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.

On The Page: Beyond The Hundredth Meridian

Almost a year and a half ago, I was helping a friend in Ridgway clean out some old buildings he’d purchased and there were stacks of books. Most were romance novels and old stuff but some were things that had been on my “to read” list for a long time: Wilderness And The American Mind, A People’s History of The United Statesand Beyond The Hundredth Meridian.

Since most of my traveling is in the American Southwest and the mountain states, I’ve been meaning to read Beyond The Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the American West by Wallace Stegner for a really long time. (In fact, I hadn’t read any Stegner at all and that was also starting to feel a little bit wrong.) When I headed to Mexico over Spring Break, this is the book I tossed into my pack. The paperback was a little bit beat up which made it a perfect choice for backpacking—it proved to be even better when my hiking partner forgot a book and we took a knife to the spine to split it into shared reading. The photo below is from a first edition, not of my paperback but it was prettier.

Beyond The Hundredth Meridian

I’ve been putting off writing a review for a long time because there isn’t a whole lot to say beyond read this bookBeyond the Hundredth Meridian is about more than exploring the West and delves into how Powell became a driver of government funded science, an admirable bureaucrat, and most importantly, a man of vision about the future of the West in the face of increasing water pressures.

In addition to the fascinating information, I fell in love with Stegner’s writing. I was not only absorbing facts and dates about Powell’s impact on exploration, geology, the USGS topographical map project, grazing policy, the attempts to master plan dams and reservoirs, and more but I was honestly entertained. I wanted to just keep reading—and honestly, I’m buying another non-destroyed copy to read again.

There may be a million books out there to read but this one is something that shouldn’t be skipped. It’s a classic for good reason, toss it in your bag for your next great Western road trip!

Book Review: Almost Somewhere

This Christmas, my mom killed it on picking out awesome books for me. One of the books she picked out, Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail, I’d never heard of before. I’ve read a lot of trail stories and sometimes they’re great and sometimes they’re almost annoying (Wild, ahem…) so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this book.

Almost Somewhere

It didn’t take long for me to become invested in Suzanne, Erika, and Dionne. The John Muir Trail was a serious undertaking and they were a little inexperienced but since it was a shorter trail than the Pacific Crest Trail and they didn’t seem as clueless as Cheryl Strayed I was much more open to liking them. Suzanne did great job of illustrating her personal struggles and triumphs on the trail. Some of her observations really hit home. This quote, specifically, really made me feel like she understood why it is that I go hiking:

The severe cliffs and the granite domes made me feel small. We think we are so important, our problems so large, but then a place like this renders us small, our problems nothing more than the echo of birdsong in wind, maybe not even so much as that. Against the immensity of the granite domes I felt a humbling, a sense of being little on a large planet, a tiny part of a larger universe, a speck of dust in the cosmos, a billionth of a second in the time frame of the world. Connected. I realized that if I ever felt smaller than someone else, I could just compare us both to a galaxy or a star or even one of Yosemite’s giant granite domes.

Ultimately, though, it was the examination of the complexities of female friendships that made this a unique trail story. Dionne seemed to come to the trail struggling with an eating disorder and Erika seemed brash and unable to relate to the struggles both Suzanne and Dionne had along the way. Ultimately, however, the women worked together to achieve their goals, mostly accepting each other the way they were.

I read this book in just a day over Christmas Break. It grabbed me and I couldn’t wait to finish it. If you enjoy travelogues, I think this is a great read! It was the 2012 National Outdoor Book Award winner in Outdoor Literature so I wasn’t alone in really enjoying it.

Check out the book trailer. It does a great job of introducing the story:

On The Page: Shop Class As Soulcraft

Although my dad was involved in the construction industry the whole time I was growing up and built me a desk and assorted bookshelves, the expectation of me was that I would go to school and obtain white collar work. Shortly after I met F, I read this New York Times Magazine article about skilled labor by Matthew B. Crawford. Since I had just met a free spirited motorcycle mechanic, my interest was primed for some musings from a Ph.D. philosopher turned mechanic on finding fulfillment in your work. Somehow I didn’t get around to reading his full book Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work until just last month.

Shop Class as Soulcraft

This is really a book that you need to read if you’re interested in how the dynamics at intersection of work and fulfillment play out. Crawford’s background as a philosopher definitely shows in the dense, intellectual analysis. Crawford says, “This book grows out of an attempt to understand the greater sense of agency and competence I have always felt doing manual work, compared to other jobs that were officially recognized as ‘knowledge work.’ Perhaps most surprisingly, I find manual work more engaging mentally.” I totally connected with him there: sometimes making something or physically doing something can be more fulfilling to me than generating an knowledge “product.”

Crawford places great emphasis on the craft of manual work. He discusses at length the importance of a mechanic or craftsman obtaining an understanding of their work through years of working at it rather than relying on computer diagnostics or “how tos”:

“To repeat, when Bob looks at a part and judges it to have ten thousand miles on it, he is relying on a tacit integration of sensual knowledge, unconsciously referring what he sees to patterns built up in his mind through long experience. With computerized diagnostics, what is happening is rather an explicit integration of information, but this explicit integration is happening at the level of a knowledge system that is social in character. The results of this explicit integration are communicated to the mechanic by the service manual, written by people who have no personal knowledge of the motorcycle.”

To this end, Crawford mentions the past utility of apprenticeships as ways to learn a trade rather than through classroom education. In an apprentice-master relationship, the apprentice is able to learn the patterns and thought processes of the master rather than just accumulating facts and figures.

I really enjoyed Crawford’s views on the value of connecting with things and having an objective way to judge the value of work (does the motorcycle run?) as well as his understanding of how work can contribulte to living the “good life”:

“My point, finally, isn’t to recommend motorcycling in particular, nor to idealize the life of a mechanic. It is rather to suggest that if we follow the traces of our own actions to their source, they intimate some understanding of the good life. This understanding may be hard to articulate; bringing it more fully into view is the task of moral inquiry. Such inquiry may be helped along by practical activities in company with others, a sort of conversation in deed. In this conversation lies the potential of work to bring some measure of coherence to our lives.”

While not “light” reading I completely recommend Shop Class As Soul Craft for anyone interested in why we do the work we do, what work makes us happy, and how we connect with our material goods.

How do you feel about a connection with objective work? Have you read Shop Class as Soulcraft? What did you think?

On The Page: House of Rain

I’ve always struggled with coming to an understanding of Four Corners archaeology. Although I really enjoyed the Edge of the Cedars Museum in Blanding and visiting Mesa Verde, I’ve never been able to read something in a discplined enough fashion to understand how Chaco, Aztec Ruins, Cedar Mesa, Hovenweep, and Mesa Verde all hung together as cultures in the region.

House of Rain

When I downloaded House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest, Craig Childs’ writing transported me to a place where evidence of this vanished civilization was visible all across this high plateau landscape I’ve been wandering over the last couple of years. Childs focus on the Four Corners civilization was driven by his attachment to the Southwest. Aside from my intimate ties to the Pacific Northwest, I identified with his statement that “The impulse that commands me to go is balanced by another that commands me to stay, the two working together to send me into quick but returning orbits around certain places: the Mogollon Rim of Arizona, the low desert south of there, the high desert north, and the castle perimeter of the Rocky Mountains beyond. I am constantly in motion among these landscapes, yet my life rarely ranges any farther, tethered by history and experiences to the Southwest.”

I finally learned about how culture had developed in Chaco Canyon before spreading to Aztec Ruins, Solomon, and Mesa Verde. I learned how the Hopi, the Acoma, and the Zuni fit into the ancient Aztec history. I learned that the Navajo are completely unrelated to the Aztecs yet are responsible for the common name “Anazasi” meaning “enemy ancestor.”

Mesa Verde National Park

As he moved from Chaco, north to the San Juan River and again into the Canyonlands before drifting south to Kayenta and Black Mesa, I found myself drawn in to a deeper history of these places I am beginning to know. When the book continued further and further south to the Mogollon and even to Northern Mexico, it enriched my understanding of what it means to wander and embrace these places.

I completely recommend House of Rain as a great introduction to the history of people in the Southwest from the twelfth century to the early fifteenth century, especially for people who love to put their feet to the ground as they learn.

Butler Wash Ruins