On The Page: Refuge

I picked up a copy of Terry Tempest Williams Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place at a garage sale quite while ago. (You’ll remember I’m on a book buying freeze until I finish the books I’ve acquired and not read…) When I picked it up the other day, I must have been in the perfect frame of mind to be open to it.

Refuge

In this memoir, Williams discusses her family’s experience with cancer through the lens of the Great Salt Lake’s historic high levels in the 1980s. Somehow, Refuge seems to be about Williams’s connection to the Lake, her relationship to her family, historic sources of cancer, and the saga of the rising lake all at once.

I’ve read Ms. Williams book Red and really enjoyed it and I raved about the short but profound The Open Space of Democracy but found Refuge to be incredibly powerful. The writing was raw but accessible. I felt carried along with Williams emotional journey as her mother and her grandmother faced cancer.

Maybe I’m becoming soft in my old age but Williams honest look at relationships throughout the book made me cry multiple times. It was the sort of book that you’d have to put down after each chapter and ponder it awhile but at the same time, you were drawn right back in wanting to know what came next for her family.

On The Page: Sandstone Spine

I am a mountain girl at heart but having some time in the desert has become really key to my happiness. While looking at maps of the deserts of the 4 Corners region, I’ve traced the length of Comb Ridge with my finger, marveling how far it extends. Browsing the adventure travel section of the library, I found Sandstone Spine: Seeking the Anasazi on the First Traverse of the Comb Ridge by David Roberts.

Sandstone Spine

Knowing a little bit about the terrain of the area, I was impressed that someone would have done this (although I still dream about The Hayduke Trail which is even more impressive). Traveling with two friends, the author describes the slow going over the tricky terrain, tensions of traveling in a group, and ruins found throughout the ridge.

My bar for a good travel book is one that either makes you see an area you know in a different light or desperately want to travel to a new area. I’ve spent some time around Comb Ridge both on the Butler Wash side and on the Comb Wash side but never really explored the canyons of the Ridge. This book makes me want to go wander canyons so badly.

Roberts very lovingly describes the Anasazi and Basketmaker ruins that he, Greg, and Vaughn explore along their trek. He pulls in just touches of his understanding of the history of the human occupation of the area, mentioning Robert S. McPherson’s work as well as some of his earlier books (it also made me want to revisit Craig Child’s House of Rain).

Sandstone Spine excellently combines history, travel, and human history for a very readable book. I am also excited for fall desert season. Anyone up for adventure?

Backside of Comb Ridge

 

This post contains affiliate links that help fund 3Up Adventures. All opinions are my own.

On The Page: Coyote America

Last spring, I placed myself on a book buying freeze to try and save money and also to force myself to finish reading everything I’ve bought that has just been decorating my shelves. I still can’t resist browsing books, though, so the only safe place to do that is the library. On the new book shelf, I found Dan Flores’s Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History.

Coyote America

I was quickly grabbed by Flores’s exploration of coyote’s mythological representations in America but was pretty much whole-heartedly sold on the genetic discussions of how coyotes diverged from wolves. The scientist in me really loved this since I’ve heard a lot about the connections between wolves and dogs but lots less about the connections between wolves and other canids.

A large amount of the book was devoted to the (very interesting) story of how wildlife managers tried to remove coyotes from the ecosystems after wolves had been largely eradicated. Current research by government scientists surrounding coyote behavior and control was discussed. While Flores’s personal disagreement with some of the research was apparent, but since his biases seemed to be for more stringent science with a stronger advocacy for ecosystem effects align with my own, I didn’t really mind. (For some more interesting coyote reading, check out this piece in High Country News about Wildlife Services.)

Another piece of this book that really reached to my heart was the acceptance that “coyote” isn’t always pronounced “ky-oat-e” but sometimes it’s a “ky-oat.” When I was growing up, I knew that some people said “ky-oat-e” but in my house it was most often “ky-oat” and I was never self conscious about it until a friend in college pointed it out. In the most rural parts of the west, it’s also “ky-oat” with things being more mixed in western cities, and then the east coast being nearly only “ky-oat-e.” Somehow, Flores’s casual mention of what pronunciation people used really helped me to connect with them and their perspectives.

I really enjoyed this book. My summer has been crazy and all over the place but Coyote America inspired me to read when it just hadn’t been a priority. Flores’s book is great for readers no matter where you live. Urban and rural residents have distinct relationships with coyotes but they’re all discussed in the book. If you’re at all curious about coyotes, check this book out. I enjoyed it a lot.

 

This page contains affiliate links that help support 3Up Adventures in my adventuring and book buying habits. This book was checked out from the wonderful Ridgway Public Library and all opinions are my own.

On the Page: Death in Yellowstone

A lot of my reading gets driven by books I find in thrift stores. I’m a sucker for a fifty cent book about a topic I might care about—Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park by Lee H. Whittlesey is one of those books and I’m really glad I picked it up. (I read the first edition, the affiliate link above and the photo below are from the second edition that includes updates from deaths throughout the 2000s.)

Death in Yellowstone

The book is a little bit dry at times and gets a little bit stuck on enumerating all the deaths that the author can find record of but more often, I found myself amazed by the wide variety of ways that people found their demise in Yellowstone. They managed to fall into hotsprings (quite a few people, actually), got too close to bison, were attacked by bears, froze to death, and drowned.

Whittlesley also explores the human caused deaths within the park although I found these substantially less exciting; many of them were from the earliest days of the park and details were definitely sketchy. It was certainly clear that Yellowstone was once part of the “Wild West” though!

As I mentioned, sometimes the prose is a little bit lacking but this was a fascinating way to look at our first National Park. Maybe I’m a little bit morbid but I would love to read similar books for other national parks and famous outdoor recreation areas. Again, a little macabre but pick up this book for some interesting reading before your Yellowstone adventure: you certainly won’t want to step off the boardwalk to pet a bison.

 

 

I purchased this book myself and all opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

On The Page: One Hundred Mile Summers

I really enjoy most memoirs about long distance hiking; somehow the rhythm of hiking becomes the rhythm of reading and you’re swept along the trail. One of the things I’ve noticed, however, is that narratives about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail seem to break down about the time the author reaches the Oregon border. I’ve lived in both Oregon and Washington and I know that the PCT in both states is astoundingly beautiful. I figured this paucity of narration was a side effect of narrative fatigue after explaining the struggles with adjusting to the trail as well as the result head down hiking to make miles before the snow starts to fall.

Somewhere along the line I started to think, “I’m not so sure I want to thru-hike the trail.” It just started to seem like a not ideal way to absorb the beauty of the trail. A couple of years ago, Amazon suggested One Hundred Mile Summers: Hiking The Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada by Eleanor Guilford.

One Hundred Mile Summers

Guilford began backpacking in the late 1960s with the Sierra Club. She became enchanted with backpacking and completed the John Muir Trail before expanding her hikes to the PCT. She generally completed a trail section each summer of about 100 miles, expanding the length of her hikes after her retirement, and finished the PCT at the Canadian border in August of 1989.

I really enjoyed reading Guilford’s account of her hike. She is frank and honest about what she experienced along the way and I think her section hiking approach really allowed her to be fresh and open to experiences the entire trail. I also felt a really strong kinship with Eleanor as a solo female hiker. She utilized Amtrak, buses, and hitchhiking to get to and from the trailheads and her home in the Los Angeles area, in her sixties and at seventy! Sometimes I had to remind myself that she wasn’t thirty like me!

Guilford’s hike being spread out over two decades meant that she was able to make observations about how equipment, attitudes, and policies changed over the years. While clearly not a professional writer, Guilford’s enthusiasm and positivity about the trail are infectious and never ceased to make me smile. I was a little disappointed that she ran into some rain in Washington, despite hiking in August which is usually a gorgeous month in the Cascades even at elevation, I wanted glowing Washington prose! (She did positively describe what she could see.)

Is it spring yet? I need some high mountain backpacking after reading One Hundred Mile Summers.

On The Page: A is For Adventure

If there is anything I want to come to mind for my nephews when they think of Aunty Beth is adventure followed by books and baseball. The oldest, Andrew, is definitely on that track—I’m pretty sure he’s agree the best Aunty-Drew Boo day is driving in the jeep to go hiking, getting ice cream on the way home and snuggling with Sprocket while reading a book. (Is that kid the best or what???) The younger two, Junior and Will, are still feeling out what it means to hang out with Aunty Beth but I think we got a good start over Christmas when we went sledding.

A is For Adventure

While at OR Show in January, I met Jan Sebastian LaPierre and Chris Surette. Jan and Chris’s company, A is For Adventure, is a media company that aims to get people outside. Jan is also the author of the company’s flagship book A Is For Adventure

A is For Adventure

Fortunately, the guys were happy to provide me with a review copy of this charming alphabet book. I read it and was delighted at each page, the illustrations by Christopher Hoyt were engaging and I loved their letter choices! After that though, I packaged it up and sent it off to my children’s goods product testers up in Washington.

Junior and Will
And they’re cuddled under the quilt I made!

My sister was kind enough to take some notes and pass them along to me. The boys really liked the book and it made them curious about a bunch of new activities (I wish I was there to take them to try some of them!). She did mention that it gets a little bit long and that it taxes the attention span of Junior (kindergarten) although he makes it through. With Will (3 1/2) she just shortens it to “A is for Adventure, B is for …”

A is for Adventure

It’d be a fun challenge for a family to make a list or chart of the activities in the book and to start trying some different ones so kids could get a feel for what interests them. Hiking is my go-to with the boys because it’s pretty low investment but it would be fun, especially as they get a little older to branch out into some other activities with them. I also think it’s really fun that some of the letters (A is for Adventure, G is for Going, E is for Exploring, G is for Going) aren’t activities so much as frames of mind.

A Is For Adventure
I kind of want a print of this for me. And for every little kid I know.

I loved A Is For Adventure and fortunately Will and Junior concurred, mostly by wanting to get out and try new things! I loved the illustrations and can’t wait to go visit the boys so we can pick an new activity to try together.

A Is For Adventure was provided to 3Up Adventures for review (and sharing with my nephew). All opinions about the book are mine and my sisters’s.

On The Page: One Man’s West

I count myself among those that are feeling the Internet’s affect on my brain. I used to read all the time and now? Rather than reading one of the many books I’ve accumulated (I love books) I find myself browsing Twitter or skimming some silly Buzzfeed article. If I’m going to focus to read a good longform article, I send it to my Kindle… where it languishes until I finally binge on all the good stuff I’ve sent there.

Anyway, my mom clearly pursued my Amazon wishlist while she was Christmas shopping and bought me a copy of David Lavender’s One Man’s WestOne Man’s West fits in perfectly with my bookshelf of adventure, local history, geology, travel, etc. I love reading about the places I know animated under a different time or through the eyes of someone with a different background. In the book, Lavender relates tales of his young adulthood in southwestern Colorado.

One Man's West

While there is definitely a story line, Lavender focuses on groups of related stories in each chapter. While One Man’s West focuses on Lavender’s time as a miner and rancher, later in life he became an English teacher as well as a prolific writer. I was sort of surprised to learn that One Man’s West was his first book: I found it to be conversational and really compelling.

The “new edition” (2007) includes an excellent introduction by David G. Lavender (the author’s son) which set the stage for the book describing how David Lavender was born in Telluride in 1910 and came to return to his stepfather’s ranch in far western Montrose county after attending boarding school in Pennsylvania followed by Princeton and then a short stint at Stanford Law.

The book begins with a description of the time Lavender spent in Camp Bird mining and attempting to build up a nest egg before he married his wife, Martha. I’m sure part of my love for this book is driven by my knowledge and understanding of the region that he writes about but I loved his description of life high above Ouray. It is so much fun to imagine life in the basin and in town as it must have been and Lavender does an excellent job of facilitating it. (I also learned that Lavender Peak in the La Platas is named after the author’s brother!)

Hanging Flume

Similarly, the section of the book describing life as a cattle rancher are very rooted in place and time. The ranch operations happened primarily between the Paradox Valley and Lone Cone but Bluff, Utah and Indian Creek make cameo appearances as well. (Climbers will totally recognize places in the Indian Creek section!) He even discusses the Dolores Canyon Hanging Flume. But amidst all the places where my geography obsessed heart leaps there is a very clear eyed but tender picture of a west that was quickly fading.

Indian Creek Vistas

The book wraps up with a chapter added in (I believe) 1956 discussing how the uranium boom had impacted the region and I though it made for a really great end to the book since that period had a huge impact on the West End.

I highly recommend One Man’s West  to anyone with an interest in western history. Lavender paints a vivid picture of what life in far southwestern Colorado was like during the 1930s that is well worth reading.

On The Page: Rewilding Our Hearts

Last fall, I realized I’d left my house without a book. The days had become perceptibly longer and a book was key to enjoying the wind down to the evening in the back of the FSJ so I pulled off the freeway in Glenwood Springs and headed to The Book Train and picked out Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence by Marc Bekoff.

Rewilding Our Hearts

Since I’d picked this out in a little bit of a hurry I don’t think I really knew what I was getting. I expected to read some fluff that confirmed my known thoughts about how being outside was important to understanding and protecting wild places and living our best lives.

And this book was sort of about this. Bekoff focuses largely on rewilding our hearts to accept the natural world as it is. He argues against describing animals as having human characteristics and how we need to accept them with their wildness if we are going to actually find ways to coexist and cultivate compassion for wild animals.

Bekoff is a well respected, individual and was a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado Boulder. Rewilding Our Hearts was thought provoking and an interesting (and at 150 pages, a fairly quick) read. I will probably read it again at some point in the future to better digest Bekoff’s ideas but on this first round, I wasn’t terribly impressed.

On The Page: The Art Of Fermentation

I have a slew of books to plow through that I already owned but after reading Michael Pollan’s Cooked, I found myself really interested in fermentation. Maybe it’s me being a science geek but I just wanted to learn more! I started baking sourdough bread but I still wanted to know more so I could experiment. Finally, I caved and bought Sandor Ellix Katz’s The Art of Fermentation.

The Art of Fermentation

The Art of Fermentation isn’t a cookbook. Although it contains a ton of general guides to trying different types of ferments, it does not contain classic “recipes.” Instead, Katz organizes ferments into general categories and examines how they developed throughout the world. He is clear that there is no one specific way to make any ferment and encourages the home fermenter to experiment and find a taste profile that works for them. While The Art of Fermentation discusses purchased cultures, Katz is clearly a fan of wild fermentation (he also wrote a book called Wild Fermentation).

It might seem like a boring read but I read this cover to cover. The book begins with an exploration of why we might care about fermentation; this “why” of fermenting sets the tone for the entire book. Chapter 1 is entitled “Fermentation as a Coevolutionary Force” and discusses how our digestive tracts evolved along with bacterial communities inside us and in our foods. Chapter 2 discusses the benefits of fermentation to us. Historically, the primary benefit of fermentation was the preservation of food. In our modern world, refrigeration has largely removed this imperative however those interested in more self-reliant living paradigms (modern homesteaders, preppers, etc.) may be interested in fermentation for this reason. Fermentation also is believed to have health benefits. Although the science is still developming, Katz cites peer reviewed studies that point towards boosted immune response, increased nutrient bioavailability, detoxification, and maintenance of flora in the gut. Plus, as Katz points out, the results are pretty darn delicious. It is clear that Katz is a fermentation evangelist and is interested in the entire range of fermentation procedures practiced around the world.

In nearly each and every chapter I found something that I wanted to try making (or at least find someone who had made the live culture ferment to try). I read about wines, meads, cheeses, prosciutto, I read about grain fermentations we would never normally learn about in America, I read about the history of beer like beverages in Africa, and about sauerkraut. It was incredibly hard to not feel like I could make all of the things. (I mean, I can, but I have a full time job and I only need to be growing so many things in my food on top of having worms in my laundry room.) Katz makes fermentation sound so achievable for the average person that The Art of Fermentation is powerfully inspiring. He is also realistic about the number of fermentation projects any one person can handle and encourages home fermenters to barter for ferments made by others.

I am really impressed with The Art of Fermentation (and kind of bummed that I couldn’t make it to Denver last weekend to hear Katz speak at the Cultured Colorado Festival). I am excited to be sharing some of my experimentation inspired by the book over the next few months here on 3Up Adventures (and follow me on Twitter and Instagram for more real time updates). I really recommend this book to anyone but if you’re interested in the intersection between food and science this is for you. Or, if you’re interested in re-learning some fading food traditions that make us more self-sufficient, this book is for you. Or, if you’re looking for ways to make a wider variety of healthful foods, this book is for you.

On The Page: Cooked and Eating On The Wild Side

Quite awhile ago, I won a giveaway from Modern Steader and received multiple boxes of awesomeness. Last year was super busy and as much as I wanted to jump into everything all at once, I was facing some uncertainty about where I was living (which made planting stuff a little difficult), staying in a place without an oven (which makes baking bread not an option), and I was generally overwhelmed with everything happening around me.

This summer, I had a little bit of time to myself and was finally able to sit down and read a book! Or two!

Eating on the Wild Side

The first thing I picked up was Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson. This book is somehow simultaneously a breezy read and absolutely crammed with information. Robinson delves into the natural history of vegetables and fruits and relates how they changed when certain traits were selected for.

Each chapter deals with a subset of plants (apples, stone fruits, legumes, tomatoes, corn, etc.) and discusses the best choices in each area (generally dark colors are good … but not always) and how to best prepare the food so that its nutritional value is maximized (cook your carrots!). Conveniently, each chapter has a summary at the end because I know I’ll need to reference things as I try to shift some of my buying habits to healthier choices.

One of the things that found so awesome about this book was that the ideas for changing buying habits aren’t necessarily any more expensive or harder to prepare than the things that I’m already buying. This book was mostly just full of tools to make what I’m already doing (or know I should be doing) better and I really appreciated that.

bookcover

Generally pumped up about eating better after finishing Eating on the Wild Side, I moved on to Michael Pollan’s Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. I have read a couple of Pollan’s other books (The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto) and very much enjoyed them. In fact, In Defense of Food contains my favorite line about food ever: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

Cooked was more classic Pollan awesomeness. In each of four sections, he examines a way of transforming food through cooking. The first section examines transformation with fire by exploring the barbecue traditions of the south. I really struggled to get through this section mostly because I was laying in the back of the Jeep after eating a bagel for dinner and I just wanted a good barbecue sandwich. The second section, transformation with water, looked at cooking and mostly at “pot cooking.” Pollan sings the praises of learning how to braise and I’m excited to give it another shot this fall.

Transformation with air focused on bread baking. Pollan, with trademark thoroughness, starts with baking with white flour and a sourdough culture but continues on to exploring a variety of whole wheat flour options and the challenges they present for a baker. (My Modern Steader prize package included a copy of Bread Alone and some bread baking goodies so I’m excited to jump in this fall.)

The final section was on fermentation (transformation by “soil”). It was obvious that Pollan was particularly invested in this transformation and explored cheese making, pickling, mead making, and beer making. I definitely identified with some of the arguments that are made about how our sterilization obsession has decreased our bodies access to good microbes. Cheese and beer are some of my favorite things to eat and in the last few years, have discovered pickled vegetables beyond cucumbers and would really like to experiment with that more.

In conclusion, there was a ton of history and science wrapped up in this book. I absolutely loved it and the reading went really fast once I got over the fact that I wasn’t eating all the deliciousness I was learning about on the pages. This is somethings worth reading for anyone: I’m not much of a chef myself but we all eat and my enjoyment of things is pretty much universally enhanced by knowing more about it.