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Backpacker Magazine – December 2007

The Source of All Things

Recently released as a full-length memoir, The Source of All Things was first published as a feature article in BACKPACKER in December 2007. This is the full-text of that article.

by: Tracy Ross

Photo by Paolo Marchesi
Photo by Paolo Marchesi
Photo by Paolo Marchesi
Photo by Paolo Marchesi
Photo by Paolo Marchesi
Photo by Paolo Marchesi
Photo by Paolo Marchesi
Photo by Paolo Marchesi

The Source of All Things Cover Image

Now a full-length memoir, The Source of All Things by Tracy Ross is available from Amazon.com and other booksellers.

Some people believe the truth will set you free. I think that's too easy. When my dad made his confession at The Temple, a weight lifted, but only long enough for me to take a deep breath.

After 20 years of second guessing my own memory, feeling ashamed of my sexuality, and aching for the confirmation that others have always denied, I finally had proof. But the victory wasn't entirely sweet. My dad's confession also horrified me. I'd always hated that he put his twisted desire before a small girl's suffering. Now that I had learned how often it had happened—50 nights lost, never to be regained—a new sadness gripped me. And yet, things had changed for the better at The Temple. By confessing, my dad has given me something back—power, the anticipation of a fuller future, maybe even my life. And finally, after all of these years in the wilderness, I'm might find the strength to truly forgive him.

In the dry, wild heart of southern Idaho, past Russian John hot spring and the ranger station on Highway 75, there is a small wooden sign, barely visible from the overlook on Galena Pass. Through a camera lens you might not even notice it, dwarfed as it is by the Sawtooth Mountains, which spread out before you and fall away somewhere in Utah. But if you know where to look, you'll find the sign, and below it, a tiny spring buried in overgrown grass. These are the headwaters of the River of No Return, a creek that seeps out of the earth, gathers volume and speed, and becomes so fierce 100 miles from here that it cuts a trench in the earth 1,000 feet deep.

People say the river was named this because the current is so strong it's impossible to travel upstream. But when I was a little girl, I stood on the banks watching sockeye struggling toward their ancient spawning grounds at Redfish Lake. Nine hundred miles from their starting point in the Pacific, they arrived redder than overripe tomatoes, their flesh already breaking apart.

In the early 1970s, thousands of fish returned here to lay their eggs and die. Then we put in dams along the Columbia and Snake Rivers. By 1975, eight concrete barriers stood between the Pacific Ocean and Redfish Lake, and by 1995, the sockeye population had dwindled to none. Many people took this as a sign: that the world had become too corrupt for something so pure as native salmon to exist. I might have believed that, too, until last summer, when four Snake River sockeye made it home.

Tracy Ross recently joined BACKPACKER as senior editor.



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Maelduin
Oct 15, 2012

"It never happened with boys", yet your brother set a cat on fire and threw it in the river? I think you need to talk to your brother about what may have happened to him in secret.
I salute your courage and grace in writing this.

Maria
Oct 14, 2012

Tracy: I am so sorry for what you have been through. However, I really don't think you should have any dealings with this man. He raped you; a child. There are no excuses. It should negate anything positive he ever did. He belongs in jail, as does your mother and anyone else who knew anything about it. tDo not let him babysit your kids. Do not have anything to do with him.

Victoria
Dec 03, 2011

When I first read this article on the train in 2008, it really hit home. It still hits home. Thank you Tracy for being brave enough to face him and tell the story. I don't feel as alone with the "secret" that I keep.

Kimberly collaso
Aug 31, 2011

How could you let him babysit your kids?!!?!?

Chris
Apr 29, 2011

Great stuff. Saw yr interview and googled this article. Have lived and hiked in AK, CO, ME, where I camped with my prime abuser. Have been working things through with that person past 3 yrs, and writing about it. Helps, and things are better. Keep it up. God bless.

Deb
Apr 28, 2011

For you who don't think her story shouldn't have been in this magazine, I think things happen for a reason. Maybe her story reached out to someone in need,

Dave Morris
Feb 23, 2011

Beautiful writing Tracy. I hope you are well.

Joy Martinez-Stranksy
Jan 21, 2011

Congratulations Trace, you finally did it.

Tira Scott
May 30, 2009

The beauty and honesty of Tracy's journey is as breathtaking and awe inspiring as the Sawtooth Mountains themselves. Bravo to this brave author, couragous yet as lovely and delicate as a robin's egg. Her story belongs here because humans and nature go together. Both are as delicate as a spring trillium and as dangerous as an avalanche. Bravo Tracy... Keep writing, it is your gift to others.

sk
May 14, 2009

Brilliant imagery & searing pain - one of the most well written and touching stories, I've read in a long time.


gen
May 14, 2009

wretched story, but beautifully written. Really captures the essence of growing up in southern idaho, as well as hiking and camping around red fish lake. I've been gone a long time, and didn't know they had succeeded in getting some salmon back in redfish. Fantastic!

Joseph Kennedy
May 11, 2009

The last reader is right. It deals with an ugly topic. This is story that does not belong here. In fact, it does not belong anywhere. No one should have to tell it. But she did and with grace and courage. Showing how the living a independent and active life outdoors helped her overcome anger and hate. And gave her the strength to confront her former abuser with calm restraint. Thank you, Tracy. I now have a new favorite writer.

Shauna Marsh
May 03, 2009

I think this is a phenomenal story. Thank you for sharing it. For those who do not think think this magazine is an appropriate place for it- you have a choice. Do not read it.

Susan
May 02, 2009

Congratulations on your win and telling your story. I, too, was a victim of rape and abuse. You are a strong woman, and I wish you respite from the demons.

alex
May 02, 2009

congratulation. a have spent the last hour reading your essay, written in a foreign language for me.

michaeldraznin
May 01, 2009

congrat's on the win this evening. must be something of a mixed experience, but wonderful nonetheless. wish i could read the article in its entirety on Backpacker.com. unfortunately, it seems to be only partially available...at least for my browser. that aside, well done!

Jody Reale
May 01, 2009

Yes.

Nick City Reprise
Apr 24, 2009

This article was really well done, great use of the word maw. With twitter stealing news clips before you can even get a good lead-in sentence, this is how writing is going to need to be in the future. I know what the trails look like but this article is about much more than hiking, great gonzo style.

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