Tag Archives: outdoors

Because of Louis L’Amour

In the Westerns I devoured as a teenager, the good guys made a point of leaving the trails they traveled in a better condition than they found them: moving a branch off the trail here, settling a rock into place there (provided, of course, that they weren’t grievously wounded and/or being pursued by the bad guys at the time).

The lesson has stuck with me: the portages I recently traveled have been left in better shape than I found them. Thank you, Mr. L’Amour.

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Quiet Magic

Quiet Magic by Sam Cook, with illustrations by Bob Cary

University of Minnesota Press

This book is exactly what it promises: quiet and magical.  It’s a collection of stories and essays the author wrote for the Duluth News-Tribune, grouped by season.  Each piece is 2-4 pages in the book: a nice little morsel.

Each piece is 2-4 pages of observations and experiences related to the north country, the people to be found there, hunting and fishing, canoeing, etc.  Cook’s gentle humor and perception make for a delightful few minutes of reading per story.

I find myself continually returning to Loomis Lips for the chuckle factor.  Without spoiling it, I’ll just note that it’s about human nature.  Oh, and fish.

Ely Echoes

Ely Echoes by Bob Cary
(c) 2000
Published by Pfeifer-Hamilton

Rating: * * * * *

“Jackpine Bob” Cary, journalist and long-time editor of the Ely Echo, has collected a series of observations, escapades, and spoofs spanning his Depression-era youth through his golden years into an anthology of several-page stories infused with his trademark humor and energy.

My absolute favorite of these – and let me assure you it was not easy to select just one favorite to write about – is Second Time Around, a hilarious chronicle of Cary’s less-than-smooth wedding and honeymoon trip at age 76 with 64-year-old longtime friend and new bride Edith.

The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide

The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide

(c) 2013 by Creek Stewart.  Published by Living Ready Books

Rating:  * * * *

With frequent references to the materials Katniss and the other characters in The Hunger Games use to survive, this book provides the reader with an overview of survival techniques using the resources at hand to build shelters, find and purify water, forage for food, navigate, perform first aid, etc.

I really like this book because I expect it will grab the attention of readers who would not otherwise pick up an outdoors book. Each section is quick to read, full of references to the trilogy of books with which the author is clearly familiar, and contains photos for illustration.  While not exhaustive, the book goes into enough detail to spur interest in exploring the survival techniques further.

The author stresses that while The Hunger Games aren’t real, occurrences like getting lost while hiking or car breakdowns on rural roads – outside cell phone coverage areas – are.  A little knowledge can go a long way in preventing hypothermia and other adverse outcomes.

Death on the Barrens

Barrens

Death on the Barrens:  A True Story of Courage and Tragedy in the Canadian Arctic

by George James Grinnell

First published January 1, 2009 by North Atlantic Books

Rating:  * * *

The author, one of six young men on an ill-advised, poorly planned Arctic trip in the 1950s resulting in the death of the trip leader, recounts the experience from the distance of 50 years.

This is a memoir, not an autobiography.  Rather than focusing on the events of the trip, the book is about the participants:  their hubris, expectations, hopes, fears, anxieties, and reactions to the changing conditions throughout the journey.  As should be expected, the author’s experience is front and center, with descriptions of the other participants adding context.  Grinnell strays into rants from time to time, but since the chapters are all quite short it’s easy to move on.

This is a quick read that will leave you shaking your head.  I recommend reading it.

If you like this book, you may also like Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.

Badluck Way

Badluck Way:  A Year on the Ragged Edge of the west by Bryce Andrews

Publish Date:  January 7, 2014

Rating:  * * *

“A memoir of Montana”

The stunning photography first drew me to this book.  The landscape is harsh and beautiful.  The same could be said for the lifestyle on a working ranch, as the author learns.  This book captures the idealism of youth as it meets the practicalities of ranching.  It provides an interesting glimpse into the daily chores and routine on a working spread, which includes working around the demands of both livestock and predators.

Wolves are a large part of this story.  The Sun Ranch was devoted to conservation and sustainable use, in contrast to some of its neighbors at the time, which could cause friction particularly when the wolves recently re-introduced to nearby Yellowstone Park migrated to ranching country.  The author learns that although conservation and ranching are not mutually exclusive, the balance is delicate.

I received an advance reader copy through NetGalley.

Phoenix Island

Phoenix Island by John Dixon

Publish Date:  January 21, 2014

Rating:  * * * *

Lord of the Flies meets The Brotherhood of the Rose meets Dead Poets Society

This is a chilling story of survival and humanity.  Chilling because humans are capable of doing terrible things to each other.  Survival because in order to survive, sometimes humans become inhuman.  Humanity because humans are capable of rescuing each other and upholding each other’s safety, dignity, and sanity.

Carl Freeman, sentenced to 2 years at the Phoenix Island boot camp for juvenile offenders due to fighting one too many bullies, soon learns the judge was unwittingly correct about it being a “terminal” stop:  kids die on Phoenix Island.  Even more terrifying is that nobody on the outside knows or cares because everyone on the island is an orphan.

Carl finds that on Phoenix Island bullying is often rewarded.  He learns that conformity would be easy, but maintaining one’s own identity and morality is both difficult and dangerous.  He learns that friendship is both painful and necessary.  He learns that contingencies, interpretations, could have turned his life into something entirely different.  He learns that he needs to follow his own code of ethics, regardless of the cost to himself.  Ironically, the island ultimately teaches him exactly what the court system wanted him to learn (albeit in a manner the court hopefully would not have sanctioned):  to control his own behavior.

This is a difficult book, but an affirming one.

I received an advance reader copy through NetGalley.

Jailbird by Heather Huffman

Jailbird by Heather Huffman

Rating:  * * * *

A young woman convicted of murdering a socially connected young man escapes from prison after 10 years behind bars and re-learns how to hope, dream, plan…live. She meets Charlie and his daughter, who help her define normal. She is reunited with relatives she hasn’t seen since her conviction. She soon learns that the family of the man she killed is close to finding her and returning her to prison. With the help of good friends and lawyer Charlie, she is able to evade capture.

Huffman writes about social justice issues, but writes them in a non-preachy, very readable style. This is the second of her books that I have read. It comes complete with the expected happily ever after, but the happiness doesn’t come without cost. Social injustices and attitudes are highlighted, but not dwelt upon ad nauseum. A little simplistic perhaps, but palatable for that very reason.

Tranquility

Crooked tree with canoe tip

I nestled into the canoe seat and the moment my paddle touched the water I felt it: a calmness, a serenity drifting over me, settling over me like a cloak. Despite the raucous calls and splashing from other happy lake-goers, all I heard was the soft plink of droplets falling from the paddle and the nearly inaudible ssshhhhhh of the canoe gliding over the surface of the water. Tranquility.

Camping’s Top Secrets

Camping’s Top Secrets by Cliff Jacobson

Rating:  * * * *

A compilation of useful tips for everything from treating hypothermia and blisters to packing sourdough starter for a trip to sewing cozies for cooking pots.  I have the 2nd edition, copyright 1998, but there is at least one subsequent version.  These are great tips, detailed but not exhaustive.  Other books by Jacobson provide greater detail on almost everything in this book.  I look  through this book about once a year and focus on something I’ve only skimmed before.

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