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Winter Reading List for Hikers

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The short days and long nights of winter may make it difficult to get outside and explore. But, it is the perfect time to curl up with a good book and life a life of adventure through the stories of others. These books are on my reading list for this winter.

There’s a large variety of books on this list. The adventure and autobiographies will ignite your need for adventure. The new nonfiction books give voice to new narratives of adventure that go beyond the traditional adventure stories filled with feats of strength and endurance. And finally, one book is packed with beautiful illustrations and invitations for simple outdoors explorations that you’ll want to keep it on your coffee table or in your car all winter.

Many of these books were recommended to me by members of our Facebook page. Follow our Facebook page to connect with others in the Trees and Tents hiking and backpacking community.

Thirst: 2600 Miles to Home Paperback

By Heather Anderson
“Named as National Geographic’s 2019 Adventurer of the Year, Heather Anderson has hiked what is known as the “Triple Crown” of backpacking: the Appalachian Trail (AT), Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and Continental Divide Trail (CDT)―a combined distance of 7,900 miles with a vertical gain of more than one million feet. A few years later, she left her job, her marriage, and a dissatisfied life and walked back into those mountains.

In her new memoir, Thirst: 2600 Miles to Home, Heather, whose trail name is “Anish,” conveys not only her athleticism and wilderness adventures, but also shares her distinct message of courage–her willingness to turn away from the predictability of a more traditional life in an effort to seek out what most fulfills her. Amid the rigors of the trail–pain, fear, loneliness, and dangers–she discovers the greater rewards of community and of self, conquering her doubts and building confidence. Ultimately, she realizes that records are merely a catalyst, giving her purpose, focus, and a goal to strive toward.

Heather is the second woman to complete the “Double Triple Crown of Backpacking,” completing the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide National Scenic Trails twice each. She holds overall self-supported Fastest Known Times (FKTs) on the Pacific Crest Trail (2013)―hiking it in 60 days, 17 hours, 12 minutes, breaking the previous men’s record by four days and becoming the first women to hold the overall record―and the Arizona Trail (2016), which she completed in 19 days, 17 hours, 9 minutes. She also holds the women’s self-supported FKT on the Appalachian Trail (2015) with a time of 54 days, 7 hours, 48 minutes. Heather has hiked more than twenty thousand miles since 2003, including ten thru-hikes. An ultramarathon runner, she has completed six 100-mile races since August 2011 as well as dozens of 50 km and 50-mile events. She has attempted the infamous Barkley Marathons four times, starting a third loop once. Heather is also an avid mountaineer working on several ascent lists in the US and abroad.” (Description from the publisher)

Book cover for Heather Anderson's Thirst: 2600 miles from home

Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors

By Carolyn Finney
“Why are African Americans so underrepresented when it comes to interest in nature, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism? In this thought-provoking study, Carolyn Finney looks beyond the discourse of the environmental justice movement to examine how the natural environment has been understood, commodified, and represented by both white and black Americans. Bridging the fields of environmental history, cultural studies, critical race studies, and geography, Finney argues that the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial violence have shaped cultural understandings of the “great outdoors” and determined who should and can have access to natural spaces. Drawing on a variety of sources from film, literature, and popular culture, and analyzing different historical moments, including the establishment of the Wilderness Act in 1964 and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Finney reveals the perceived and real ways in which nature and the environment are racialized in America. Looking toward the future, she also highlights the work of African Americans who are opening doors to greater participation in environmental and conservation concerns. ” (Description provided by publisher)

Book cover for Black Faces White Spaces

The Curious Nature Guide: Explore the Natural Wonders All Around You

By Clare Walker Leslie

Packed with wonderful illustrations and prompts this is a fun book that you’ll look forward to returning to each day. “With dozens of simple prompts and exercises, best-selling author, naturalist, and artist Clare Walker Leslie invites you to step outside for just a few minutes a day, reignite your sense of wonder about the natural world, and discover the peace and grounding that come from connecting with nature.” (Description from the publisher)

Book cover for The Curious Nature Guide

The Natural Navigator: The Rediscovered Art of Letting Nature Be your Guide

By Tristan Gooley
If you’re tired of getting lost and want to build some navigational hutzpah, you’ll want to check out this book. Tristan shares the everyday cues from nature and gives a guide to the age-old tradition of navigation on both land and sea through the observation of the Sun, Moon, and stars, weather patterns, landscape, growth of plants, and habitats of wildlife.

Book cover for The Natural Navigator

Braiding Sweetgrass

By Robin Wall Kimmerer
“An inspired weaving of indigenous knowledge, plant science, and personal narrative from a distinguished professor of science and a Native American whose previous book, Gathering Moss, was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for outstanding nature writing. As a botanist and professor of plant ecology, Robin Wall Kimmerer has spent a career learning how to ask questions of nature using the tools of science. As a Potawatomi woman, she learned from elders, family, and history that the Potawatomi, as well as a majority of other cultures indigenous to this land, consider plants and animals to be our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowing together to reveal what it means to see humans as “the younger brothers of creation.” As she explores these themes she circles toward a central argument: the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgement and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the world. Once we begin to listen for the languages of other beings, we can begin to understand the innumerable life-giving gifts the world provides us and learn to offer our thanks, our care, and our own gifts in return” (Description provided by publisher.)

Book cover for Braiding Sweetgrass

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit

By Michael Finkel
I first heard about Christopher Knight’s life as a hermit on a podcast last year. I was immediately intrigued by this person who survived for years living off of the land (and some provisions from local vacation cabins) in the wilds of Maine.
“Many people dream of escaping modern life, but most will never act on it. This is the remarkable true story of a man who lived alone in the woods of Maine for 27 years, making this dream a reality; not out of anger at the world, but simply because he preferred to live on his own. A New York Times bestseller: In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store edibles and water, and to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothing, reading material, and other provisions, taking only what he needed but terrifying a community never able to solve the mysterious burglaries. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded life – why did he leave? what did he learn? – as well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude, community, and what makes a good life, and a deeply moving portrait of a man who was determined to live his own way, and succeeded.” (Description provided by the publisher)

Book cover for The Stranger in the Woods

Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart: An Adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail Paperback

by Carrot Quinn

“Ditching the city for the wilderness; walking from Mexico to Canada, against all odds.
Carrot Quinn fears that she’s become addicted to the internet. The city makes her feel numb, and she’s having trouble connecting with others. In a desperate move she breaks away from everything to walk 2,660 miles from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. It will be her first long-distance hike.

In the desert of Southern California Carrot faces many challenges, both physical and emotional: pain, injury, blisters, aching cold and searing heat, dehydration, exhaustion, loneliness. In the wilderness she happens upon and becomes close with an eclectic group of strangers- people she wouldn’t have chanced to meet in the ‘regular world’ but who are brought together, here on the trail, by their one common goal: make it to Canada before the snow flies.” (Description provided by the publisher)

Book cover for Thru Hiking Will Break Your Heart

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail Paperback

By Ben Montgomery

“Emma Gatewood told her family she was going on a walk and left her small Ohio hometown with a change of clothes and less than two hundred dollars. The next anybody heard from her, this genteel, farm-reared, sixty-seven-year-old great-grandmother had walked 800 miles along the 2,050-mile Appalachian Trail. By September 1955 she stood atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin, sang ‘America, the Beautiful,’ and proclaimed, ‘I said I’ll do it, and I’ve done it.’
Driven by a painful marriage, Grandma Gatewood not only hiked the trail alone, she was the first person—man or woman—to walk it twice and three times. At age seventy-one, she hiked the 2,000-mile Oregon Trail. Gatewood became a hiking celebrity, and appeared on TV with Groucho Marx and Art Linkletter. The public attention she brought to the trail was unprecedented. Her vocal criticism of the lousy, difficult stretches led to bolstered maintenance, and very likely saved the trail from extinction.” (Description provided by publisher)

Book cover for Grandma Gatewood's Walk

The Last Season

By Eric Blehm

This book has been on my reading list for a year now! It comes highly recommended by a woman I met while hiking the John Muir trail.
“The Last Season examines the extraordinary life of legendary backcountry ranger Randy Morgenson and his mysterious disappearance in California’s unforgiving Sierra Nevada. Over the course of 28 summers in this craggy wilderness, Morgenson became a celebrated ranger in the National Park Service. For Morgenson, who as a young man honed his mountaineering skills in the Himalayas, this was more than a job–it was a calling. He became fiercely devoted to preventing outside forces from encroaching on the wilderness he loved. But over the years, the isolation took its toll, and he grew increasingly estranged from wife and friends. When he went missing without a trace in Kings Canyon National Park, where he had long patrolled, many suspected suicide or foul play. Blehm’s reconstruction of a desperate search-and-rescue operation woven with Morgenson’s biography takes readers deep into the heart of the High Sierra and into the world of the backcountry rangers.” (Description provided by the publisher)

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