Books That Took Me on Adventures in 2016

The finished books

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste NG

This book took me off guard. It took my attention from the very beginning. The story of this multi-national family is both eye-opening and funny. I enjoyed reading in the perspectives of each of the main characters.

Based on the recommendation of a friend, I opened this book with absolutely no idea what it was about. Everything I Never Told You is the story of a teenage girl… and her brother… and her father… and her mother. As the reader, you’ll get the chance to delve into each character’s life – before, during, and after the mysterious disappearance of this teenage girl. You might think this story has been told before, but I guarantee it hasn’t been told in this way.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

First off, adventure-seekers of all kinds would most likely be fascinated by this true story of a man who sold all his possessions, left his traditional life behind, and chose to live a life off the grid and in the moment, taking each day as it came.

One of my greatest enjoyments and frustrations with this book is the amount of emotion it brought out of me. Unsurprisingly, the emotions were not always good ones, but I consider it a success when a story has the power to do that.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

You may be more familiar with the name The Golden Compass, as the controversial film (starring Nicole Kidman) was named. Unfortunately, the film trilogy was never completed, due to some supposed anti-Christian material.

This book series includes The Golden Compass (a.k.a. The Northern Lights), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. This story had such a powerful message. In my opinion, Philip Pullman didn’t send an anti-Christian message. More so, he suggested to the reader the idea of seeing a bigger picture that is not reliant on, or confined to, conventional religion.

The series, so full of adventure and action, reminds me that we are humans with the ability to act in the ways that we choose. We must use our own logic to decide how those small actions will affect the bigger picture.

The story follows loudmouthed, tomboy Lyra from adolescence to young adulthood, as she travels the world by foot, boat, balloon, and bear. She bounces from one world to the next, with an ever-changing mission, meeting friends of all ages and species. The twists and turns are endless. I would highly recommend losing yourself in this series for the next few weeks.

 

A Journey North by Adrienne Hall

Adrienne Hall wrote a well-researched book about thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail with her boyfriend. The reason I say “well-researched” is because there are a LOT of facts in this book – scientific facts about plants, wildlife, and the environment. I was disappointed by the imbalance of the facts compared to the author’s memories of actually being on the trail. I found myself craving more story, and less science. However, I learned quite a bit about these topics, and I would have been a lot more bored had I not been interested in them.

Here’s an important heads up before you go out and read this book: It is not so much a thru-hiker’s memoir, as it is a conservationist’s soap box.

Two Coots in a Canoe by David Morine

My library has absolutely no adventure books. I must be the only person in twenty miles who enjoys this kind of story, because I’ve searched for dozens of titles with no luck. The only outdoor, adventure books I could find were A Journey North by Adrienne Hall and Two Coots in a Canoe by David Morine.

I checked this book out of the local library, based solely on the title. Once I saw the name, I burst out laughing and showed my wife (who also thought it was pretty funny).

I wasn’t sure if I would actually read the book, but I ended up doing just that.

The one satisfying thing about this book is that the title is incredibly accurate. Two Coots in a Canoe is about two funny, old guys (or just two old guys who think they’re funny) looking for an adventure, so they decide to take a trip down the Connecticut River in a canoe. The hook is that they stay with a different generous stranger each night of the trip.

It’s been a few months since I read this book, so I jolted my memory by reading a few reviews. I had forgotten how bothered I was by David Morine’s judgment of anyone who doesn’t live the traditional life that he lived. Throughout the book, Morine made very questionable comments about women, sexuality, mental illness, and about the current (as of 2003) expressive fashion trends. I guess I struggle to identify with the author (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) but some of his judgmental comments made me cringe.

On a separate note, there was quite a bit about environmental conservation, as the author is a conservationist, himself . Morine brought to light a number of environmental issues that the reader might not be aware of, involving the pollution of our waterways and the state of the creatures living in them.

Overall, Morine entertained me with his tale. It was a different story than I had ever read before, although I’m hesitant to recommend it because of the reasons I mentioned earlier.

AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller

This is the best Appalachian Trail thru-hiker book I have read so far. If you have ever hiked the Appalachian Trail, or plan to, you may have heard of David “AWOL” Miller. He is the author of one of the trail’s most popular guidebooks entitled The A.T. Guide, which he updates every year.

Miller hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2003, and AWOL on the Appalachian Trail is his detailed and honest travelogue. I am so impressed by how Miller managed to keep such a consistent record of his hike, as if the hike itself wasn’t trying enough. I can’t say for sure, but I remember thinking that he didn’t skip a day of journaling.

I enjoyed this book so much, because Miller gave the reader what he promised: a day-by-day account of his Appalachian Trail thru-hike. He didn’t get too off topic at any point in the book, but he also didn’t write boring, monotonous details. For those reasons, he had my attention from beginning to end. I would highly recommend reading this book!

National Geographic: The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide by Andrew Skurka

I would not recommend reading this book, UNLESS you have a great interest in backpacking. It’s not frilly with stories, although Andrew Skurka does provide readers with a few bits from his adventures, as they pertain to certain gear items. For the most part Skurka sticks to the point of providing us with his gear picks, why he recommends them, and how they are useful in the field.

This guy has got tens of thousands of miles of backpacking under his belt. He has had such a variety of adventures, it’s almost silly to gloss over his advice. If you’re planning a thru-hike or an extended backpacking trip, pick up Skurka’s book at your local REI. You can also find some of his talks on YouTube.

Appalachian Trials: A Psychological and Emotional Guide to Thru-Hike the Appalachian Trail by Zach Davis

You have probably heard of this book if you are planning on thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, and you might have heard of this book even if you aren’t planning on thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. It has been fantastically marketed! The Appalachian Trials website (which is now called The Trek) pops up on the top Appalachian Trail page list of most search engines.

That totally useless information (unless you’re a nerd about hiking, like I am) said, this is not a memoir of Zach Davis’s thru-hike. It is a lighthearted, motivational book about how to obtain the psychological stamina required to hike the Appalachian Trail from end-to-end. Davis was smart enough to name his book accordingly. You’ll also find how-to-hike-the-Appalachian-Trail information, too. Davis gives his best advice on the more physical side of hiking.

The style of this book might throw you off, though, as it’s written more like a blog than a book. Luckily, I am a blogger so it didn’t bother me!

Overall, I enjoyed the book and read it from cover to cover very quickly. It’s an easy read, and it was refreshing to hear about Appalachian Trail thru-hiking from a different perspective.

The unfinished books (with explanation!)

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Okay, I’m a big fan of the television series. What a story! The books… I’d go either way on the books. I still love the story, but sometimes George R.R. Martin goes a little too far to the obscene side for my liking. That said, I probably would have continued with the books if it were a different time. I’ve just got my mind on the Appalachian Trail, and have been primarily craving hiking books.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

I do not have one bad word about this book. I’ve read more than half of it and I plan to finish it. I will probably read it again and again. It’s that kind of book.

Elizabeth Gilbert is such an interesting author, and I absolutely love the way she writes.

But here’s my warning: It is nothing like Eat, Pray, Love so don’t buy it thinking it will be.

This is the first of two motivational books I read this year, and I enjoyed this one thoroughly. Much of her writing, in this book, is about writing. Unsurprisingly, I (a lifelong writer) love it for that reason. But the book is also about creativity of all kinds.

Gilbert encourages the reader to grab hold of creative ideas, and to delve into them immediately. I absolutely love her theory on the relentless movement of these creative ideas. If we don’t own them and use them, they will move on to someone else.

Two Tents Down’s recommendation: Buy this book!

The current books

I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago by Hape Kerkeling

I finished this after the year ended, so I’ll call it a “2016 current book”. Anyway, I loved it! One of my coworkers recommended it to me, a few months ago. She read it in German and found that it was also published in English, so she suggested I read it.

I very much enjoyed this book about the famous German comedian, Hape Kerkeling, who decides to take a spiritual walk on the Camino De Santiago. He starts all alone, but gains various walking partners along the way.

The book is really funny! There’s no shock there. I like that Kerkeling doesn’t make jokes at anyone’s expense (unless he feels they deserve it). The greatest reason I liked this book, is because of Kerkeling’s clear transformation along his journey. His conscious and unconscious efforts to change himself physically, mentally, spiritually, and socially made this book very interesting to read!

The Harry Potter Series audiobooks by J.K. Rowling (voiced by Jim Dale)

No need for an introduction, here. I read them as a child, and then again as an adult (Check out the review I wrote last year!). Now I’m listening to them on audio. Talk about mixing it up! It’s such a refreshing way to explore this story!

I’m currently on book number five: The Order of the Phoenix. Of course, this is the part of the series where it gets really intense and serious. The narrator, Jim Dale, is fantastic! His voices will get you laughing, crying, or shaking with anger.

Two Tents Down’s recommendation: Please try this series on audio! I guarantee you’ll enjoy it!

The next book

The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit by Shirley Maclaine

On top of reading the stack of hiking books that just arrived from possibly every library in the state (other than my own), I plan to read about Shirley Maclaine’s spiritual pilgrimage on the famous Camino de Santiago. I found out about this European walking trail when I watched the movie The Way, and was intrigued by it, ever since. Now that I’ve finished I’m Off Then (the book by the German comedian), I’m hungry for more!

From the reviews I’ve read, this book is… different. A lot of people down-talk it, because of Shirley Maclaine’s non-traditional ideas about spirituality and extraterrestrial life. Well, I think it’s all the more reason for me to read it!

Hungry for more books?

Take a look at 19 Books That Took Me on Adventures in 2015.

What’s the best book you read in 2016??

Leave any comments or questions below, or feel free to email me! I promise I’ll respond! 🙂

Who am I?

My name is Lauren! I created and run Two Tents Down. I love all types of adventures, but mostly those of the outdoor nature (Get it?). Find out more about me, in my about page.

My next big adventure is going to be epic! I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail from end-to-end with my life on my back. My journey starts in March of 2017. Follow my thru-hike on social media by clicking one of the buttons to the right, or clicking on one of the links below.

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As always, thank you so, so much for reading!

If you need me, I’m just Two Tents Down!

 

 

Wisconsin Hiking: Nordic Trails

Recently, I had the pleasure of hiking 9 miles of the Nordic Trails with my wife and best friend. We spent the day laughing and swapping snacks, while walking. We were blessed with gorgeous weather, a challenging hike, and a fantastic post-hike meal at img_9430The Picnic Basket. I couldn’t have asked for a better Sunday!

The Nordic Trails feature extra wide, grassy paths lined with tall, skinny pine trees and plenty of easy-to-read signage. Wooden benches are dotted along the trail, and at the trailhead you’ll find a large parking lot and bathrooms with vault toilets and hand sanitizer.

img_9419Difficulty

The DNR website says that the 9.5 blue loop is an intermediate-level hiking trail. I would definitely agree. This has been the one of the hilliest, and most difficult trails I’ve been on in Wisconsin, second only to the John Muir Trail (which is right across the street!), and some parts of the Ice Age Trail.

If you are a beginner, enter this trail with warning. There are a lot of hills, so expect a challenge. Seasoned hikers, this trail doesn’t compare to the intensity of the hiking you might do out East, or in the West, but it takes full advantage of the uneven landscape of Wisconsin’s kettles (the result of glaciers that have melted long ago).

Nordic Trail Loops

Easy Trails: img_9439

Brown – .7 miles

Purple – 1.7 miles

White – 3.2 miles

Intermediate Trails:

Red – 2.1 miles

Orange – 2.7miles

Green – 3.9 milesimg_9408

Blue – 9.5 miles

Activities

Hiking and cross country skiing and sledding

Limitations

No Bikes

Nearby Trails

I was so excited to find out that that the John Muir Trailhead is located right across the street. There, you can bike or hike, but don’t expect to have any alone time. It is one of the most popular trails in Wisconsin!

Directions to Nordic Trailhead:

  1. Drive South on US-41
  2. Take exit 4 onto I-43
  3. Drive 22 miles and take exit 38A onto WI-20
  4. Drive .3 miles and turn right onto state road 20
  5. Drive 7.8 miles and turn left onto state road 20
  6. Drive 1.6 miles and take a slight right turn onto US Highway 12
  7. Drive 2.0 miles and turn right onto county road H
  8. Drive 1.6 miles to the destination on your right

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Address

N9084 Cty Tk H

Whitewater, WI 53190

Fees

Entrance to this (and every) Wisconsin State Park will require a day parking pass or img_9423an annual parking pass. You can find information about sticker prices on Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources website.

Leave no trace

Recently, Wisconsin’s state park tax budget has been decreased to zero. This means that park entrance and camping fees will go up. The possibility of some parks workers losing their jobs or having their salaries slashed, is a real possibility.

This means that it is time for the volunteers and the visitors to step up. Please respect these beautiful parks! If you come in with trash, leave with the same amount of trash. If you see trash, consider picking it up and walking out with it. Practice the “leave no trace” policy. Basically, respect the park by being courteous to the plants, animals, and fellow humans.

Further Readingimg_9444

Trailville.com

 

Travelwisconsin.com

Nordicskiclub.org

 

I would like to pay tribute to the volunteers and park workers who put in hours upon hours to maintain these trails, for little or no money. Your efforts are appreciated by me and hopefully by anyone who uses the trails!

Thank you, thank you to my readers! I welcome you to return, anytime!

If you need me, I’m Two Tents Down!

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About

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Hello fellow adventurers!

I assume you’re here for adventure stuff. Are you looking for tips? Advice? Reviews? Stories? Entertainment? Well, I can safely say that you’ve come to the right place.

What is Two Tents Down all about?

At ease, friends! Two Tents Down is a lighthearted camping and travel blog, carefully written and well-researched, with tips, advice, and exciting adventure tales.

Anyone should feel welcome to peruse my Two Tents Down blog, but a beginner or intermediate camper or traveler might find it most useful. Take a look at Two Tents Down’s first entry, if you’d like to know more about the blog.

The Proof is in the Puddin’

To get better acquainted with this blog, you are welcome to read one of the entries below. This is a short list of posts that readers have really enjoyed:

  My Vision

Well I do have a lot of them, but my “Two Tents Down” goal is to share advice and stories about camping and traveling that will educate, inspire, and enable people to spend their precious time exploring!

Here is one of my inspirational adventure moments, and the story that goes with it:  

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Who the heck am I, and why should you trust me?

Well, let me introduce myself. I’m Lauren. I am a Wisconsinite, and I LOVE cheese! Wait, that’s to be expected. Okay, I really do DSCN0923love cheese! Actually, I love food in general, as well as the outdoors. I hike, bike, camp, and travel as much as I can.  

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a journalism degree in 2012, I chased love to England. There, I resided for seven months, hiking and camping, and visiting several cities including Manchester, Liverpool, and Edinburgh, Scotland. 

On a whim, my wife and I moved to Taiyuan, China to teach English. We lived there for a year, getting to know the culture, learning Mandarin, eating authentic Chinese food, and exploring places like Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing.

In 2014, we returned to America to reunite with my family and plan the next trip. We currently reside in Milwaukee, hiking and camping as much as possible on the budget of an assistant teacher and a food service worker! Read about what I’ve been up to since I’ve been home in my article called “Traveling on my Mind”. 

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During the time in between adventures, I dream through reading and writing. I am proud to say, I created and run the Two Tents Down blog. It is a constantly evolving project — open to ideas, and subject to change. Each entry is based on my adventure successes… and of course my failures! What’s more: all articles include the perspectives of fellow adventurers.

Social Media-ness

I like to interact with readers and other explorers on social media. Through these platforms, I share my latest blog posts, photos, stories, and my favorite articles written by fellow adventurers.

Add, follow, like, and peruse to your heart’s content:

Facebook  

Twitter

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Pinterest    

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Email

Professional bios and profiles

I’m not just a blogger! I’m a freelance journalist. Connect with me, professionally:

Professional Website 

LinkedIn  

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Safe travels and happy camping!

Lauren

P.S. If you need me, I’m just Two Tents Down!

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Best of January: Camping and Traveling

5 Best Posts of 5 Social Media Sites

Instagram

1. PN Wonderland

2. Macronamic

3. Go Pro Travels

4. Hunter.Harlow


5. Idargo_Travel_App

Google +

1. Love and Road

2. Naturesta

3. Mark Lafontan

4. Paul Richardson

5. Prava

Bloglovin’

1. Big World Small Pockets

2. Appalachian Trials

3. A Broken Backpack

4. A Globe Well Traveled


5. Penelope & Parker’s Travels


Pinterest

1. Grilliput Portable Camping Grill

2. 7 Ways to Travel for Free


3. 41 Camping Hacks That are Borderline Genius


4. Why you need to carry a pencil sharpener


5. 12 Strange and Creative Camping Tents

Twitter


1. How to get your #coffee in #Oslo these days


2. 10 Tips for Vegetarian Travellers in Central America


3. 10 Things Not to do When Traveling as a Couple


4. How to Beat Jet Lag: 3 Travel Essentials to Sleep Better

5. Three Days in the Tetons: A Glimpse into the Unreal



What is your favorite social media post of January?
Share your bests in the comments section!

Thanks to the readers!!

If you need me, I’m Two Tents Down!

Click the social media icons in the top left corner to find me elsewhere, or search “twotentsdown” on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook.