Hiking: Real and Virtual

April felt like a very long month. I’m skeptical of my calendar saying it was only thirty days; I think an extra week or two might have been snuck in this year. As essential as it has been to stay home and stay indoors whenever possible, it has been a mental struggle for some (okay, at least for me). With the spring weather showing up my mind kept wandering to the outdoors and what hiking trails I’d like to explore before I remembered that outdoor recreation sites – like so many things – were closed to keep us safe.

Rejoice, though! Starting on May 5th the restrictions on some outdoor activities that can be done safely were relaxed, opening up state lands to hikers – with the expectation that those partaking in recreation activities follow safe social distancing procedures.

So why not check out some of the hiking ebooks we offer to get you ready for your next outdoor adventure?

One of the provisions in the new outdoor recreation guidelines is the request that those who wish to hike try to stay as close to their home area as possible to help reduce the risk of accidental spread of covid-19.

To help you with that, one great book is Take a Walk : 110 Walks within 30 Minutes of Seattle and the Greater Puget Sound. Sorted by city and full of information on nearby trails, parks and nature preserves, this guide has something for everyone who wants some ideas on where to take in some fresh air.

Another great series of trail guides are the Day Hike! books published by Sasquatch Publishing. Each title covers a specific region, such as the Olympic Peninsula, Columbia River Gorge, or probably the most relevant to readers of this blog, the North Cascades. Each hike listed can be done in a day, perfect for a quick getaway without needing to pack a tent (which is good, because camping is still prohibited).

For those seeking a more leisurely stroll instead of something more strenuous, The Creaky Knees Guide, Washington: the 100 Best Easy Hikes offers plentiful suggestions for trails suitable for all ages (including children) and athletic abilities.

Always be sure to check for the latest information before planning a trip to municipal, county, state or federal areas as restrictions may vary.

That said, maybe it’s just best to stay home, relax, and let someone else do the hiking. One of my favorite books is Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, his humorous memoir of trying to tackle America’s famed Appalachian Trail. Spanning over two thousand miles, there’s plenty of room for eccentric characters and beautiful landscapes, all brought to life by Bryson’s signature wit and keen observations. It’s an enjoyable read and you won’t even need to risk blistered feet, bug bites, or unexpected wildlife encounters to get a laugh.

We also offer a few outdoor related digital magazine titles as well. On Libby you can access issues of Backpacker Magazine, full of trail highlights from around the world, gear reviews, and other articles focusing on trail life, as well as Field & Stream magazine for content more focused on hunting, fishing and outdoorsmanship.

Grilled Salmon and DEET

Lisa with apple in front of mountains

Demonstrating advanced trail food preparation

When my husband and I moved here from Chicago, I thought that I was finally coming into my element. Mountains, ocean – all the things the Midwest couldn’t provide. We had mastered what the flatland could offer us in regards to camping, so we were ready to up our game. For those of you lucky enough to have been born and raised in this lovely region, you know that my attitude was like thinking I was ready to play in the MLB because I batted cleanup in t-ball. Thankfully my husband was more experienced in these matters, and managed to keep up safe, dry, happy, and entertained in the wild. He’s since joined the Mountaineers and has been scrambling on the tops of mountains, while I have contented myself with scrambling eggs at camp and taking photos of mountains from the relative safety of familiar flat land.

Needless to say, I have some learning to do. I think I’m finally over the hump of thinking I’m always on the verge of being eaten by bears. Seeing a bear retreat in horror from my loud approach last weekend helped me realize that they don’t want to deal with me either. Now I’m going through the enjoyable process of checking out the library’s resources on all things outdoors. I know this isn’t a shock, but there is a lot here to get through.

Scout's Backpacking Cookbook

Not surprisingly, my first foray into outdoor ed. was the cooking section. It looks like I may be able to salvage that ill-conceived food dehydrator purchase from the kitchen gadget bone-yard after all. There are a ton of books in this area, so I quickly eliminated anything to do with RV or car camping (we’ve got that down). My favorite was The Scout’s Backpacking Cookbook, by Tim and Christine Conners. This book was packed with useful information about equipment, cooking techniques, meal planning, safety, ‘Leave No Trace’ cooking and camping, and recipes. There were also wonderful appendices that provided measurement advice, additional reading, and helpful websites.

Other picks:

The Trailside Cookbook by Don Philpott

Camp Cooking in the Wild by Mark Scriver

Longstreet Highroad Guide to the Washington CascadesWith the food taken care of, choosing a destination was my next priority. When we camp, we choose our destination based on a few different things. Weather is the most obvious determining factor; last weekend we went over the mountains to find the sun. On other trips we’ve selected sites because they were off pleasant drives, or offered a selection of excellent hikes. The Mountaineers Books has a fantastic series of Day Hiking titles that cover different regions of Washington and Oregon. My favorite book that I found about exploring Washignton was the Longstreet Highroad Guide to the Washington Cascades, by Allan May. May created a guide to geography, history (human and natural), and recreation in the Washington Cascades, all wrapped into a very enjoyable read.

Note: Sometimes published info about campgrounds, trails, and roads can be outdated. To be certain that you can actually get to where you’d like to go, call ahead to the ranger station in the area you’re planning to visit to make sure that everything is open.

The Backpacker's ManualLast, and certainly not least, I looked into info on safety and preparation. This is perhaps the largest section of outdoor materials we have because there is much to be said on the topic. For a beginner’s overview to all things backpacking, The Smart Guide to Hiking and Backpacking is a good place to start. More advanced advice on trip planning, cooking equipment, and more can be found in The Backpacker’s Field Manual, by Rick Curtis. I found some really helpful illustrations and ‘how to’s’ in Basic Illustrated Wilderness First Aid, but I strongly recommend attending some courses on the topic if you are serious about venturing into remote areas. If not, be sure to trek with someone who has.

Other titles that I found helpful tips in:

Hiking with Dogs by Linda B. Mullally

Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips by Mike Clelland

Making Camp: A Complete Guide for Hikers, Mountain Bikers, Paddlers & Skiers by Steve Howe, et al.

So there you have it – my newbie backpacker reading list. Come in and browse the shelves; there’s a lot more here for those who are more advanced than I am. As for me? I have a date with the food dehydrator – who doesn’t want to try powdered cheese?

Lisa