10 essential wilderness reads for Hudson Valley hikers

For some hikers, this time of year – late winter and early spring, when conditions can be both freezing and muddy – is a tricky time to hike the trail as often as during the warmer months. late spring, summer and fall.

Exploring the outdoors through books is a way to stay inspired, especially if the readings help inform future outings. We asked outdoor enthusiasts and local guides for their best reads for staying close to nature in the Catskills and Hudson Valley, and a few common headlines emerged.

“John Burroughs describes very well the beauty of hiking and the thrills that come with nature in all seasons,” said local hiking enthusiast Sean O’Dwyer, who shares his trips and tips on Instagram to @totalcatskills and in line. . “So books like ‘Wake Robin’ and tests like “Heart of the Southern Catskills” [from the book ‘In the Catskills’] are seminal. He literally put the Catskills on the map for all of us.

Will Soter, co-founder and lead guide for Upstate Adventure Guides, also loves the late 19th-century naturalist and recommends “Birch Navigations”, a book of essays by Burrough including an introduction by Bill McKibben, and “Bed of Branches” also from the 1910 book “In the Catskills”.

Soter and O’Dwyer also agree in recommending Michael Kudish “The Catskills Forest: A Story” – “the bible of geology, forestry and local history for the Catskills” notes O’Dwyer – and the essential “The Catskill 67” by Alan Via, which is out of print but worth looking for in used bookstores or online.

“This is a list of mountains hikers can hike after they’ve cleared the high peaks and are looking for more low-key hikes in the Catskills,” O’Dwyer said.

Mud season or not, it’s always a good time to build the skills needed to deal with any adversity in the wild, says Steve Lancia of Northcamp Survival, a school of wilderness survival skills that started in the Hudson Valley.

(WW Norton & Company)


WW Norton & Company
(Simon & Schuster)

(Simon & Schuster)


Simon & Schuster


WW Norton & Company / Simon & Schuster


“Start with ‘Deep Survival’ by Laurence Gonzales. A positive mindset and attitude is the basis for success and survival,” he says. ‘Then read’The Wilderness First Aid Book‘ [by Grant Lipman, M.D.]. Survival priorities: attitude, first aid, shelter, fire, water, signaling and food. In this order.”

Lancia and Soter suggest another reference book that will resonate with hikers and chefs is “Northeast picking” by Leda Meredith, which allows readers to find and identify over 100 edible wild plants, categorized by season.

For readers looking for more storytelling than reference material, Soter recommends Jack London’s classic short story “To light a fire”, about a man who goes hiking in the extreme cold of the Canadian Yukon.

Or simply contact your nature guide for suggestions based on your personal interests. “As Guides, we pride ourselves on sharing our knowledge and passion, in the hope that we can inspire others to find the same love we have for our natural world,” says Soter.

When all else fails, read trail maps and simply get out into nature, whatever the weather, for the ultimate inspiration.

“Winter is my favorite season to hike, so I actually try to hike even more in the winter than at other times,” O’Dwyer said. “With the right gear and a little extra knowledge it’s very doable and the scenery is amazing.”

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