The Great Outdoors: Spring Idea Books

As the weather starts to get warmer, I start itching to get outside, not only to walk (you might remember I’ve rhapsodized about walking in the past) but also to take pictures (I especially love a good nature scene) and just frolic! I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re in the same boat, given the year we’ve all had. Today I’m recommending some books to how to enjoy the outdoors as spring dawns, and so my first pick is this 2020 book: Photo Basics by Joel Sartore. Published by National Geographic, it gives great ideas on how to capture great images indoors and out; perfect for flowers poking out of the melting snow or late afternoon sunlight.

If you’re like me and you take photos while walking out in nature try these: Great Iowa Walks, an oldie but a goodie, giving some ideas of walks you can take in the state; or, in the same spirit, try Biking Iowa for bike-friendly trail rides. For quick getaways, try Great Iowa Weekend Adventures by Mike Whye or the Iowa Curiosities guidebook, available both in print and on Overdrive. To find Quad City-specific trails and adventures, check out qctrails.org for an interactive map and robust search experience.

If you’re looking to branch out and take a backpacking trip, you might like Backpacker Hidden Gems: 100 Greatest Undiscovered Hikes Across America, highlighting less-known hiking trails all across the country, or the more local Best Easy Day Hikes Cedar Rapids: Including Iowa City and Cedar Falls/Waterloo. But either way, you may want to take along Be Prepared: Hiking and Backpacking by Karen Berger. More of a cyclist? Take your bike off-road with Mountain Bike Master by Mark Langton.

If you want to focus on an urban/suburban fitness aspect, you could try Walking for Fitness by Nina Barough, or Bicycling Bliss by Portia Masterson. Don’t feel your stamina is up to going outside just yet? Ease into the outdoors with a DVD walking workout like Walk Strong: Burn Fat and Have Fun. If you’re looking for a lifestyle overhaul focused on walking and the outdoors, try The Finnish Way by Katja Pantzar.

Get the whole family involved with 101 outdoor adventures to have before you grow up by Stacy and Jack Tornio. For a deeper dive into camping and fun outdoor skills, try How to Play in the Woods by Robin Blankenship, Born to Explore by Richard Wiese, or I Love Dirt by Jennifer Ward. You could also start a family garden with Plant, Sow, Make & Grow by Esther Coombs. Then, take it to the next level with The New Gardener’s Handbook by Daryl Beyers.

Whatever activity or method you choose, don’t forget to get outside this spring! Between the vitamin D in sunlight, energizing physical activity, and opportunities for togetherness, the benefits are many and the risks are few. Any of these titles will give you a place to start, but do whatever works for you and brings you joy.

Play the Forest School Way by Jane Worroll and Peter Houghton

As I write this, many of us are at home doing our part to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Schools are not meeting in person for a few weeks, and many are going stir-crazy, wondering what to do with the extra “together” time at home.

I have an apt book to recommend: Play the Forest School Way: Woodland Games, Crafts and Skills for Adventurous Kids by Jane Worroll and Peter Houghton. (I love that the author of this book about being in the forest is named Jane. It’s so Tarzan.) Playing in the outdoors is something we can do with our families to get out an enjoy ourselves while still avoiding the spread of sickness among friends and neighbors.

This book is aimed at parents of primary school-age children but many of the activities can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Those of you who enjoy crafting will find ideas for making nature jewelry and whittling, among many other suggestions.

The idea of a “Journey Stick” is shared, where you collect items on your nature hike, affixing them to a stick (I imagine a hobo stick with a kerchief tied to the end). Use the found objects to re-tell the story of your outing or create a brand new one from your imagination!

For now, these ideas should be enjoyed in solitude or with the immediate members of your household, but you can remember and use them later while camping or with outdoor groups when it is safer to socialize again. With a little creativity, we can not only survive this quarantine but thrive if we learn to appreciate our immediate surroundings in ways we haven’t taken the time to do before.

If you like this book, you may want to check out A Year of Forest School: Outdoor Play and Skill-Building Fun for Every Season by the same authors.

 

 

Classic Hikes of North America by Peter Potterfield

Classic Hikes of North America is a beautifully photographed and eminently practical account of the best back country journeys in the United States and Canada.

Peter Potterfield, an experienced hiker and photographer, has analyzed and graded these spectacular wilderness experiences with both beginners and avid hikers in mind. Included in the book is helpful information, such as: level of difficulty, trail conditions, recommended seasons, potential hazards and difficulties, resource information, and detailed maps of hiking routes.

Illustrated with more than 200 color photographs and hiking directions, here is inspiration and information in a single volume. There are routes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Big Beaver–Little Beaver Loop in the North Cascades National Park of Washington State, and the Slate Range in the Canadian Rockies, Alberta and British Columbia, and many more. These are journeys to dream on, and Potterfield puts them within reach of any aspiring hiker. (description from publisher)