The longest chapter in the novel, Chapter 48, provides the climax of the book and the turning point in Tom's life. After the All-Mother appears and chants to him, Tom undergoes a spiritual and emotional transformation. However, his rebirth does not become complete until his early morning bath; his disunion with nature manifests itself in his feelings of physical illness. His bath, however, represents a kind of baptismal ceremony. The preacher in Pagosa baptizes him in the Christian faith. Because Tom has no affiliation with or belief in Christian religion, the baptism has no significance to him. However, Tom has participated in the Ute ritual of bathing in an icy cold creek since his early childhood. His return to this practice marks his renewed embrace of the old ways.
The last chapter in the novel begins with a passage that speaks to Tom's growing contentment in his return to his Ute lifestyle, and his consequent growing connection to the natural world. Borland writes, "Hard frost came and passed. Aspen leaves fell and lay crisp and briefly yellow in the valleys, and the dark flame of the scrub oaks faded to the brown of their bitter little acorns. The sky was clean and clear, the air was crisp. The season turned to that pause when the mountains rest between summer and winter and a man knows, if there is any understanding in him, the truth of his own being."
Also in the last chapter, Tom grows disgusted by his own consistently self- destructive behavior. He recognizes the futility of his aggression toward himself and others, and begins constructive processes for the first time since he has left he wilderness. "Only to find, when the moment came, that he had done his killing, killed so many things, so many memories, that there was nothing to kill except himself. Facing that and not knowing who he was, forgetting even his own identity, he didn't kill the bear. He went in search of himself." He has grown tired of killing, and his return to his roots has rendered this killing disgusting and wrong.