Trail Reads

Sure, we’d all rather be out on the trail running, hiking, biking, camping or paddling, but then there are those times when we’re stuck in our tents during a rainstorm, forced inside because of a snowstorm, or we find ourselves housebound recovering from an injury.

Or many of us are just sentenced to our desks in the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work world.

What are we do until our next adventure?

Here’s a quick answer: read a book. If you’re looking for a great book to throw in your pack or just need a quick escape to the outdoors, pick up one of these trail reads. They can be found at fine bookstores and/websites such as or

“One Man’s Wilderness,” by Sam Keith ($16.95; Alaska Northwest Books). Alaska is a land of dreamers and stories. In “One Man’s Wilderness,” Sam Keith introduces readers to one such man, Richard Proenneke. Proenneke lives his dream by building a cabin with his own hands and chooses to live in solitude and in harmony with nature in what is now Lake Clark National Park. It is based on Proenneke’s personal journal and features some of Proenneke’s stunning photographs. “One Man’s Wilderness” is the defining account of a man and his desire to live in the bush of Alaska.

The S.E. Alaska panhandle.

“Reflections from the North Country,” by Sigurd F. Olson ($14.95; University of Minnesota Press). Known as “the personification of the wilderness defender,” Olson led the fight to protect many of our wilderness areas — from the Boundary Waters and Voyageurs National Parks in Minnesota, south to the Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Missouri, out to Point Reyes National Seashore in California and up to Alaska. He was a man of many hats — teacher and conservationist, outdoor writer and wilderness guide, president of the National Parks Association and the Wilderness Society — yet Olson is best remembered for his lyrical prose and wilderness philosophy in books such as “Reflections From the North Country.” In his writings, Olson touched deep emotions and inspired his readers to share in the wonders of the out-of-doors.

“Wilderness Companion: Reflection for the Back-Country Traveler,” by David Backes ($6.95; North Word Press). Wilderness Companion is a great little book that takes readers through a collection of thoughts, essays, and poems on the meaning of the outdoors’ experience by some of the leaders in the wilderness movement, from John Muir to Ed Abbey to Henry David Thoreau to Aldo Leopold and Sig Olson.

“The Measure of a Mountain,” by Bruce Barcott ($12.95; Ballantine Books). Mountains have long held men in their power and awe. Mount Rainier is the obsession that causes Barcott to leave his girlfriend and job and search for the meaning of a mountain. From hiking its trails to climbing its snow-capped peaks, Barcott brings to life Rainier’s history, landscape, people, beauty and the sometimes-deadly magnetism of a mountain.

“Paddle Whispers,”by Douglas Wood ($12.95; University of Minnesota Press). The North Woods is the setting for Wood’s book that takes us to a land of pines and loons, portages and islands, canoes and paddles and the journey of self-discovery. Interspersed with poetic quotes and some fine illustrations, the book is a guide to the meaning of the North Woods and the reflections of a personal voyage.

“Walking my Dog, Jane: From Valdez to Prudhoe Bay Along the Trans-Alaska Pipeline,” By Ned Rozell ($16.95; Duquesne University Press). Journey through Alaska with Ned Rozell and his chocolate Lab, Jane, as they hike a summer along the 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline, through the Alaska and Brooks ranges, along the Yukon River to the pipeline’s terminus at the Arctic Ocean. Rozell provides a riveting story of a colorful land and its colorful characters, as well as a history of the pipeline, its economic power and relation to the environment of Alaska. And throughout the story there’s Jane, a beloved, faithful, and reliable trail companion; a rare dog that make the trip all the more memorable.

“The Nearby Faraway: A Personal Journey Through the Heart of the West,” By David Petersen ($15; Johnson Books). From camping with Ed Abbey to watching grizzly bears at Yellowstone to exploring the desert of Utah, Petersen’s essays allow us to get away from it all and become part of a landscape and explore the natural world. Filled with vivid descriptions of the land and ample humor, Petersen’s book is a terrific read.

Sven Eric Franzen is a freelance outdoors writer, who for the last six years has lived, hiked, kayaked, and mountain biked in the mountains of Alaska, Missouri, and Oregon.

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