A few months ago I wrote a post about some of my favorite outdoor podcasts and I'm following up with a list of some of my favorite outdoor adventure books. These are all great reads and in my opinion are the next best thing to adventuring yourself.
The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon
As the title suggests, this book tells the story of the fastest boat ride ever down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. During parts of the book I could close my eyes and feel as if I was on the boat myself, hurtling down the giant rapids of the Colorado. Not only is it a thrilling read, but it teaches you a ton about the history and exploration of the Grand Canyon, including some of the present day threats the Canyon faces. I read this book right after doing the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike and it definitely deepened the appreciation I already felt for this amazing piece of planet Earth.
One of my favorite quotes from the book:
This domain was older and deeper, by far, than anything they could even pretend to imagine—a dimension of time and space where God himself seemed to be a deluded and laughable idea and, in the same instant, closer and more ingrained than the teeth inside one’s own head.
Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks by Andrea Lankford
This book takes you behind the scenes of some of our nation's most popular National Parks, where the Park Ranger's mission is to Protect the park from the people, the people from the park, and the people from themselves. Largely about search and rescue operations in parks like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, Angela recounts stories of her time as a ranger and those of other rangers she worked with during her career. This book strikes a balance between lightheartedness and a gritty reality which I really enjoyed. I found the struggles Lankford faced as a female ranger especially interesting (and frustrating).
Some of my favorite tidbits from the book:
Park rangers call a hiker like this a “Code W.” A Code W is a wimp. There is nothing medically wrong with a Code W. He is only tired and sore. His spirit, not his body, is broken. A Code W falls for the Grand Canyon's insidious trap and now wants the federal government to rescue him out of it - on his terms and within his time frame. A Code W does not consider the many real emergencies and depressing tragedies the ranger has dealt with that day.
In the United States, a park ranger is more likely to be assaulted in the line of duty than is any other federal officer, including those who work for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF); the Secret Service; and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Thru Hiking will Break your Heart: An Adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail by Carrot Quinn
This book is similar to Wild but focuses much more on the day to day experience of thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Quinn is a lovable and quirky narrator who I immediately felt a sense of kinship with. Quinn immerses you fully into the experience and introduces you to thru-hiking norms like hiker noon (9am) and hiker midnight (9pm), to the joys of trail magic (food/drink left by "trail angels" for hikers to enjoy), and the experience of a trail family - perfect strangers who you build strong bonds with as you cover the same stretch of land from Mexico to Canada.
Some of my favorite quotes:
In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back, into safety.
I plod along the sandy path, my pack like a giant hand crushing me into the earth. What is even in this thing? Fear, probably. Fear that this or that will happen. My fear is crushing me into the earth.
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
This book is no doubt on many other "best outdoor books" lists and for good reason. It's laugh out loud funny and has put the rest of Bill Bryson's books on the top of my to-read list. Bryson chronicles his hike of the Appalachian Trail with his cantankerous and out of shape hiking partner who often throws fits and dumps portions of his food on the trail to lighten his load. His writing about bears is both hilarious and informative and like Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart listed above, he helps the reader understand what hiking a long trail is actually like.
My favorite quotes:
What on earth would I do if four bears came into my camp? Why, I would die of course. Literally shit myself lifeless.
I know a woman who gets in her car to go a quarter of a mile to a college gymnasium to walk on a treadmill, then complains passionately about the difficulty of finding a parking space. When I asked her once why she didn't walk to the gym and do five minutes less on the treadmill, she looked at me as if I were being willfully provocative. 'Because I have a program for the treadmill,' she explained. 'It records my distance and speed, and I can adjust it for degree of difficulty.' It hadn't occurred to me how thoughtlessly deficient nature is in this regard.