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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.

All my dad has to do is answer the questions.

Just four simple questions. Only they aren't that easy, because questions like this never are. We're almost to The Temple, three days into the craggy maw of Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains, and he has no idea they're coming. But I have them loaded, hot and explosive, like shells in a 30-30.

It's July, and hotter than hell on the sage-covered slopes, where wildfires will char more than 130,000 acres by summer's end. But we're up high, climbing to 9,000 feet, and my dad thinks this heat feels cooler than the heat in Las Vegas, where he lives. Four days ago, he met me in Twin Falls, a town 140 miles south of here where I grew up, after driving north across Nevada, past other fires, including one on the Idaho border. The air is thin, the terrain rugged, and his body—64 years old, bowlegged, and 15 pounds overweight—seems tired and heavy to me. He struggled the last half-mile, stopping every few feet to catch his breath, adjust his pack, and tug on the big, wet circles that have formed under the armpits of his shirt, which reads Toot My Horn.

At sunrise this morning, we slid out of our bags, washed up, made breakfast, and caught a few fish. When we finally starting hiking, we climbed out of one basin and into another, inching up switchbacks sticky with lichen and loose with scree. When we came to the edge of one overlook, we saw smoke rising on the horizon from a fire that was crowning in the trees. And when we arrived at the lake with the dozen black frogs, we called it Holy Water Lake, because it was Sunday and we did feel a bit closer to God.

I know my dad is hurting, because I'm hurting, too—and not just my legs and lungs, or the blisters on the bottoms of my feet. We have barely spoken since we left the dock at Redfish Lake three days ago, left the boat and the worried Texans who looked at our 40-pound packs and said, "You're going where?" I'm sure we seemed an odd pair: an old man and his—what was she? Daughter? Lover? Friend? When we stepped off the boat, I wanted to turn back. But The Temple was out here somewhere, and, besides, I still hadn't decided if I was going to kill him outright or just walk him to death.

We continue climbing above Holy Water Lake until, a few hundred feet from a pass, we turn off the trail. In front of us is a cirque of smooth granite towers, sharp and fluted, like the turrets on the Mormon Tabernacle. The Temple shoots out of a giant boulder field. Loose rocks slide down vertical shafts and clatter to the ground. Quickly but carefully, my dad and I crab-walk across the jumbled blocks, insinuating ourselves into tight slots and willing our bodies to become lighter, so the boulders won't shift beneath us and break our legs.

When we get to the wide, flat rock that looks like an altar, we stop. He slumps over, sips water, and chokes down a few bites of food. His eyes, the color of chocolate, begin to melt, and the corners of his mouth tremble, like he's fighting off a frown.

Hunching next to him on the granite slab, I squint into his red-brown, sixteenth-Cherokee face. I dig into my pack and take out my tape recorder.

That's when the questioning begins.



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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.

andre
Apr 13, 2009

i think it's a great story; Tracy, thank you for this. you did great. wish you all the best

Nicholas Jackson
Mar 22, 2009

As a student of magazine editing and a lover of great writing, I read a lot of periodicals. I haven't read much of Backpacker and you wouldn't expect me to; I'm not in your target audience but might start coming back after reading this beautiful piece. Congratulations on your Ellie nomination; I hope you take home the award.

Tim Patterson
Mar 21, 2009

Stunning article, one of the best I've ever read in Backpacker.

Marc Bostian
Apr 05, 2008

My heart goes out to you. I can only imagine how hard that was to write, much less share with the world. I'm sorry to see people complain. I think a lot of us spend to much time hiding from our wounds, pretending they don't exist or never happened. If your boys have half your strength, just think of the things they will accomplish.

Tessa
Mar 31, 2008

I think others have blown this story way out of proportion. It was very well done, and taught me a little of the background of the writer. Obviously backpacker thought it was a good story too. By the end of the article I had mixed emotions, but it made me feel trust in the writer. She gave her reason for joining backpacker even though its a dark truth. I want to thank Tracy for baring her reason through each word. And I'm glad she is part of backpacker. I look forward to more articles by her.

You're not the only one
Mar 26, 2008

I agree with the comment above - this magazine is not the appropriate venue for this soul- baring account. As a victim and a mother of a victim I can see right through your father's lies. You were not the only one that he abused. There is another or probably more than one out there. For him to say that it stopped when you ran away is a dead giveaway that he's keeping still secrets . I pity him that he cannot face the truth and I pity you for believing him.

Loren Loritz
Mar 15, 2008

I'm sorry for your suffering, but I would rather be reading and enjoying stories on backpacking and not reading you trying to analyze your therapy.
Not trying to be callous, but maybe 'Outside' magazine would have been a more fitting place for your story. I presently do not subscribe to that magazine because it publishes stories such as yours.

jan
Mar 09, 2008

thank-you so much for your candidness!

jan
Mar 09, 2008

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