Sunday, April 06, 2008

Books on outdoor perils

I like reading books detailing backcountry dangers including descriptions or lists of serious outcome. I started years ago when reading The Night of the Grizzlies and have continued reading books about bear and other animal attacks. Recently I read Off the Wall, Death in Yosemite and I've read the other "Death in National Park" books. Some of the reading caters to morbid curiosity and is sensationalist, other books attempt to discern what went wrong and help others avoid similar situations, and others are simply narrative. I tend to prefer the latter category, simply telling a good story and without attempts to place blame. On the other hand, books such as Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance is a good start toward being safer in bear country. While I don't think you can learn backcountry safety solely from a book, it is a starting point.

I enjoy these books especially off season while I'm too comfortable to get out in the wet NW mountains. They offer good safety information and entertainment and also inspiration, both to get out and do something and ideas on where I might want to explore and what to do or look for. I think about what I might do in similar circumstances and imagine being places I've never been and are unlikely to ever see such as the books about climbing or trekking in Asia. Some books are fascinating because of insights (or speculation) into the psychology of the individuals who did or did not survive. Some books were written when different social constructs were current and reading them reminds me that some current attitudes were not accepted even 40 years ago. I'm thinking of
The Night of the Grizzlies in particular, the "girl ranger" in Glacier NP who was in charge at Granite Park chalet because all the male rangers where fighting fires. At that time women were not allowed to fight fires. Other books show other historical attitudes such as much less concern about individual safety. I'm not referring to reckless behavior, just a greater acceptance of life's hazards.

Some of my favorites are Death in Yellowstone, Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance, Into the Wild, and South: the Endurance Expedition. If reader have any suggestions along this line, I would love to read them.


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