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Adventures in the great outdoors

As the air begins to cool with the sharpness of fall, it is a wonderful time to get outside for an adventure.  This month’s book recommendations go beyond Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods or Cheryl Strayed’s Wild to discover explorations into the untamed world around us.

book coverDesert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness by Edward Abbey has heavily influenced the environmental movement over the past 50 years.   Abbey’s writings about his work as a seasonal ranger in the American Southwest shows both the beauty and the isolation of the deserts around Moab, Utah and the Grand Canyon.  This book is widely considered a masterpiece of nature writing.

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery is the true story of Emma Gatewood who decided to take a walk in 1955.  She walked from her home in Ohio to Maine along the Appalachian Trail at the age of 67.  She was the first woman to hike the entire 2,050-mile trail and the first person to do it two and three times.  The publicity she unwittingly generated and her criticism of the rough sections of the trail drew attention to the then little-known trail and helped garner support to maintain and ultimately save the trail.  This book was the winner of the National Outdoor Book Award for History/Biography in 2014.

The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon by Kevin Fedarko is a fascinating look at the history of the Grand Canyon, the evolution of white water rafting in America, and a foolhardy trip through the Grand Canyon in a dory called the Emerald Mile.  A flood on the Colorado River in 1983 created the perfect conditions for a record-time journey down the harrowing canyon.  High waters also created never-before-seen conditions in the 277-mile canyon through some of the gnarliest white water in North America.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway is a novella about an unlucky Cuban fisherman, Santiago, and Manolin, his stalwart apprentice.  After nearly three months of capturing nothing, Santiago is determined to bring in a catch.  His determination and a large marlin push Santiago farther out to sea than is wise to venture.  Winner of the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and contributing to Hemingway winning the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature, The Old Man and the Sea has been a staple in schools around the world for seven decades.

The Last Season by Eric Blehm “examines the extraordinary life of legendary backcountry ranger Randy Morgenson and his mysterious disappearance in California’s unforgiving Sierra Nevada mountains.  Blehm’s masterful work is a gripping detective story interwoven with the riveting biography of a complicated, original and wholly fascinating man,” states the back blurb.

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann strives to solve the decades-old mystery of what really happened to British explorer Percy Fawcett and his expedition to find the Lost City of Z in the 1920s.  Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon and The Wager, himself was drawn to the mysteries at the heart of the Amazon rainforest and the lengths we will go to solve a mystery.  The 2016 movie of the same name was co-written by Grann and based on his book.  Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson star alongside Charlie Hunnam.

Bear in the Back Seat: Adventures of a Wildlife Ranger in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by Carolyn Jourdan and Kim DeLozier is a two-book compilation of true stories from ranger DeLozier about the exploits of animals and tourists alike in our nation’s most visited national park.

Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-To-Zion Journey Through Every National Park by Conor Knighton is a memoir of Knighton’s year traveling across the United States visiting every national park and was the basis for his “On the Trail” series on CBS Sunday Morning. Goodreads touts, “This is an irresistible mix of personal narrative and travelogue – some well-placed pop culture references, too – and a must-read for any of the 331 million yearly National Park visitors.”

White Fang by Jack London is the companion book to The Call of the Wild.  This book is told mostly from the perspective of White Fang, a wolf-dog hybrid, and the story follows his life in the harsh Great White North.  “Based on London’s experience of living in the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush, London discusses the realities of nature, both good and bad, and the brutality of natural selection,” states travel writer Lauren Pears on The Planet Edit website.



By Celeste McNeil




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