The doldrums of winter are in full swing, and while the occasional day of sunshine and spring temperatures breaks the cabin fever, you’re still waiting for long stretches of good weather for an adventure. And if you don’t want to go outside, sometimes the best thing is to stretch out on the couch and either read a great book, or watch a video that excites you. The next best thing to getting out there, is living vicariously through someone else. I’ve put together my list of favorites so far this winter.
My Own Frontier - Joey Coconato (Youtube Channel)
I stumbled across this Youtube Channel one day when randomly searching for videos of hiking trails in Maine (as one does). The host/videographer/super-tramp Joey takes you along on all of his backpacking trips, showcasing a lot of amazing off-route trips around all of the United States. From the Sawtooths in Idaho to Denali National Park in Alaska, he does a great job of showing what a backpacking trip really is all about. Sometimes the weather is bad, sometimes you get sick, you don’t always make the mileage you want, but it’s still a great way to see a place. He also highlights areas that I’d never even heard of, making me find new possibilities everywhere. Running over an hour in length, his long form videos feature long scenic shots giving you an excellent background for you to look at maps and plan your next backpacking trip.
“I Fish, Therefore I am” by Patrick F. McManus
Patrick F. McManus is the rare outdoors writer who was more adept at finding the utter hilarity of every aspect of being uncomfortable rather than glorifying it as some kind of transcendental journey of enlightenment. A long time columnist for “Field and Stream”, “Outdoor Life” and others, he can cause me to giggle incessantly as I thumb through the pages of one hyperbolic story after another. The importance of good eyesight, terrible condition army surplus equipment, why backpacking trip leaders need a giant hip flask, and failed a career as a wildlife photographer service as centerpieces of a life spent outdoors, and laughing at the absurdity of every moment. They are the kind of stories you want as your own, and the only way to do that is go out there and live them.
“Meru” and “Free Solo” - Jimmy Chin
Since I was an aspiring 13 year old photographer, I have had a man-crush on Jimmy Chin. Not only is he one of the foremost alpine and expedition climbers in the world, he does it all while carrying camera gear and capturing amazing images. Over the years, he’s gone from just being a part of expeditions, to organizing expeditions, to now shooting photos and video to piece together in full length documentaries once he gets home. While “Meru” and “Free Solo” are 2 very different documentaries, the same thread runs through both which is obsession.
Meru is the chronicle of attempts to climb a 4000’ granite cliff in the Himalayas, and the subsequent disasters that follow. Any person less than obsessed would have just given up and found a cubicle job that at least provided health insurance, but through the film you watch them push through pain and suffering to try and reach the summit. As I watched the struggle, I found myself having an internal conversation with myself that boiled down to “Yeah...you probably can do a few push ups every morning at least.”
“Free Solo” focuses on a rock climber, Alex Honnold, and his singular quest to free solo El Capitan, the enormous granite wall in Yosemite National Park. It chronicles the day to day life, training, struggles, determination, and raw obsession needed to climb a 3000’ cliff without a rope, and nothing to separate him from a long fall and a short stop but the strength of his hands. I don’t recommend this for those with a fear of heights....or falling.....or withstanding razor wire levels of tension. I do recommend it for anyone who needs motivation to set a goal and maintain a healthy level of obsession to reach it.
“Coyote America” by Dan Flores
Attitudes towards coyotes vary from fear, to hate, to the healthy respect that comes from a worthy opponent. “Coyote America” explores the history of the coyote in North America from the “Old Man Coyote” legends of the original peoples to current day when the coyote is one of the most successful American predators that has actually expanded its range and learned to live among people better than any other. One of the more fascinating sections is where it discusses the current methods of eradication that are being used, and how it only disperses the coyote across wider and wider ranges instead of reining them in. Whether coyotes fill you with wonder or hate, this is a great book to better understand them.
I’m always needing new books and shows to watch; if you have a favorite, send me an email so I can get through these last few weeks of winter.
Amish in the sense that, at one point, my family helped others raise barns.
Now I build websites to help others build their businesses.