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Wild Tales & Trails

Readers' Cafe

Campfire Stories
The darkest places  unsolved mysteries, true crimes, and harrowing disasters in the wild
Death in Rocky Mountain National Park
Dumb Luck and the Kindness of Strangers
Eating Aliens One Man's Adventures Hunting Invasive Animal Species
Fire Season
Halfway to Heaven
Out there  the wildest stories from Outside magazine
Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears 100 Years of The National Park Service
Ranger Confidential Living, Working, And Dying In The National Parks
Taken By Bear in Glacier National Park Harrowing Encounters between Grizzlies and Humans
Trail Mix Wit & Wisdom from the Outdoors
Trespassing Across America One Man's Epic, Never-Done-Before
The Wilderness Idiot Lessons from an Accidental Adventurer
You're Not Lost if You Can Still See the Truck The Further Adventures of America's Everyman Outdoorsman
Campfire Stories / Dave Kyu

Our national parks are beautiful and unique places, often serving as an introduction to the outdoors and inspiring an appreciation for nature and wilderness. Similarly, stories and storytelling can serve as an introduction to other places and foster a powerful emotional connection to nature. Campfire Stories brings together tales about our national parks; some are by well-known writers such as John Muir, Bill Bryson, and Terry Tempest Williams, while others are from pioneer diaries or have been passed down through generations of indigenous peoples.

Co-editors Dave and Ilyssa Kyu spent five months traveling and researching the stories in the book. They gathered each of these stories from public libraries, historical societies, arts and cultural organizations, museums, research centers, and national park archives.

The darkest places : unsolved mysteries, true crimes, and harrowing disasters in the wild

Longtime readers have come to understand that Outside's true gift is in chronicling misadventure. The Darkest Places chronicles mysterious disappearances, unsolved murders, and deadly disasters, taking us to far-flung places no sane person would want to go.


Death in Rocky Mountain National Park / Randi Minetor

Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park welcomes more than 4 million visitors every year, but this jewel of America's parks has seen more than its fair share of deaths among its tourists. More than 70 people have perished attempting to climb Longs Peak, the park's tallest mountain - some of whom vanished into the wilderness, never to be found. Thousand-foot falls from high rock ledges, hypothermia, avalanches that bury climbers, lightning strikes, a historic flood, and even plane crashes are among the ways that park visitors have met a bad end. Author Randi Minetor also provides tips for staying alive and safe in the Rocky Mountains.

Dumb Luck and the Kindness of Strangers / John Gierach

In Dumb Luck and the Kindness of Strangers, Gierach looks back to the long-ago day when he bought his first resident fishing license in Colorado, where the fishing season never ends, and just knew he was in the right place. And he succinctly sums up part of the appeal of his sport when he writes that it is ?an acquired taste that reintroduces the chaos of uncertainty back into our well-regulated lives.?

Lifelong fisherman though he is, Gierach can write with self-deprecating humor about his own fishing misadventures, confessing that despite all his experience, he is still capable of blowing a strike by a fish ?in the usual amateur way.? The ?voice of the common angler? (The Wall Street Journal), he offers witty, trenchant observations not just about fly-fishing itself but also about how one?s love of fly-fishing shapes the world that we choose to make for ourselves.

Eating Aliens: One Man's Adventures Hunting Invasive Animal Species / Jackson Landers

North America is under attack by a wide range of invasive animals. Black spiny-tailed iguanas in Florida, Asian carp in Missouri and Virginia, nutria in Louisiana, European green crabs in Connecticut, and other alien species throughout the United States are devouring our native plants and animals, pushing many to the brink of extinction. Jackson Landers has a unique solution to the problem: Eat them! This adventure narrative describes Landers?s quest to hunt twelve invasive animal species and turn them into delicious meals, showing how anyone can feed a family while enjoying the thrill of the hunt and helping to protect and conserve the natural environment.

Fire Season / Philip Connors

Fire Season is Connors's remarkable reflection on work, our place in the wild, and the charms of solitude. The landscape over which he keeps watch is rugged and roadless and?it was the first region in the world to be officially placed off limits to industrial machines. It typically gets hit by lightning more than 30,000 times per year. Connors recounts his days and nights in this forbidding land, untethered from the comforts of modern life: the eerie pleasure of being alone in his glass-walled perch with only his dog Alice for company; occasional visits from smokejumpers and long-distance hikers; the strange dance of communion and wariness with bears, elk, and other wild creatures; trips to visit the hidden graves of buffalo soldiers slain during the Apache wars of the nineteenth century; and always the majesty and might of lightning storms and untamed fire.

Halfway to Heaven / Mark Obmascik

Fat, forty-four, father of three sons, and facing a vasectomy, Mark Obmascik would never have guessed that his next move would be up a 14,000-foot mountain. But when his twelve-year-old son gets bitten by the climbing bug at summer camp, Obmascik can't resist the opportunity for some high-altitude father-son bonding by hiking a peak together. After their first joint climb, addled by the thin air, Obmascik decides to keep his head in the clouds and try scaling all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot mountains, known as the Fourteeners -- and to do them in less than one year. The result is Halfway to Heaven, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Obmascik's rollicking, witty, sometimes harrowing, often poignant chronicle of an outrageous midlife adventure that is no walk in the park, although sometimes it's A Walk in the Woods -- but with more sweat and less oxygen.

Kerplunk! / Patrick F. McManus

With Kerplunk Patrick McManus delivers a collection of folksy wonderfully wise depictions of country life worthy of Mark Twain. In these tall tales McManus and his buddies learn how not to net a fish, why you should never get your hair cut by someone who's mad at you, what to do when a deer wanders into camp but your sleeping bag has frozen shut and how to avoid bird-dog flatulence.

These wry curmudgeonly tales appeal to real outdoorsmen and the armchair variety alike. Often nostalgic, occasionally philosophical and always funny the stories in Kerplunk reaffirm it's time to discover (or rediscover) McManus.

Out there : the wildest stories from Outside magazine

Longtime readers have come to understand that Outside's true gift is in chronicling misadventure. That's the common thread among the stories found in Out There - those memorable tales that begin with the promise that, even if no one's life is necessarily hanging in the balance, something may go horribly awry at any moment, and that documenting this misfortune will inevitably yield rich comedic material or a surprisingly poignant moment. Or sometimes both. Out There chronicles fringe athletes, fitness freaks, and others obsessed by ill-advised dreams. It takes us to far-flung places no sane person would want to go.

What ties this collection together are the incredible voices of legendary Outside contributors such as David Quammen, Tim Cahill, Susan Orlean, Wells Tower, Christopher Solomon, Patrick Symmes, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Nick Paumgarten, and many others, who turn their subjects into literary gold and have helped to keep Outside in business for more than forty years.

Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of The National Park Service / Heather Hansen

Most people who have stood beneath a redwood, necks craned to see its top 300 feet rising far above; or who have heard ghostly whispers of residents long-past among the burnt-red cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde; or who have climbed the stairs to gaze out from the Statue of Liberty's crown, would agree that our National Park system is a source of pride and wonder.

But 100 years ago, creating a bureau to administer America's vast and diverse parks was a concept requiring great debate and persuasion. Those who argued vigorously for its creation, believing in conservation but appealing to patriotism and economic sense, understood that if Americans were to be enticed to spend their tourist dollars at home (and if Congress was to devote resources to protecting instead of exploiting our natural resources) then the parks would have to open their arms to all Americans.

Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, And Dying In The National Parks / Andrea Lankford

For twelve years, Andrea Lankford lived in the biggest, most impressive national parks in the world, working a job she loved. She chaperoned baby sea turtles on their journey to sea. She pursued bad guys on her galloping patrol horse. She jumped into rescue helicopters bound for the heart of the Grand Canyon. She won arguments with bears. She slept with a few too many rattlesnakes. Hell yeah, it was the best job in the world! Fortunately, Andrea survived it. In this graphic and yet surprisingly funny account of her and others' extraordinary careers, Lankford unveils a world in which park rangers struggle to maintain their idealism in the face of death, disillusionment, and the loss of a comrade killed while holding that thin green line between protecting the park from the people, the people from the park, and the people from each other.

Taken By Bear in Glacier National Park: Harrowing Encounters between Grizzlies and Humans / Kathleen Snow

The first-person accounts in Taken by Bear in Glacier National Park provide a you-are-there perspective on human and grizzly bear encounters since the park's founding in 1910. Most of these encounters have ended peacefully, but many have not. In order to most accurately tell the stories of those involved in the more deadly incidents, Kathleen Snow went directly to the source: the National Park Service archives. With help from personnel at park headquarters, Snow has collected more than 100 years' worth of harrowing true stories that read like crime scene investigations and provide hard-learned lessons in outdoor safety.?

Trail Mix: Wit & Wisdom from the Outdoors / Corinne Gaffner Garcia

Trail Mix: Wit & Wisdom from the Outdoors is a collection of quotes, poetry, and passages from classic books that provide outdoor inspiration to those in the woods, on the mountain, beside the water, or at home. Featured throughout the book is a pantheon of outdoor lovers, nature writers, and environmental conservationists, including John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, John Wesley Powell, George Perkins Marsh, and many more whose love and respect for the outdoors remains a model for today.

Trespassing Across America: One Man's Epic, Never-Done-Before / Ken Ilgunas

It started as a far-fetched idea - to hike the entire length of the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline. But in the months that followed, it grew into something more for Ken Ilgunas. It became an irresistible adventure - an opportunity not only to draw attention to global warming but also to explore his personal limits. So in September 2012, he strapped on his backpack, stuck out his thumb on the interstate just north of Denver, and hitchhiked 1,500 miles to the Alberta tar sands. Once there, he turned around and began his 1,700-mile trek to the XL's endpoint on the Gulf Coast of Texas, a journey he would complete entirely on foot, walking almost exclusively across private property.

Both a travel memoir and a reflection on climate change, Trespassing Across America is filled with colorful characters, harrowing physical trials, and strange encounters with the weather, terrain, and animals of America's plains. A tribute to the Great Plains and the people who live there, Ilgunas's memoir grapples with difficult questions about our place in the world: What is our personal responsibility as stewards of the land? As members of a rapidly warming planet? As mere individuals up against something as powerful as the fossil fuel industry? Ultimately, Trespassing Across America is a call to embrace the belief that a life lived not half wild is a life only half lived.

The Wilderness Idiot: Lessons from an Accidental Adventurer / Ted Alvarez

The path to an adventurous life seems straightforward: Crush at an outdoor sport; amass a legion of followers who drool at your hero shots on Instagram; host TED talks exhorting people to live their best life, brah. But there is another way: the way of the Wilderness Idiot. Author Ted Alvarez built a career and an outdoor lifestyle by simply not being smart enough to say no to things that will probably kill him, or at least embarrass him severely. From nearly drowning in pro kayak races to hallucinating on solo trips across bear-and-bug-infested wildernesses, his work exists to show that the outsider Everywoman and -man can have the spotlight.

In a series of hilarious and insightful essays, Alvarez shows that you don't need to shred sick lines to find adventure - you just have to embrace the blank spots beyond your comfort zone.

You're Not Lost if You Can Still See the Truck: The Further Adventures of America's Everyman Outdoorsman / Bill Heavey

In this far-ranging read, Heavey's adventures include nearly freezing to death in Eastern Alaska, hunting ants in the urban jungles of the Washington, D. C. metropolitan area, and reconnecting to cherished memories of his grandfather through an inherited gun collection. With Heavey's trademark witty candor, You're Not Lost if You Can Still See the Truck traces a life lived outdoors through the good, the bad, and the downright hilarious. The author is a frequent contributor to Field & Stream magazine.

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