasing Clayoquot.

He has changed his format for Home Ground.

“It’s a different environment altogether, with much of what is interesting, at least biologically, is concentrated in the four or five months of spring,” Pitt-Brooke said. “Plus I was dealing with a much larger piece of countryside and I was not at first sure how I was going to compass that huge area.”

Pitt-Brooke didn’t complete the 75-day journey in one go, but he set out with the the goal of emulating the style of his hero John Muir, a famed Scottish-American naturalist who “made a life of long walks,” and was an advocate of wilderness preservation, making a famed 1,000-mile journey from his Indiana home to the Gulf of Mexico.

Pitt-Brooke walked from the international boundary starting near Keremeos.

It took him around 15 months to complete the project.

“The idea was to see if I could seek out the remaining bits of beauty and grace in the landscape and celebrate that a bit, and bear witness to the harm that had been done. What had been lost,” Pitt-Brooke said.

“I’m distressed to see many of the changes. I think we’ve lost a great deal. It’s not easy in this project to find the balance between grace and grief,” Pitt-Brooke said.

In order to write an honest book, Pitt-Brooke said he sometimes had to be a bit scathing in his observations.

“It’s not with the idea of pointing a finger in blame or recrimination, but to draw attention to the issues,” Pitt-Brooke said. “There are things we need to think about and there’s still a future to consider. Development in the interior valleys isn’t over yet, not by a long shot.”

He hopes looking at what has been lost can help influence future decisions as to what people want their “home ground” to look like.

“Perhaps we can steer development to a more rewarding, more beautiful future,” Pitt-Brooke said.

Pitt-Brooke covered nearly 1,000 kilometers by the end of the project.

“It was a bit of a blind thing to begin with. I had maps and so on, but when I started out I was by no means sure that I could find a route through some of the places I had drawn a line through on the map,” Pitt-Brooke said. “Also, I wasn’t sure at all that I could physically manage it. I’m not a young guy anymore, but I was pleased to find that you can cover a lot of ground just by putting one foot in front of the other.”

Pitt-Brooke comes to the Penticton Public Library on Nov. 22 to discuss the book from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

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