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Outdoor Adventure Books

abstract:At the end of summer each year I catch my husband slinking off to the outdoor camping cupboard to organize his gear for his upcoming wilderness adventure.


August 24, 2003
— Outdoor Adventure Books

By Paula Shackleton, president and founder of


My husband's destination is always somewhere up north, where the season in the high country comes earlier based both on elevation and latitude. While everyone around us is enjoying their last few weeks at the beach, my husband is fondling (with near indecency) his Filson coat—fragrant of camp smoke—and packing his bivouac gear.


Our two boys have been accompanying my husband on his trips since their thirteenth birthdays, inaugurations that we refer to as their non-Jewish bar mitzvahs. This passage to manhood consisted of an apprenticeship in wilderness survival techniques, packing and hiking in the high country, fly fishing for their dinner, and knowing how to track deer, elk, and moose as well as how to behave around bears.


Despite my unease with the concept of hunting, I am ambivalently proud to have boys with both an affinity and an ability to thrive in the wilderness; who have tested themselves and garnered a respect and reverence for nature. They are the environmentalists and conservationists of tomorrow. And I witness their confidences transposed to our city lives in subtle but definite ways.


My favorite part of their outdoor adventures? I insist on picking them up at the airport on their return home, scratchy faced, smelling of forest, the bond palpable between them, their souls restored from encounters in the wilderness.


Needless to say, my family has amassed quite a resource library of wilderness adventure literature. If you have an interest in past and recent tales of adventures, or would like to learn how to tie a diamond hitch on a pack horse, know which trees make the best shelter, or simply be transported to a different time and place far away from the city perspective, here are a few of my husbands favorite reads.


Be fair warned that some titles are out of print, in scarce supply, and hence only available at used and antiquarian booksellers such as Alibris.


“The white spruce (picea Canadensis) would require a whole chapter to do it justice.  In the northern wilderness this tree is the emblem of hospitality.  It provides a home for the wanderer.  It gives him his shelter, his fuel, his bed, his cabin logs and tent poles and lumber for numerous uses.  In fact, the spruce is home, with all of its connotations.  How often during the winds, the rains and the cold of winter have I felt the glow of warmth, the sense of shelter and the congeniality of the spruces!  They always invite.” — Charles Sheldon, Wilderness of Denali  (page 393, Scribners 1906)

Outdoor Adventure Books

Dead Reckoning A compilation of great adventure writing edited by Helen Wybrow.


Grass Beyond the Mountains, by Richmond Hobson. Three cowhands with a dream of owning a cattle ranch make a heroic pioneer trek across uncharted montain ranges to open up the frontier grasslands in northern British Columbia during the early 1930s.


Into Thin Air, by John Krakauer. A riveting first-hand account of the author's ill-fated expedition up Mt. Everest.


John Muir: Nature Writings A Collection of his best-loved works in a single volume. Includes "Story of My Boyhood and Youth," "My First Summer in the Sierra," "Mountains of California," "Stickeen," and selected essays.


Spatsizi, by Tommy Walker. A record of the author's search for an unaltered wilderness area.


South:The Endurance Expedition, by Sir Ernest Shackleton, photographs by Frank Hurley. The amazing story of the author's famous expedition to the Antarctic.


SAS Survival Handbook by John Wiseman. A must read, from cover to cover.


Hunting Books

A Book-Lover's Holidays in the Open, by Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt felt the most alive when out in the open air of the wilderness, when, “[H]e can see the red splendor of desert sunsets, and the unearthly glory of the afterglow on the battlements of desolate mountains."


Horses Hitches and Rocky Trails, Joe Back. Written in the language of the West, it is a complete and often humorous presentation of the method of packing horses into the wilderness. Amplified by the brilliant drawings of artist Joe Back, the book is for both the amateur and professional packer.


Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail, by Theodore Roosevelt. After the death of his first wife, Roosevelt set off to the frontier, eventually settling his own ranch in the Dakota Territory. Covering the years of 1884–1886, Roosevelt records, with obvious joy, his experiences on the ranch, from the people (and animals) that he meets, his adventures on the hunt, the excitement of the round up, to the everyday life on the ranch.


Sheep and Sheep Hunting, by Jack O’Connor. Twenty great sheep hunting stories by twenty of the most respected big game sheep hunters all in one book—the first ever issued by the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep.


The Wilderness of Denali, by Charles Sheldon. An account written each night by the campfire in the scenic wilderness of the Mount McKinley area of Alaska. Sheldon brings to life the risk he faced in pursuit of grizzly bears and mountain sheep in an area he would eventually be responsible for preserving with National Park status.


The Wilderness of the Upper Yukon, by Charles Sheldon. A hunter's explorations for wild sheep in the sub-arctic mountains.


Web Links to Browse

John Muir was America's most famous and influential naturalist and conservationist. His writings contributed greatly to the creation of Yosemite, Sequoia, Mount Rainier, Petrified Forest, and Grand Canyon National Parks. He is founder of the Sierra Club.


Roderik Haig-Brown, author and conservationist wrote many titles including A Primer on Fly Fishing (1964), which is considered the standard work on the subject. 




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