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  • Valerie Ross

Cozy Up With A Good Book

Flower Field Near Mountains

Whether I’m planning next summer’s epic adventure, gathering data for a Girl Scout trip, or just need an excuse to cozy up to the fireplace with a hot cocoa, curling up with a wilderness guidebook or adventure read satisfies the worst of my wanderlust when I’m longing to hit the trail.

Sierra South, by Kathy Morey, inspired more of my backpacking trips than any other book on my shelf providing me with four decades of adventure that have evolved into some of my favorite Girl Scout itineraries. Here you can peruse over 80 backpacking trips from the Golden Trout Wilderness near Lone Pine up to Lee Vining near Yosemite. I read backpacking guidebooks with a stack of Post-Its near to hand, tagging trips that fascinate me or sections that I can use to help my Girl Scouts plan their upcoming advanced trips.

John Muir Trail Data Book, by Elizabeth Wenk, has become the go-to planning tool for those looking to hike the JMT, whether in one shot or as sections. This is an excellent resource for anyone planning week-long trips that dip onto the John Muir Trail such as Evolution Valley, Rae Lakes, or Mammoth to Tuolomne Meadows (or south to Mono Pass).

One of my favorite books – The Last Season by Eric Blehm – may have been published 13 years ago, but the story of Ranger Randy Morgenson resonates in a timeless way. Ranger Morgenson went missing back in the 1990s; in fact, I remember seeing his missing person posters at various trailheads that summer of ‘96. Morgenson’s story, powerfully told, illuminates the dedication of our backcountry rangers, but also underscores the consequences of distraction when we’re in the wilderness.

For those who find The Last Season as spectacular as I do, you might also enjoy Eric Blehm’s article, "Epitaph in the Sky" in Backpacker Magazine (July/August 2019), which adds an interesting post script to Morgenson’s tale.

Planning an overseas adventure? Look no further than the Cicerone Guides. Published in England (and also available on Amazon), these guides give excellent cultural and planning information as well as step-by-step trail directions for hiking and backpacking trips all over the world. I’ve used Chamonix to Zermatt (The Swiss Haute Route), Walking in the Dolomites, and the Swiss Alpine Pass Route to plan and augment some amazing adventures.

If it is time for you to re-certify your Wilderness First Responder (WFR) and you need to brush up on your wilderness first aid knowledge, NOLS Wilderness Medicine, 6th Edition, by Tod Schimelpfenig, is the highly regarded course material for the WFR class. Purchased on Kindle – and downloaded to your phone – this weighty book becomes a handy and lightweight backcountry first aid resource.

And finally, for those who enjoy Jon Krakauer’s tales (Into Thin Air, Into The Wild), perhaps it’s time to curl up with Eiger Dreams. This collection of twelve essays is Krakauer at his best, one compelling adventure story after another.

Happy reading!

Valerie is the founder of CAGS Backpackers and a Lead Backpacking Trainer for Girl Scouts San Diego. She has backpacked for over 40 years and spent the last 20 years guiding Girl Scouts on wilderness trips.


Editor's Note: Val Ross, our founder, kicks off our blog with her thoughts and reflections on why taking girls into the wilderness is a mission worth our endeavors.

Please Note

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the author of each article and do not necessarily reflect the views of California Girl Scout Backpackers or Girl Scouts of the United States of America.

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