There’s nothing like a good fire and a few good books to help pass a long winter’s night. Photo by Carey Kish

Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow on Groundhog Day, thereby predicting an early spring. But if the rodent’s meteorological prognostications of late are any indication, you might want to plan on a cold, snowy February and March just the same. In addition to getting outside, of course, a few good books will help you pass the time until April. Here are a handful to consider for your reading list.

“The Winter Camping Handbook: Wilderness Travel & Adventure in the Cold-Weather Months” by Stephen Gorman, 2016

“Winter camping is like being snowed in. It makes us free from schedules and demands… offers an opportunity to be self-reliant, to feel the deep satisfaction of a snug shelter or a warm fire… the chance to slow down.” So writes Stephen Gorman in the opening pages of the 4th edition of his venerable book. Everyone from the novice snowshoer to the experienced backcountry trekker will appreciate Gorman’s 224 pages of trail-tested wisdom and advice. Planning tips, pre-trip fitness, leadership, checklists for gear, clothing and food, on-trail considerations and much more make Gorman’s guide an essential toolkit for safe and enjoyable winter travel.

“On the Trail in Lincoln County” by Paula Roberts, 2016

Paula Roberts knows her way around Lincoln County like few others. Having grown up in Jefferson, Roberts has spent years playing in the woods, writing a column about her hikes and then finally compiling the excursions into a book. Robert’s guide, now in its 5th edition, lists an astounding 114 hikes, the lion’s share of which I’m betting you probably haven’t heard of (I’ve done just 22), making this a veritable gold mine of a hiking to-do list. “Those of us who live in Lincoln County have the biased opinion that we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and after hiking… trails in every corner of [it], I am convinced,” writes Roberts in the foreword.

“Beyond Acadia: Exploring the Bold Coast of Down East Maine” by Rich Bard, 2019

Someone sorely needed to write a guide to the immense natural beauty and abundant recreational opportunities along Maine’s Bold Coast, and finally someone did. Rich Bard, a former wildlife biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and past executive director of the Downeast Coastal Conservancy, colorfully describes the best of this all-too-often overlooked corner of our coastline and offers myriad fun things to see and do. Outdoor enthusiasts will certainly appreciate the more than 100 pages of hiking trails, a bevy of paddling and bicycling routes, and camping options, never mind the gorgeous color photos throughout.

“New Hampshire’s 52 With A View: A Hiker’s Guide” by Ken MacGray, 2019

“New Hampshire’s 52 With a View” list of mountain hikes was developed by a tightknit group of retirees known as the Over The Hill Hikers, who started tramping together on Tuesdays back in the late 1970s. Setting a frantic pace, the hikers knocked off not only New Hampshire’s 4,000-foot summits, but all 67 such peaks in New England. Needing a fresh challenge, the OTHH set their sights on the many hundreds of lower elevation peaks, specifically those with trails and a view. The list was eventually whittled down to the best 52 hikes. Ken MacGray masterfully captures these great hikes in a fine guidebook that’ll keep you busy for quite a while.

This view from Big Wilson Cliffs on the Appalachian Trail near Monson is similar to the one the mysterious Jim Whyte might have enjoyed. Photo by Carey Kish

“Hermit: The Mysterious Life of Jim Whyte” by Jeffrey Ryan, 2019

Along the Appalachian Trail a dozen miles into the 100-Mile Wilderness, a short blue-blazed side trail once led to an open knoll known as Jim Whyte’s Lookout. The AT has long since been rerouted, and with that, the legend of Jim Whyte, a notorious interloper and reputed smuggler who lived on the Monson hillside in the 1920s, might have faded away. But several years ago, Jeff Ryan happened upon an old copy of the “Guide to the Appalachian Trail in Maine” in which Myron Avery mentions cutting a path to the site of Whyte’s hideout. Discovering that no one had ever written a book about this mysterious man, Ryan crafted “Hermit,” his third book related to the AT and a real page-turner.

Carey Kish of Mt. Desert Island is the author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast and editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Follow Carey’s adventures on Facebook @ Carey Kish.


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