While I know we’re in for a bunch more rain soon (and, my pessimistic side says, probably a freak snow storm or something), at this moment it’s gorgeous and I’m about ready to shake off the winter cobwebs and go outside and play. Here’s my list of favourite outdoorsy books, which will keep me inspired when it inevitably starts to rain again.
Off the Beaten Path, by Norman D. Watt
This book was my intro to hiking on the North Shore, and it has a great mix of hikes – from the very basic to the advanced. Each hike includes useful summaries of the time estimates, elevation gain, recommended seasons, and dog-friendliness, and its hike descriptions have just the right level of detail. It’s now in its second edition, with updates on trail-heads (always appreciated!), signage, and winter use.
Knack Guide: Hiking & Backpacking, by Buck Tilton
The “Knack: Make it Easy” series are from Falcon Guides, and I love them – they’re a wonderful balance of approachable and concise, yet thorough and detailed. This one provides a great introduction to all the skills, gear, and know-how you need to start your hiking and backpacking career.
Roadie: the misunderstood world of a bike racer, by Jamie Smith
While I’ve been cycling for transportation most of my life, I’ve only recently really gotten in to road cycling. The drop-bars, skinny little tires, and shifters were mystifying at first, and to make matters worse I decided to start out on an older bike with down-tube shifters, so the whole setup was totally terrifying to me. It’s really a wonder I’m still doing it. Anyway… while the whole bike set-up was strange and new, but even stranger and newer was the whole road bike and road racing culture. This is a great (and really funny) exploration of it – everything from gear and nutrition, all the way to cycling teams and leg shaving.
For a more thorough (and even funnier) exploration of the world of cycling, check out “Bike Snob”. My favourite sections: “The various subsets of cyclists” (each of which includes why the other subsets don’t like them), “Why is everybody trying to kill me?”, “How not to crash,” and “Pain, Nature’s Cruel Instructor.” It of course has lots of useful stuff too, like locking your bike properly, dealing with flats, and bike fit.
A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson
Now a classic, no outdoorsy-book list is complete without this one. Bill Bryson’s attempt to do the Appalachian trail makes for an engrossing and hilarious tale on its own, but the people he travels with and meets along the way really make the story. Skip the movie – it glosses over some of the best parts – and read the book instead!
In Walk in the Woods fashion, journalist and self-described “overweight, stay-at-home dad” Mark Obmascik decides he’s going to climb all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-footers in less than a year. Like Bryson, Obmascik is ordered by his wife not to do it alone, and so begins another amusing tale of friendship, danger, and adventure, featuring another cast of colourful characters and even some father-son bonding. If you liked A Walk in the Woods, definitely give this one a shot.
Another glutton for punishment author on this list, Tim Moore decides he’s going to ride the most brutal of cycling tours – the 1914 Giro d’Italia – on it’s 100th anniversary. On a period-specific, wooden-wheeled bike that he salvaged and put together himself. Despite not really having been on a bike in more than a decade. This travelogue is full of adventure and hilarity, pain and misery, period clothing and Chianti.
The Wild In You, by Lorna Crozier & Ian McCallister
If you’re looking for some inspiration of the more traditional sort (my tastes admittedly run towards the… less serious), The Wild in You is a beautiful collaboration of photography and poetry, all on the creatures and landscapes of the forest and ocean. Gorgeous, meditative, and wholly inspiring.
I know us book-junkies are not exactly known for our outdoorsiness, but I think a book is a perfect reward for making it to your adventure destination. That’s what ebooks on your phone are for, right?