Solo journeys, life lessons

  • Hiking Alone: Trails Out, Trails Back Mary Beath 358 pages, softcover: $19.95. University of New Mexico Press. 2008.

  The nine essays in Mary Beath's new book celebrate nature from the viewpoint of an "independent woman pursuing adventures that include self-exploration." An avid hiker, the artist and award-winning poet moved to New Mexico from New York almost 20 years ago. Her title piece sums up this collection's recurring theme: the risks and rewards of self-reliance in "complicated territory."

The backcountry offers challenges, especially on the solo backpacking trips Beath loves. When she sets off for a week in Colorado's Weminuche Wilderness Area, with a pack as heavy as a "huge moose," the weather deteriorates, and the trail's frightening cliffs at the aptly named Knife Edge test her resolve. Later, men on horseback and other hikers arrive and take shelter nearby, ending her solitude's "internal cleansing." But the visitors bring benefits, too, not the least of which are steaming hot coffee and skillet-fried pork chops for supper.

In another essay, protecting these cherished places in the West becomes her goal. "Differential Weathering: A Wilderness Lobbyist's Field Notebook" recounts a venture in Washington, D.C., in 1995, when the Utah Wilderness Coalition asked Beath to join other "redrock addicts" in an effort to prevent the paving of a route to Bullfrog Marina. For both Beath and her readers, this effort to sway Congress is an eye-opener. Back East, "nature meant a framed watercolor" and consensus held that if Western lands weren't being mined, drilled, or logged, if rivers weren't being dammed, what use were they? Seeing firsthand "Washington's isolation from the land it attempted to administer" taught Beath many valuable lessons.

Other lessons -- a fascinating study of agricultural techniques in "Zuni Maize," of peregrine falcons in "The Brilliant Air," of Baja California in "The First Rule" -- cover complicated scientific territory. Readers may find Beath's prose sometimes long-winded and self-indulgent, but her honest respect and love for the Western landscapes she experiences and shares inspire thought as well as pleasure.
High Country News Classifieds
  • PLANNED GIVING OFFICER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks a Planned Giving Officer. Do you find energy in...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Methow Valley Citizens Council has a distinguished history of advocating for progressive land use and environmental values in the Methow Valley and Okanogan County...
  • ACTING INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS DESK EDITOR
    High Country News is seeking an Acting Indigenous Affairs Editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk while our editor is on...
  • GRANTS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation seeks an enthusiastic, team-oriented and knowledgeable Grants Program Director to work from their home in Montana. Established in 1983, the Cinnabar Foundation...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Artemis Program Manager will work with National Wildlife Federation sporting and public lands staff to change this dynamic, continue to build upon our successful...
  • ALASKA SEA KAYAK BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Well-known and successful sea kayak, raft, hike, camp guiding & water taxi service. Sale includes everything needed to run the business, including office & gear...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND EVENTS PROGRAM COORDINATOR
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a detail-oriented and enthusiastic Membership and Events Coordinator to join our small, but mighty-fun team to oversee our membership...
  • PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT FACILITATOR
    ABOUT THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM Since opening in 1982, HIGH DESERT MUSEUM has brought together wildlife, culture, art and natural resources to promote an understanding...
  • LAND STEWARD, ARAVAIPA
    Steward will live on-site in housing provided by TNC and maintains preserve areas frequented by the visiting public and performs land management activities. The Land...
  • DEVELOPMENT WRITER
    Who We Are: The Nature Conservancy's mission is to protect the lands and waters upon which all life depends. As a science-based organization, we create...
  • CONNECTIVITY SCIENCE COORDINATOR
    Position type: Full time, exempt Location: Bozeman preferred; remote negotiable Compensation: $48,000 - $52,000 Benefits: Major medical insurance, up to 5% match on a 401k,...
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
    ArenaLife is looking for an Executive Assistant who wants to work in a fast-paced, exciting, and growing organization. We are looking for someone to support...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Mountain Lion Foundation is seeking an Executive Director. Please see our website for further information - mountainlion.org/job-openings
  • WASHINGTON DC REPRESENTATIVE
    Position Status: Full-time, exempt Location: Washington, DC Position Reports to: Program Director The Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) is seeking a Washington, DC Representative...
  • REGIONAL CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER
    Position Title: Regional Campaign Organizers (2 positions) Position Status: Full-time, exempt Location: Preferred Billings, MT; remote location within WORC's region (in or near Grand Junction...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Driggs, ID based non-profit. Full time. Full job description available at tvtap.org. Submit cover letter and resume to [email protected]
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • SPRING MOUNTAINS SOLAR OFF GRID MOUNTAIN HOME
    Located 50 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada in the pine forest of Lee Canyon at 8000 feet elevation. One of a kind property surrounded...
  • MAJOR GIFTS MANAGER - MOUNTAIN WEST, THE CONSERVATION FUND
    Cultivate, solicit and steward a portfolio of 75-125 donors.
  • NATURE'S BEST IN ARAVAIPA CANYON
    10 acre private oasis in one of Arizona's beautiful canyons. Fully furnished, 2123 sq ft architectural custom-built contemporary home with spectacular views and many extras....