December 9, 2020
The Necessity of Wildness
6 Outdoor Adventure Books and Films to Inspire
Carpathian Mountains, Romania, 2017
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.”
- John Muir, Our National Parks

One of my most memorable trips into the wild was a multi-day trek through the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. On our very first day, it poured the entire length of our 9 km hike. We painstakingly meandered our way to the night’s lodgings only to find that the hut had one wood stove and another group had already commandeered the best spots near it. Dinner was a bowl of peas since I did not opt for the hunk of ham, and the toilet was a gaping hole in the floor that I hoped I would not fall into.

Days later, my feet were sore and blistered and my shoulders ached from carrying a pack with probably more stuff than I needed. There were definitely moments when I questioned why I chose to do this for my vacation. But, as I accepted the things I could not control and pushed through the discomfort, my reward was the experience of seeing the grandeur of majestic peaks, lush Transylvanian forests, and beautiful, glacial lakes. Author Robert MacFarlane in his book, Mountains of the Mind: Adventures in Reaching the Summit, writes:

“One forgets that there are environments which do not respond to the flick of a switch or the twist of a dial, and which have their own rhythms and orders of existence. Mountains correct this amnesia. By speaking of greater forces than we can possibly invoke, and by confronting us with greater spans of time than we can possibly envisage, mountains refute our excessive trust in the man-made. They pose profound questions about our durability and the importance of our schemes. They induce, I suppose, a modesty in us.”

Going into the wild places shows us just how small we are in this world because we can’t control what will happen. I think being in nature invokes something primal within us. And, despite the potential setbacks or discomfort, being in the wild teaches us that we can push past what we thought were our limits. It is soul healing.

So, in this transitional time between seasons when it may be harder to be outdoor motivated, don’t feel guilty about snuggling up on the couch to check out these books and films about people who skirted the edges and went beyond what they thought possible about themselves. They may just inspire you to go on your own wild adventure!

Please note that if you purchase a book through the links below, I earn a commission. bookshop.org will match 10% of the sale into an earnings pool that will be evenly distributed among independent bookstores. Links to films may require a purchase to stream.

FILMS

Surviving the Outback
Photo Credit: Michael Atkinson

Surviving the Outback
from Gravitas Ventures • 2019 • 57 minutes

From the website: Could you escape alone across hundreds of kilometres of remote bush, trekking and sailing on a makeshift raft, with nothing but a time capsule of antique stuff from 1932? Mike wasn’t sure either! But that’s what he tried to do with no back-up crew or two-way communications with the outside world, hoping his skills as a survival instructor, adventurer and military pilot would help him survive long enough to traverse the most stunning landscape in Australia. 100% self-filmed with action cameras and drones, this epic modern day adventure places Mike in the historic predicament of two stranded German aviators who survived 43 days before being rescued on the brink of death by local Aboriginal people. 

Photo Credit: mountainlifefilm.com

This Mountain Life
by Peg Leg Films • 2018 • 77 minutes

From the website: The awe that mountainous landscapes evoke is universal, yet most of us seldom venture into true wilderness. A mother-daughter team sets out for six months in a tent in the winter mountains; a group of nuns inhabit a mountain retreat to be closer to God; a photographer buried in an avalanche; an impassioned alpinist; a focused snow artist; a couple who has been living off grid in the mountains for nearly 50 years. For them, the draw of the mountains is so strong that their lives must revolve around it.


Photo Credit: drehxtrem

Into Twin Galaxies 
written and directed by Jochen Schmoll • 2017 • 52 minutes

Three National Geographic Adventurers of the Year embark on a ski and kayak mission across Greenland. Using kite skis, they tow their whitewater kayaks over 1,000km of ice.

BOOKS

Book Cover: The White Darkness

The White Darkness
by David Grann • 2018 • 160 pages

From the publisher: Henry Worsley was a devoted husband and father and a decorated British special forces officer who believed in honor and sacrifice. He was also a man obsessed. He spent his life idolizing Ernest Shackleton, the nineteenth-century polar explorer, who tried to become the first person to reach the South Pole, and later sought to cross Antarctica on foot. Shackleton never completed his journeys, but he repeatedly rescued his men from certain death, and emerged as one of the greatest leaders in history.

Worsley felt an overpowering connection to those expeditions. He was related to one of Shackleton's men, Frank Worsley, and spent a fortune collecting artifacts from their epic treks across the continent. He modeled his military command on Shackleton's legendary skills and was determined to measure his own powers of endurance against them. He would succeed where Shackleton had failed, in the most brutal landscape in the world.

In 2008, Worsley set out across Antarctica with two other descendants of Shackleton's crew, battling the freezing, desolate landscape, life-threatening physical exhaustion, and hidden crevasses. Yet when he returned home he felt compelled to go back. On November 13, 2015, at age 55, Worsley bid farewell to his family and embarked on his most perilous quest: to walk across Antarctica alone.

Book Cover: The River of Doubt

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey
by Candice Millard • 2006 • 416 pages

From the publisher: At once an incredible adventure narrative and a penetrating biographical portrait, The River of Doubt is the true story of Theodore Roosevelt's harrowing exploration of one of the most dangerous rivers on earth…Along the way, Roosevelt and his men faced an unbelievable series of hardships, losing their canoes and supplies to punishing whitewater rapids, and enduring starvation, Indian attack, disease, drowning, and a murder within their own ranks. Three men died, and Roosevelt was brought to the brink of suicide. The River of Doubt brings alive these extraordinary events in a powerful nonfiction narrative thriller that happens to feature one of the most famous Americans who ever lived.


Book Cover: Journeys North

WANT TO READ

Journeys North: The Pacific Crest Trail
by Barney Scout Mann • 2020 • 320 pages

From the publisher: In Journeys North, legendary trail angel and thru hiker Barney Scout Mann spins a compelling tale of six hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2007 as they walk from Mexico to Canada. This ensemble story unfolds as these half-dozen hikers--including Barney and his wife, Sandy--trod north, slowly forming relationships and revealing their deepest secrets and aspirations. They face a once-in-a-generation drought and early severe winter storms that test their will in this bare-knuckled adventure. In fact, only a third of all the hikers who set out on the trail that year would finish.

As the group approaches Canada, a storm rages. How will these very different hikers, ranging in age, gender, and background, respond to the hardship and suffering ahead of them? Can they all make the final 60-mile push through freezing temperatures, sleet, and snow, or will some reach their breaking point? Journeys North is a story of grit, compassion, and the relationships people forge when they strive toward a common goal.

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July 8, 2021
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