The call of the wild has Dave Halsey hooked.
It hooked him on the backwoods canoe trips he took as a teen-ager on the lakes of Ontario and Minnesota, on the fishing and hunting trips he took with hiis father. It landed him for keeps on the Outward Bound trip he took in his 17th year, a 23-day voyage into the Colorado mountains that convinced him he needed to be tested much, much more.
"I feel I purify myself in the woods," he said.
A year ago Halsey, now 20, quit studying anthropology and English at Iowa State University. A month ago he quit his job as a self-employed house painter and settled into his parents' comfortable home in McLean.
In that month he has compiled a 75-page proposal that he hopes will lead to his dream trip - a 1 1/2-year, 4,700-mile backpack, canoe, showshoe and cross-country skiing trip across the Canadian wilderness from salt water to salt water.
He has selected two of the three persons he wants to go with him. He has spent long hours studying and copying more than 500 maps in the National Geographic headquarters in the District. His route is firm, his projected starting date is May 1.
Now all he need is money - $23,250, to be exact. He has solicited equipment manfacturers, major corporations, publishers, so far without complete success.
Halsey is not kidding around. His plans and dreams tumble from his mouth like corn off an grain belt. He smokes too many cigarettes (I live to the hit when I come home . . . that's why I have to get back in the woods") and his hands shake from all-night sessions at the typewriters or poring over his maps.
His route zig-zags across the permafrost belt in central Canada. "That," explains Halsey, "is where the ground is always frozen, except for the top layer, where it gets muddy."
Halsey plans to start in Vancouver and hike across the Rockies. The route parallels railway tracks along two rivers. "It would take an idot to get lost there," he said.
At Hinton, Alberta, the travelers would pick up canoes. The plan to paddle the Athabasca, Clearwater and Churchill rivers to Flin Flon, Manitoba, arriving, they hope, before winter.
According to Halsey's proposal, "Flin Flon to Ear Falls, Ontario, will be covered during the winter months with cross-country skis, snowshoes and pack toboggans. This area is most practically traveled in winter because of the drudgery of Lake Winnipeg by canoe . . ."
At Ear Falls in the spring they will pick up their canoes again, having had them shipped in from Flin Flon.Again from the proposal, "The Albany River and southern portion of James Bay is the quickest, most practical route through Ontario without getting into heavy residential areas.
"Quebec will be covered by heading up the Rupert River to Lake Mistassini. We will then folow the Mistassini River south to Lake St. Jean, exiting by way of the Saguenay RIver to Tadoussac, Quebec, on the St. Lawrence River." That's 4,700 miles from Vancouver.
The men Halsey has selected to share his adventure are Mark Jusko, 21, a math major at Illinois Benedictine College and former canoe guide in the Lake Superior area, and Lyman Echola, 44, a geography professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point campus.
For the remaining vacancy he has about a dozen applicants, two or three of whom he is considering seriously.
Each member will have historical duties. Echola, a certified psychology instructor, will note the mental state of the adventurers and will run psychological profiles at the University of Wisconsin before and after the trip.
Jusko is responsibel for recording changes in plants and animals as they progress across Canada. Halsey intends to keep track of the social structure and development among the 45 or so Indian tribes the group will come in contact with, with a goal of comparing the Indians' conditions to those of their forebears before Europeans arrived in North America.
If the trip does come off, and even now Halsey is talking about putting it off a year for lack of funds, it will do away for sure with the one factor that motivated him in the first place.
"Boredom," says Halsey. "I've always thought it was sort of an illness. You know, I should get it out of my system and go to law school like everybody else. I decided, why not take advantage of it?"
Halsey was a distance runner in high school, that peculiar breed of young athlete that competes before no crowds and whose successes go unnotticed.
"Maybe if I had kept running in college I wouldn't feel the need to do this. But I feel I have to test myself, test myself to the maximum."
If it works out, somewhere between Flin Flon and Ear Falls in the dead ofCanadian winter he'll get that test. You can depend on it. CAPTION: Map 1, The planned route Dave Halsey and three companions would take from Vancouver to Tadoussac, Quebec-a 1 1/2-year trip. By Ken Burgess - The Washington Post; Picture 2, For $23,250, Dave Halsey of McLean can take a long hike. By Ken Feil - The Washington Post