Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Summer Reading Suggestion

Summer Reading Suggestion

As I sat on the beach last week during my vacation, I managed to relax and have fun.  One of the many highlights of my days, then, was listening to the waves crash as I read with great interest my newest book.  Of course, being a wilderness survival instructor, I tend to read non-fiction accounts of survival.  After all, reading offers a great way to help learn from others about what it it takes to deal with adversity, often when you may most feel like giving up. This book was unique, however, in that it’s main focus is on the only official canine POW of World War II.  No Better Friend: One Man, One Dog, and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage and Survival in WWII, written by Robert Weintraub, describes almost incredible accounts of heroism, fortitude, and devotion between dog and human alike. Born in Shanghai, China in 1936, Judy, an English Pointer, was […]

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More About the Chris McCandless Story

More About the Chris McCandless Story

Amazingly, at least in my mind, it has been 22 years since Christopher McCandless slowly starved to death, all alone in an abandoned school bus, in the Alaskan wilderness.  Many of you may have read about his story in the Jon Krakauer book, Into the Wild, or saw the movie of the same title.  Amazingly, he still remains to this day the subject of active, even fervent, discussions amongst those in the outdoors community. There is just something about McCandless’ story that touches something so visceral in so many.  The debate generally falls into two main camps.  The first tends to argue that his death was almost inevitable due to his selfish personality and reckless lack of preparedness.  The second tends to praise him for his free spirit and trust in the bounty of Nature, and views his death as an unfortunate accident.  For what it’s worth, my opinion tends to reflect those of the […]

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Thought for the Day

Thought for the Day

I thought that I would share with you an interesting idea that I just read while sitting on the couch at my EMS station.  It comes from a book that that I have been reading, Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience, by Laurence Gonzales.  In short, the book is about dealing with post-traumatic stress. Gonzales writes that when one is in the midst of a crisis, while it can seem that the pain and distress will go on forever, it isn’t true.  Rather, pleasure, laughter, even peace and happiness almost always follow. In fact, he suggests that the waiting time in between can be sped up by following three simple steps: Do something that you love. Do something for someone who needs you. And be with people who care about you. His paragraph really struck me.  It is something that I think that we can all agree is true, […]

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Suggested Resource for Land Navigation

Suggested Resource for Land Navigation

Yesterday, at Hartwood Acres County Park, I spent the day teaching “Basic Wilderness Navigation.”  The main goal of this course is twofold.  First, of course, is to provide our students with the fundamentals of using a compass and map so that they can begin to feel more confident as they prepare for, and engage in, their chosen outdoor activities.  But, the second, and arguably the most important goal, is to provide each student with a solid foundation of understanding for their continued self learning.  That’s because, as I stress at the conclusion of our various land navigation courses (not to mention many of our other courses, like wilderness first aid), their training hasn’t ended, rather, it has only just started.  In short, and in common parlance, if you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it.  So, I very often recommend the book, Be Expert with Map and Compass by Bjorn […]

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Communing with the Dead

Communing with the Dead

On Saturday, my postwoman handed me the latest version of Accidents in North American Mountaineering (ANAM) that I had ordered earlier in the week.  When I get home tonight from a meeting with my friend, J.C., I fully intend to crack open a beer, plop down on my couch with my fresh copy, and, soon after I start to read, begin heavily marking the pages with my highlighter and pencil.  Since it is the sixth year in a row that I’ve been reading this journal, I know that it will probably take me about a week to finish — And I will appreciate every minute of it. Whoa, wait a minute, Erik, isn’t it a little weird to “appreciate” page after page of death, injury, and mortality statistics?  I wrote “appreciate,” not “enjoy.”  Besides, I read it … and often recommend it to my students … for very good reasons.  After […]

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The Shackleton Survival Voyage Retraced

The Shackleton Survival Voyage Retraced

Today, an expedition composed of six Brits and Australians, led by Tim Jarvis and Barry Grey, completed a re-enactment of one of the greatest survival adventures of all time. The team followed the path of Ernest Shackleton, the acclaimed polar explorer, who in 1914 set out to sea from Great Britain on the Endurance with a crew of 56 men, just as hostilities broke out with Germany, to be the first to cross the Antarctic continent from sea to sea via the South Pole.  However, soon after leaving port, the expedition faced one difficulty after another.  Ultimately, though, even after overcoming all of those obstacles, the Endurance became hopelessly trapped in sea ice.  Knowing that their only chance for survival lay in their own hands, Shackleton led his men over high walls of pack ice, hidden crevasses, raging seas, blinding blizzards, even a mountain, to a remote whaling station on […]

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What are the Traits of a Survivor?

What are the Traits of a Survivor?

If anyone is looking for a last minute Christmas gift, then I have terrific recommendation.  One of the best all time books on the subject of survival is Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why? by Laurence Gonzales. First published in 2004, Gonzales seeks to answer a classic question that has puzzled many of us for so long: Why does survival seem so unpredictable?  For example, why does only one out of a group of five in a lifeboat survive while the rest die?  Or, why does an experienced hunter die overnight, while, in worse conditions, a toddler survives many days?  Using a combination of physiological and psychological analysis, plus true-life case studies, Gonzales weaves a deceptively simple, yet powerful, explanation: Equipment, training, and experience, though helpful in a survival situation, are not decisive … It is what is in your brain and heart that counts. One reason that Gonzales’ book is […]

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Erik’s Top 10 Recommended Reading

Erik's Top 10 Recommended Reading

If you are looking for a terrific story about a true survival situation, then Unbroken, by Lauren Hillenbrand, is for you. Hillenbrand tells the true story of Louis Zamperini who, while serving aboard a bomber during World War II, crashed into the Pacific while searching for another missing plane from his squadron.  If spending 47 days at sea with two other surviving crew members in a life raft with no supplies wasn’t bad enough, Zamperini was then captured by the Japanese and spent the rest of the war in a series of POW camps suffering (to put it mildly) intense physical and psychological abuse.  And it wasn’t just Zamperini who demonstrated the most amazing character and will to endure, but dozens of other Allied servicemen, including a handful of Japanese guards who risked much to protect them when they could. Why do I read such books?  Besides the fact that I […]

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Suggested Reading from Erik

Suggested Reading from Erik

It shouldn’t come as any surprise, I hope, that I am not exactly a fan of The Oprah Winfrey Show.  I am sure that Oprah, herself, is a wonderful person, and I have much respect for what she has achieved professionally and personally, but I am not a fan of commercial television in general, especially when it is used as a public confessional to provide mass therapy.  So the idea of reading a book recommended by “Oprah’s Book Club” had never even crossed my mind. That is, at least, until last month. That’s when my friend, Blair Capitano, recommended that I read Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. To be fair, though, to write that Blair “recommended” it is a bit of an understatement.  The simple reality is that Blair forced me to read the book!  She had been telling me for weeks how […]

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“Reality Television” is not Reality

"Reality Television" is not Reality

Learning to survive, even thrive, in harsh environmental conditions is definitely not easy.  As one might expect, I spend a lot of time and effort learning about the art and science of wilderness survival, but sometimes it never seems enough.  No matter how much I learn, sometimes even master, the more I only discover how much I don’t really know!  It is truly a Sisyphean task .  But, heck, just like the Tortoise, I try to focus on keeping my pace slow, but steady, so that one day … maybe, just maybe … I may actually feel like I have crossed the finish line. Lately, then, I have been giving a lot of thought to water.  After all, there are few things more elemental to life than water. So, here is a piece of environmental trivia for you to consider … What is the biggest desert in the world? That’s easy, […]

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