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Walking Home Ground: In the Footsteps of Muir, Leopold, and Derleth

“Root's celebration of pristine places is a valentine to a small region that inspired giants of conservation.” – Foreword Reviews 2017

A lyrical mix of memoir, travel writing, and environmental history. When longtime author Robert Root moves to a small town in southeast Wisconsin, he gets to know his new home by walking the same terrain traveled by three Wisconsin luminaries who were deeply rooted in place -- John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and August Derleth. Root walks with Muir at John Muir State Natural Area, with Leopold at the Shack, and with Derleth in Sac Prairie; closer to home, he traverses the Ice Age Trail, often guided by such figures as pioneering scientist Increase Lapham. Along the way, Root investigates the changes to the natural landscape over nearly two centuries, and he chronicles his own transition from someone on unfamiliar terrain to someone secure on his home ground.
In prose that is at turns introspective and haunting, Walking Home Ground inspires us to see history's echo all around us: the parking lot that once was forest; the city that once was glacier. “Perhaps this book is an invitation to walk home ground,” Root tells us. “Perhaps, too, it’s a time capsule, a message in a bottle from someone given to looking over his shoulder even as he tries to examine the ground beneath his feet.”

“As Robert Root walks through the Wisconsin landscape, he reads the windblown hay field, the dripping green wood, and the crooked blue river with as much care and precision as the three writers he’s following: Muir, Leopold, and Derleth. By book’s end, the four narrative streams somehow converge into one remarkable story of revision, of learning to see again, of rediscovering home ground.”—Tom Montgomery Fate, author of Cabin Fever: A Suburban Father’s Search for the Wild

“Root literally walks the walk — reflecting on the lives and work of his subjects as he follows in their footsteps. In the process he creates a “minor nature classic” — to borrow the words used by Derleth to describe Leopold’s landmark book, A Sand County Almanac.”—Bill Lueders, “Inspiration from the Land,” Isthmus,

“Root’s conjoining the past and present of the land in all of these reflections makes us think about what our home grounds will be and the impact our own care, or lack of care, may have. He piques my interest to explore some of the places he walked, but even more, the places I call ‘home ground’.”—Robert C. Trube, Bob on Books

In the Footsteps of Muir, Leopold, and Derleth. Talk about Walking Home Ground at Wisconsin Historical Museum, May 2018. Video online in Wisconsin Public Television's University Place seroes.