Tag Archive 'wilderness travel'

Aug 16 2020

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Backcountry Excursions Reprinted

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In 1990, I published a slender, olive green paperback called Tracks across the Forest Floor. It was my first attempt to write a nonfiction narrative about one of my ventures into the woods. Tracks went out of print a long time ago, but I included it in a set of six hiking narratives called Backcountry Excursions, released in 2005. That book has been nearly out of print for several years now. Well, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Tracks, I have reprinted Backcountry with a new cover and preface. And a few fixed typos to boot.

Three of the narratives in this collection appear in other collections of mine, namely Loon Wisdom and The Great Wild Silence. Tracks and the remaining two can be found nowhere else. Just as important as Tracks, I think, is the 25-page narrative about a trip into northern Maine that I took in ’96 with my buddy Charlie, following Thoreau to Mt. Katahdin by water and land. We used a two-man sea kayak instead of a bateau and ended up hiking a different path up the mountain, but it was great fun all the same. And it gave me a reason to recount one of Thoreau’s excursions into the Maine Woods.

The real reason for reprinting this book is simply to keep it in print. Backcountry Excursions is now available at Amazon.com as well as the Wood Thrush Books website. Most of my readers are already familiar with this book, but now it’s out there for everyone to see how I got started, and what kind of critter I really am.

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Jan 10 2016

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New WTB Website

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Wood-ThrushThe renovated Wood Thrush Books website, featuring used books on a variety of nature-related subjects, is now up and running!

Many of you have been hearing about this undertaking for months. With Judy’s help, I’ve finally turned a quasi-professional site into a bona fide online bookstore.

To be honest, Judy did all the heavy lifting. She reconfigured the site so that browsing it is easy and making a purchase is even easier. All I did was upload a bunch of cover photos and book blurbs, which has been more time consuming than difficult.

There are over 150 books at the site now, between used books and those published by WTB, and more on the way. Shipping is included, making these books quite affordable. The inventory system lets you know when a book is out-of-stock, and a third party securely handles credit cards. We can even do returns.

I am quite pleased to provide a place where readers can browse good books about the natural world, from classic and contemporary nature writing, to ecology, natural history, wilderness travel, wildlife, and even astronomy. So check it out: WoodThrushBooks.com



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Jan 28 2015

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Maine Hiking Narrative

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UT coverFinally the Maine hiking narrative has reached print. A lot of readers have been waiting for it, I realize. I’ve been busy promoting my Adirondack book during the past year and a half so I’m just now getting around to publishing this. At any rate, The Unexpected Trail is now available both as a paperback and a Kindle download at Amazon.com. Those of you would like to purchase it directly from me can go to woodthrushbooks.com. I’ll have copies in-house and ready to ship in a week or so.

The Unexpected Trail is a detailed account of my trek through the 100 Mile Wilderness, located in northern Maine. It’s the most remote section of the entire Appalachian Trail, where supplies cannot be acquired. That means anyone hiking it has to carry provisions enough for ten days, at least.

Fording rivers, traversing two mountain ranges, and slogging through bogs – yeah, it was a tough hike to be sure. But Maine’s sprawling North Woods is lush, wild and beautiful.  Most of its backcountry lakes and ponds are pristine. Well worth the effort, even for a chubby, old woods wanderer like me.

Matika, my longhaired German shepherd, accompanied me on this trek. She carried a few things in her doggie backpack and provided lots of comic relief along the way. I was worried about her ability to navigate the toughest sections of trail, but she stayed out of trouble for the most part.

This narrative is similar to previous ones that I’ve written yet it has its own distinctive flavor. I’ve done my best to capture the unique character of the Maine Woods – it’s history and ongoing land-use fight as well as its flora and fauna. I hope you enjoy reading it.



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Feb 23 2014

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Deep Woods Talk

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Trail into WCLW copyOn Saturday, March 8th, I’ll be talking about the Northville/Placid Trail to my fellow Green Mountain Club members. I’m excited by the prospect. This will be my first time presenting to the GMC, and my first time using visuals.  Judy has helped me put together a slide show. If you live anywhere near the GMC Visitor Center in Waterbury Center, VT then come on down. $5 fee for members. $8 for non-members. The event starts at 7 pm.

If you miss that show, I’ll be at Stowe Library at 7 pm on Thursday, March 27th, doing something similar, reading from my NPT hiking narrative, The Allure of Deep Woods, and talking about the importance of wildness. As many of you know all too well, talking comes naturally to me.

While I’d rather be on the trail winding through the Adirondacks, talking about it with like-minded others is the next best thing. Like many Vermonters, I sometimes forego the lush, green mountains close to home for the sprawling forests on the other side of Lake Champlain. It’s a good thing to share.

When it comes to Adirondack wildness, the Northville/Placid Trail is the way to go. There are lots of people in the High Peaks region, especially during the summer. But it isn’t difficult to experience wilderness solitude on the NPT. That’s why I don’t mind talking about it. The NPT is the less-traveled path.


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May 31 2013

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Adirondack Book Now in Print

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ADWcoverMy narrative about hiking the Northville/Placid Trail, The Allure of Deep Woods, is now in print. I couldn’t be happier. The folks at North Country Books did a fine job with it.

The NPT passes through some of the most beautiful country in upstate New York’s Adirondack Park, traversing one wild forest and four wilderness areas. I was wet and muddy during most of that two-week trip but didn’t care. Just thinking about it makes me want to plan another big outing. What’s wrong with me?

As most of you know, I can’t walk a mile without making an observation about the natural world, commenting on the importance of wildness, or breaking into some historical rant. This book is chock full of it. I didn’t hold back.

You can order a copy by calling North Country Books at (315) 735-4877, or going to my website: woodthrushbooks.com. Enjoy!


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Apr 03 2013

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Adirondack Book in the Works

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ADWcoverMy narrative about thru-hiking the Adirondacks, The Allure of Deep Woods, is close to reaching print. I have been working hard on it with Zach Steffen at North Country Books during the past month. The manuscript has gone through its final edit, the interior layout is complete now, and the cover has been designed. This book will be released in six weeks or so.  I can’t wait to share it with you.

The production process forced me to read ADW from beginning to end for the first time in years. I forgot how deeply it delves into the idea of wilderness and its importance to our overall well being. I also forgot how wet and muddy I got on that trek, and how enjoyable it was regardless. I think that my attention to detail in this narrative will make reading it enjoyable for you as well. As always, I’ve taken a you-are-there approach to writing about my backcountry experience.

The Northville/Placid Trail is not heavily traveled in the cool days of early September. That made my passage through those sprawling wilderness areas and wild forests even more solitary than anticipated. As a result this book oozes wildness. If it does what it’s intended to do, the wild will also stir deep within the reader. I look forward to this reaction.



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Jan 07 2013

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Coming Soon

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At long last, a hiking narrative to rival my Long Trail book has gone into production. The folks at North Country Books have assured me that my Adirondack tale, The Allure of Deep Woods, will be released this spring. I couldn’t be more excited about the prospect.

Back in 2006, I hiked the Northville/Placid Trail, which meanders for one hundred and thirty miles through five wild forests and sprawling wilderness areas, from the southwestern quarter of the Adirondack Mountains to Lake Placid. It was a good trip despite all the rain, giving me a taste of deep woods in early autumn.

In addition to being a detailed account of my encounters along the trail, this book outlines the history of the Adirondacks. It also recounts the early days of the wilderness preservation movement, since the origins of that movement can be traced to this part of the country. And there is plenty of talk about the importance of wildness, as well.  Yeah, this book covers a lot of ground.  I look forward to sharing it with all of you very soon.


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Jul 19 2012

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Return to West Canada Lakes

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Once again I loaded up my backpack and went to the West Canada Lakes Wilderness – my favorite part of the Adirondacks. This time I accessed it from the Moose River Recreation Area. A twenty-mile dirt road put me deep in the woods, to the desired trailhead. From there it was a relatively easy hike to Brooktrout Lake.

I had only three days so I made the most of it. I set up camp beneath some conifers along the edge of the lake then did a lot of nothing. It was just what the doctor ordered.

My dog Matika was with me, of course. She was bitten up badly by deer flies and mosquitoes, and overheated in the heat of high summer, but she enjoyed being there anyway. Matika loves the woods almost as much as I do.

On the second day, we walked over to West Lake – a place I had stayed for two nights while hiking the Northville/Placid Trail back in 2006. It felt strange being there, seeing the lake from the opposite shore, but it was good to connect the dots. Having taken four trips into the WCLW over the past decade, I’m really getting to know this sprawling roadless area. It has become my home away from home. I feel more spiritually connected to the wild here than anywhere else.

Yessir, a lot of nothing. After the short walk to West Lake, I returned to camp and hung out. A dip in Brooktrout Lake washed away the sweat. It cooled me down in more ways than one. After that it was easy to sit for most of the afternoon just ruminating and daydreaming. A raven, a pair of loons, and my dog kept me company.

The hike out the third day was predictably sweaty and buggy. I thoroughly enjoyed it anyway. And my mind was a clean slate by the time I reached the car. Wilderness solitude is good for that. “What’s the big deal about being out here?” I ask myself at least once during every deep woods excursion. The answer is nothing, absolutely nothing.


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Oct 14 2009

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Trail Pounding

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Modern living is complex, frustrating, and stressful.  The trail is something else.  So every once in a while, I fill my pack with a few essentials and head for the hills.  I go for a couple weeks, a couple days, or a few hours – whatever I can arrange.  Breaking away is the hard part.  Once I manage that, I’m home free.

It’s not as much escape as it is an act of simplification.  I step into the woods and life makes more sense almost immediately.  The daily routine here in the developed lowlands is full of noise, but silence reigns in the forest – a profound quiet in which I can hear myself think.  Some people go to great lengths to center themselves.  They sit in lotus positions for hours on end.  They pray, meditate, or simply clear their heads.  I just step into the woods.  Wild nature does the rest.

Woods wandering at its best is aimless.  Trail pounding, on the other hand, usually involves some kind of goal.  I prefer the former but resort to the latter on occasion.  Sometimes I hike hard for days, clock miles and go somewhere just for the sweaty pleasure of it.  Most hikers can relate to this.  The leap from modern living to trail pounding isn’t a great one.

Most hikers pound the trail for a few hours at a time.  Some do it for a few days, or as long as they can push their bodies full throttle.  Hiking longer than that requires a different mindset.  Given enough time, trail pounding can become a way of life – no longer just a means to an end.  Then the line between trail pounding and woods wandering begins to blur.

Coming back to the developed lowlands after twelve days of trail pounding, I swore I’d never hike that hard again.  I told anyone who’d listen that I’m getting too old for this, that long-distance hiking isn’t my thing any more.  And I believed it.  But now, a month and a half later, I’m feeling physically better and mentally worse, and trail pounding is starting to look good to me again.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely understand it, but the wild has a way of righting what’s wrong deep within.  Aching muscles and sore joints seem a small price to pay for that.  There are times when pounding the trail seems an utterly senseless undertaking – usually when I’m calf-deep in mud, badly bug-bitten, and bone tired.  But I keep going back to it, month after month, year after year.  As long as the profound quiet keeps working its magic on me, I’ll keep my hiking stick close at hand.

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Sep 11 2009

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Wilderness Dog

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Judy and I now call our dog, Matika, the 100 Mile Wilderness Dog.  Not only did she accompany me on that trek but she carried her own pack most of the way.  She carried about 6-8 pounds in a two-pouch dog pack that vaguely resembles a saddlebag.  That was roughly half of the extra weight that her companionship cost me.  Despite all my complaints about being overloaded on my trek, the few extra pounds I carried on her behalf were well worth the trouble.

Not all dogs are suited for long-distance, backcountry travel.  Small dogs can’t make the trip for obvious reasons.  Really hairy dogs are too easily overheated.  Others simply aren’t strong enough or nimble enough on their feet to do it.  Matika passed the trail’s tests with flying colors.  Most of the time, she was 20 yards ahead of me and rarin’ to go.  “Wait, Tika, wait!” became a common refrain during the course of the day.  Whenever she heard it, she would stop, turn around and wait until I gave her the release command.  Usually she was higher up an ascending trail than me and all smiles.  Sometimes that irritated me to no end.

Most dogs aren’t disciplined enough to travel the trail.  Matika has learned over past the 3 years, since Judy and I rescued her from an animal shelter, that commands are not negotiable.  She’s no robot, but she minds me most of the time.  When she and I approach other hikers and I shout: “Back,” she knows to get behind me.  When I say “Sit” or “Stay,” she does what she’s told.  Her obedience is absolutely essential whenever we’re in the wild.  Someday it could be the difference between life and death.

Early in the trip, Matika fell 8 feet off a boulder, while negotiating a particularly tricky section of trail.  Fortunately, she landed on her feet in soft forest duff so she wasn’t injured.  After that, she was much more wary of tight spots in the rocks, exposed cliffs, rotten boardwalk, stream crossings, and any object in the trail that she couldn’t see over.  She would stop and wait for me to lead the way.  I wouldn’t even have to give her a command.  Good dog!  We got into a rhythm after a while and were able to tackle anything that came along.  I carried her pack whenever we forded a deep stream or navigated steep uphill and downhill sections.  I picked her up and lifted her over fallen trees and big rocks whenever it was too much for her to handle.  She learned to trust me implicitly.

Chasing chipmunks was the only thing she did that pissed me off on a regular basis.  At first I let it go, thinking she’d never catch them anyway.  Then it occurred to me that she might hurt her feet while bounding recklessly after them through the cluttered woods.  That’s when I invented a new command:  “No chipmunks!”  I barked it whenever her ears perked up at the tempting chatter of those little critters.  The command didn’t quite take.  We’ll have to work on that one.  Yeah, that means Matika will be accompanying me on all future treks.  She’s obedient for the most part, strong, agile and has her trail legs now.  And I thoroughly enjoy her company.  Animals make the best trail companions, I think.  They’re more in tune with their surroundings than most humans, take to the wild faster, and don’t talk all the time.  What else could a woods wanderer ask for?  A little less chipmunk obsession, that’s all.

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