Like the boys
, the old man at Sulphur Creek is a character used repeatedly throughout the story as a symbol. The man
thinks often about this old man who gave him the advice that no man should travel alone if it’s colder than 50 degrees below zero. The man first scoffs at this advice when he is able to make a fire
and fend for himself. Later on, he admits the accuracy of the old man’s advice as his circumstances deteriorate and he acknowledges his own imminent death. The old man bridges the gap between humans and nature because he has a healthy respect for the threat that nature presents. He also seems to understand the natural world in more instinctual ways, as the dog
does, and he does not believe mankind can rely on his resources for survival. The man, on the other hand, begins his journey with a false confidence in his rationality and human-made resources, unable to admit that there might be a situation—a day that’s too cold—which he could not conquer.