From the lush, northwest rain forests of the Cascades and the Oregon coast to the deserts of eastern Washington, Ward says he was in awe of the diversity of the West. It also became crystal clear how powerful the forces of nature really are. He remarks, “One can plan for a trip, but there are always unforeseen events that will punctuate and upset expectations and itineraries.
“The White Rocks section of the Missouri River, with all its fantastic rock formations, was something we anticipated because we were going to be on the river in the same manner that Lewis and Clark had been. Little did I know that it was the place where I was to become very ill, and Todd would have to paddle me out and get me to a hospital. It turned out I had Lyme Disease, and, I was told, the first documented case in Montana.
“My favorite memory from the six-week trip is sitting in a meadow along the Lolo Trail in the Bitterroot Mountains of northern Idaho. Staring off at ridge after ridge of mountains, graying out into the distance made me extremely aware of how small we are as individuals, and I remember how serene and peaceful it was. We had just finished our second day of backpacking. The first day had taken us up a trail with a 3,200-foot total elevation gain, which was impossible to follow due to its lack of use. We ended up running out of water. I had stopped sweating in the 96-degree heat, and Todd’s legs were shaking uncontrollably. After bushwhacking up the ridge and locating the Lolo Trail, a remote route that is accessible in places by four-wheel-drive vehicles, we collapsed on the side of the trail to rest. At that very moment we heard an engine. Remarkably, a car carrying a man and a woman stopped, and they gave us water, told us where to find a spring and simply drove away.”
As the title of his book indicates, Ward says that a great deal of his time was spent literally riding “on the shoulder” of many roads and passing many sights “while we, in turn, were passed by many other travelers. It provided many opportunities for observation and reflection. The analogy to life became quickly apparent. By living a ‘life on the shoulder,’ one allows oneself to step back, become more aware and permit life’s events to unfold naturally, at their own pace. In doing so, one is given the opportunity to realize, with a clearer understanding, the connections and interrelationships that exist between and among all things.”
Since the trip, Ward has been busy writing and lecturing about his experiences. His next book, A Bit of Earth: Preserving Childhood, History, and a Sense of Place, is scheduled to be published in December. This collection of stories focuses on a small area of land where Ward was raised in Bernardsville, N.J., and emphasizes the importance of re-establishing roots by connecting personal lives with local history.
Ward also has worked as a history teacher in the classroom and as a group transformation facilitator in the experiential education field, where he has offered team-building and motivational programs for 12 years through his own company. For more information on his books and presentations, see www.gtwservices.com.
Wherever his future takes him, Ward is sure to carry with him the profound lessons he learned walking in the shadows of Lewis and Clark. He says that through his journey, he came to understand “how narrow our scope of life can be, how much energy is wasted on worry, and how, at the moment when we feel we are most alone, we are truly in the company of our most trusted and dependable guides. While Lewis and Clark have been credited with exploring the western wilderness, I believe the exploration of the greatest wilderness lies just beneath the skin in the hearts and minds of us all.”