As a climber, conservationist and author, Laura Waterman hikes and writes about the mountains of the Northeastern United States.

Books

Outdoor writers, Laura and Guy Waterman’s books cover hiking, climbing, environmental ethics, and mountain history.

Calling Wild Places Home by Laura Waterman - book cover
Starvation Shore by Laura Waterman - book cover
Forest and Crag by Laura Waterman - book cover
Yankee Rock and Ice by Laura Waterman - book cover
The Green Guide by Laura Waterman - book cover
Wilderness Ethics by Laura Waterman - book cover
Losing the Garden by Laura Waterman - book cover
A Fine Kind of Madness by Laura Waterman - book cover
Calling Wild Places Home by Laura Waterman - book cover

From the Preface of Calling Wild Places Home

A Memoir in Essays
Illustrations by Nancy Kittridge

When my literary agent suggested I write a second memoir, I welcomed the chance. Already I had material with the essays I’d written since Guy’s death that sprang from our homesteading life and the work we had done tending trails above treeline. Working in both these landscapes had taught me much. I had learned that the work each requires is similar, if you kept in mind that what you wanted to preserve and perpetuate was the health of the land itself.

As I began to focus on this project, I was taken back to my childhood in a search for the origins that led to my writing collaboratively with Guy that had come so naturally. I had long thought that my English-teacher-writer father had served as a model for me. But how, and why? This led to another essay that would be about books, books I grew up on, books Guy and I had read aloud together, and what the edifices—small-town to large-city libraries—that housed books had meant to the life of my mind and my heart, as well.

While I had written Losing the Garden about our homesteading life, I had not looked closely at my relationship with the 21st century when I moved into it soon after Guy’s death. I was still too close to the world we had lived in, a world without central heating, electricity, plumbing, telephones, and road access. Though we might have successfully grown a large organic vegetable garden, though we might have built a plentiful library and made room for a Steinway grand piano, for various reasons we had chosen to plant our feet in the 19th century. Now, with my life on the brink of change, I had some choices to make. How did I feel about living in an electrified house? I quickly discovered that a light bulb or two could cut me off from looking out the window and seeing the stars, as I could do when I was living with kerosene lamps and candles. Would I still heat my house as well as cook with wood? Would I work up the wood myself as Guy and I had done with crosscut saws and axes? How about refrigeration? We had depended on a root cellar. Also, now, I would be living on a road. We had had, in winter, a mile-and-a-half walk from the village where we kept our car to our cabin. We had become very comfortable with that walk that fit seamlessly into our life, a life spent largely outdoors. We had fostered a connection to nature that I knew was going to change. Yes, my adjustment to the 21st century merited a closer look!

For one thing, I would no longer be sugaring. Sugaring deserved its own remembering, its own essay. It was our favorite time of year. I wanted to capture that period when the sap from the sugar maples runs clear as a mountain stream from a small hole drilled in a tree into our waiting buckets. Just the act of boiling out the water over (in our case) an open fire, turned this
sap into an elixir fit for the tables of kings and queens. Sugaring required our greatest devotion and our hardest work. I wanted, in memory, to call up that period when winter loosens its grip and spring returns to the earth.

I began writing these essays in my late seventies. By then much had changed in my relation to mountains. I wanted to capture that, too: how aging had increased my joy of being in the mountains at the same time it had limited what I could accomplish. And how this limiting of ambitious mountain days had focused me on explorations from my door, my own home territory, where I found unexpected beauty and experienced a sense of discovery.

I wanted not just to scrutinize my whole relationship with Guy, a daunting task in itself, but to be able to reply to those bold enough to ask me, “Laura, how could he do that to you?” In other words, didn’t I feel anger? Those mostly unspoken words did not occupy me. I had always felt Guy’s sense of fairness. He was a principled man. He understood obligation. Now, though, I had come to see that he was a desperate man as well. We were good at working as a team, though in this case, Guy’s over-riding need to get out of his own life upset the balance and put me in the position of responding. Yet, I never felt that Guy was not respectful of what was important to me, what I needed, particularly in a practical matter, to continue on without him. His suicide, as I see it, was not so much a selfish act, as a desperate one. I loved him. I would, I knew on some level, be able to live without him. More than that, I could support even his ultimate overwhelming need to take his own life, which meant leaving me.
When we were in the middle of this, in the heat of our own lives together, I was acting the way I always had, intuitively. I knew he loved me. It was his own angst that he was refusing to face that was causing him problems. And I also saw, or felt, that our loves were different. Different because I could love myself, whereas, I believe, Guy could not.

I have come to understand that Guy was a driven man who carried a crushing burden of charisma. He was a man in pain and his pain caused me pain too. Though I was unsuccessful in helping him break through his unarticulated pain, I could write about my own journey. I could write through the pain. I found liberation in this. Liberation through the pain. I have come to understand much about myself that turned this book into an exciting excavation. This is why I can say that Calling Wild Places Home is a joyous book.

All this is the stuff of memoir. Often we don’t fully understand, or even start to see, what leads us in one direction or another until later in life. Hindsight can focus memoir writing. Or such has been my case. That’s why writing memoir—a reflecting back—is so compelling, even exciting to me. It can be scary and unsettling as well. Do we want to risk unearthing material that we fear has the power to disturb and shock? On the other hand, we might unexpectedly delight ourselves, giving us the courage to continue.

Do we ever completely understand what shapes our lives? How can we? Something happens today that changes the way we’ve thought of a particular past event, past encounter, past conversation, that throws a new light, a new eye-opening meaning on the large and small turning points of a life. But why am I writing about myself? That’s the question the lurking stumbling-block false modesty demands. You set the work aside. It does no good. You are driven by something that cries out for resolution. It floods your dreams, your daytime thoughts. You are overtaken, driven a little crazy until you pick up the pen again.

~ ~ ~

Praise for Laura Waterman’s Calling Wild Places Home

“This is some of the finest writing in Laura Waterman’s long and distinguished career.”
~ Bill McKibben, author of Wandering Home

“A legendary mountain figure and revered voice on backcountry ethics, Laura Waterman is an American treasure. Her new memoir illuminates the challenges and rewards of homesteading and wilderness stewardship. It also dives deeper into her marriage to the prolific writer and climber Guy Waterman, whose shadow looms over the Northeast because of his tragic decision to intentionally freeze to death atop Mt. Lafayette in New Hampshire. In sharp contrast, Laura chose life—and this book is an embrace of all its mystery, pain, and joy.”
~ Stephen Kurczy, author of The Quiet Zone: Unraveling the Mystery of a Town Suspended in Silence

“In this latest memoir, celebrated wilderness steward Laura Waterman reflects on her years of homesteading, and her relationships—with herself, her late husband Guy, and the world they dove headlong into together. Examining a world under our modern noses, should we slow down to see it, Calling Wild Places Home rings like a clarion bell: honest, unflinching, and true. Now more than ever, we need Waterman’s voice.”
~ Michael Wejchert, author of Hidden Mountains: Survival and Reckoning after a Climb Gone Wrong

Calling Wild Places Home is timely in its portrayal of a remarkable life centered on the essentials, and through it the much deeper connection we can realize with ourselves and natural spaces. Through a series of vulnerable and poignant essays, Waterman demonstrates that the standard definitions we so often rely on to validate how we love, sacrifice, renew, and persevere most likely requires some focused introspection.”
~ Ty Gagne, author of The Last Traverse: Tragedy and Resilience in the Winter Whites

“Laura Waterman’s Calling Wild Places Home is an extraordinary story. She and her husband, Guy Waterman, authored the bestselling book Forest and Crag, a history of hiking and trail blazing in the Northeast Mountains. Her new book, part memoir and part anthology of Laura Waterman’s previously published essays, focuses on two interrelated stories, their lives together and their experiences as mountain climbers, homesteaders, and stewards of nature. Part of the power of the memoir lies in her depiction of her husband’s demons, which culminated in his suicide in 2000. She writes sensitively and honestly about this event, offering us insights gleaned from a twenty-year perspective. As she observes, ‘There is nothing like the passage of time to help us gain clarity with which to see long-ago events.’ Yet Calling Wild Places Home evokes the spirit of Thoreau’s Walden in its affirmation of self-reliance and resilience, but Laura Waterman’s voice is uniquely her own. Readers will remember her inspirational, revelatory, life-affirming book for a long time.”
~ Jeffrey Berman, author of Dying to Teach: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Learning

Starvation Shore by Laura Waterman - book cover
Starvation Shore: Author's Note

What went on at Camp Clay as winter turned to spring can never be entirely known. That cannibalism took place is undisputed, but when it started and how it was carried out is probably unknowable. The men did not record it, not Lieutenant Greely, not Private Henry, not Sergeant Brainard, who kept up his diary entries daily to just hours before their rescue. In an attempt to understand how the men of Camp Clay reached this point, I turned inward to an imagining based on fact. I wanted to break through to an essence of our natures that could emerge only under the extremity of physical and mental distress. Who took responsibility for executing Private Henry remains unanswered, as does the debated question of whether Sergeant Brainard knew of Private Henry’s criminal past, but a kind of truth can be reached indeed by telling the story of these twenty-five men through the novel form.

In part, I have used the medium of letters (Lieutenant Greely and Dr. Pavy) and journal entries (Sergeant Brainard and Private Henry) to give expression to individual points of view. Both Brainard and Henry kept journals and Greely wrote letters to his wife. Dr. Pavy’s letters are entirely fiction, but his character and how he was perceived by the men come from the writings of Greely, Brainard, and the few others whose diary entries we have. The letters and diary entries I created mix fiction with fact, since I have retained certain original phrases where they served the narrative. Especially useful to me was hearing each man’s individual voice as it came through in his writing. Private Henry made few diary entries — or few have come down to us — but his distinctive voice conveys character and personality of the type I’ve given him here. Sergeant Brainard used his diary entries to report weather and to comment on daily life. His reporting is factual but he could be frank about the men, his commanding officer, and his own feelings. Lieutenant Greely used his letters to Henrietta to express his frustrations, to review his thinking, and to justify his actions. Lieutenant Lockwood’s obsession with food at Camp Clay comes from his diary entries.

I have kept very close to the facts with the Greely Expedition. However, when I read Lieutenant Lockwood’s diary entries, I came away with the impression that he had, in nineteenth-century terms, a “close attachment” to Mary Murray. I learned later that Mary Murray was his sister, but since it fit my purposes for Lieutenant Lockwood to have a sweetheart, I let it stand.

Greely’s Three Years of Arctic Service was useful here, as was his Report of the Proceedings of the United States Expedition to Lady Franklin Bay, Grinnell Land. Lockwood’s diary and Brainard’s are found in Greely’s Report of the Proceedings. Henry’s diaries are located in the U.S. National Archives, and Brainard’s diaries were published in Outpost of the Lost and Six Came Back, both edited by Bessie Rowland James. I can only admire the force of mind it took for these men to keep up their diaries, in particular David Brainard, who at Camp Clay made entries daily despite freezing fingers and the uncertain shadowy light of the blubber lamp. In the early stages of working on this book, I started off my day by reading one or two entries of Brainard’s diary and making a transcription of it. This is now available at the website of the Dartmouth College Library.

Alden Todd’s Abandoned: The Story of the Greely Arctic Expedition: 1881–1884, Leonard Guttridge’s The Ghosts of Cape Sabine: The Harrowing True Story of the Greely Expedition, and Theodore Powell’s The Long Rescue were essential tools, as was Jim Lotz’s Canada’s Forgotten Arctic Hero: George Rice. Michael Robinson’s The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture clarified for me America’s role in nineteenth-century Arctic exploration. I relied on Winfield S. Schley’s Report of Winfield S. Schley, Commanding Greely Relief Expedition of 1884 and his Rescue of Greely for a firsthand account of Greely’s rescue. These were chief among the numerous books and articles I happily read for this project, though since the age of twelve, when I read Maurice Herzog’s Annapurna: The First Conquest of an 8000-Metre Peak, I’ve been an avid reader of expedition books and stories of travel, adventure, and hardship anywhere. This project allowed me to indulge this desultory habit.

My own experience with cold is as a winter climber in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where on frigid days above treeline, when the wind blows hard enough to knock you down, you can feel, despite the layers of fleece and wind gear, that you have nothing on at all, and even a short stop for water and a quick snack numbs your fingers in seconds. I drew on all my knowledge of cold, of wind-driven ice and snow, of the breathtaking, often frightening beauty to be found there to make the experience of these twenty-five men become real for me. Though, in truth, their story is impossible to duplicate.

From Starvation Shore by Laura Waterman. Reprinted by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. © 2019 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System.
All rights reserved.
Starvation Shore: Bibliography

Starvation Shore

A Novel

In the summer of 1881, the twenty-five men of the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition stood on the shore and watched their ship sail for home from Discovery Harbor, just 500 miles from the North Pole. Commanded by the ambitious yet underqualified Adolphus W. Greely, this crew represented the first U.S. attempt to engage in scientific study of the Arctic. The frigid landscape offered the promise of great adventure—and unknown dangers. It was an expedition Greely eagerly anticipated long before it began. Standing there on that sunny summer afternoon, no one could have known how much would go wrong.

Drawing upon the diary of David Brainard as well as historic records, diaries, and letters of the men who inhabited the makeshift shelter they called Camp Clay, Laura Waterman reimagines the true story of polar explorers fighting for their lives and their sanity under dehumanizing conditions. This gripping, tragic tale of hunger, fear, and hope is told through the eyes of men at their worst — and most desperate — moments.

~ ~ ~

“The Greely Expedition is one of the great gothic tales from the heroic age of exploration. In lean and elegant prose buttressed by voluminous research, Laura Waterman captures the pathos, the grit, the heroism, and the resolve of this ambitious American undertaking that began with such promise and ended in such tragedy.”
~ Hampton Sides, author of In the Kingdom of Ice

“In her new book, Starvation Shore, Laura Waterman chooses fiction to tell the grim, gripping story of the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition, thus allowing her to give her interpretation of what happened and explore complex personalities of ordinary men under extraordinary circumstances. But her fiction is not fanciful imagination; it rests on her meticulous research of historical records, official papers, and diaries and letters of men who experienced the ordeal, whether they lived or died. Her novel draws us into the ever-dwindling circle. We are with Greely as he wrestles with his conscience over life-and-death decisions. We are part of the private thoughts of those who support him, or oppose him. We witness the squalor, stench, and madness of the dying. Through Waterman’s unflinching eye and evocative prose, we can see, feel and understand what could well have occurred in so remote a time and place, at the extreme of human experience.”
~ Charles W. Johnson, author of Ice Ship: The Epic Voyages of the Polar Adventurer Fram

“Starvation Shore is a closely researched evocation of a riveting and tragic chapter of polar exploration; the details Waterman has gleaned from authentic sources has brought the ordeal to vivid life.”
~ Caroline Alexander, author of The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition

“Starvation Shore is a remarkable novel. It helps for readers to know the history behind it, but one needn’t have read deeply on the events to be drawn in. Every page rings true. Both the characters and the setting are completely realized. Whether the cannibalism happened or not (historians can debate this point). Waterman has made the Greely Expedition immediate and real. This book deserves a place among the essential works about one of the most complex tragedies of Arctic exploration.”
~ David A. James is a Fairbanks based critic and freelance writer. Anchorage Daily News, 12/20/20.

“Amidst an unforgiving Arctic in Starvation Shore, Laura Waterman unfolds a tragic tale of nineteenth century polar exploration, immersing us in the richness of human frailties — and supreme heroism — that was the U.S. Army’s Lady Franklin Bay Expedition.”
~ Glenn M. Stein, FRGS, author of Discovering the North-West Passage

“Like the best historical novelists, Waterman is in love with her story and her characters, even (sometimes especially) when those characters behave badly. She understands how the wild can seep into our lives: changing us, destroying us, saving us.”
~ Clint Willis, author of Ice: Stories of Survival from Polar Expeditions

Forest and Crag by Laura Waterman - book cover
Forest and Crag: Preface to the 30th Anniversary Edition

Of course, I couldn’t be happier!

This Thirtieth Anniversary Edition of Forest and Crag is a celebratory event, a milestone that has me looking back upon the ebb and flow in the life of the book itself.

The story begins with the Appalachian Mountain Club’s publishing arm, as Guy and I wrote in the Preface to the First Edition, giving us the opportunity to write a history of our Northeastern mountains and the place of people in them. It gives me great pleasure now to turn in memory to the countless hours spent in AMC’s library — stacks reaching toward the ceiling, mountain photographs on the walls — at 5 Joy Street in Boston. Fran Belcher, who served the club for a lifetime, acted as librarian then and made sure we didn’t miss a single useful source. That first edition was published in 1989.

Under Beth Kruzi’s careful guidance, the Appalachian Mountain Club released a second edition in 2003, but by 2007, they had to let the book go out of print due to low sales relative to the cost of reprinting. Dark days for any author.

The light brightened when, in 2009, Ben Rose, president of the Green Mountain Club, proposed bringing out Forest and Crag as an e-book, generously keeping the book alive. This allowed me to write a preface for the e-book edition that had me pondering the incongruity of a book that Guy and I had researched by sending numerous letters through the US mail, making countless trips to libraries to spend hours thumbing through card files, and typing on manual typewriters in an off-the-grid homesteader’s cabin with no road access. Then, the idea of someone reading Forest and Crag in a mountain shelter on their iPad, or some other digital device, was a decade ago, surprising or disturbing, exciting or anathema, depending on the kind of experience you wanted in the mountains.

In 2014, the Appalachian Mountain Club came back into the picture. They tried for the next two years to find a sustainable way to bring the book into print again, but the task of raising funds that fell to the author proved too daunting.

My agent Craig Kayser and I thought we’d try a university press and learned that the University of Washington had an admired imprint, the Weyerhaeuser Environmental Series. We received a quick reply from Paul Sutter saying their interest and marketing strength was in the Northwest, but his familiarity with the book led him to encourage us to try university presses in the Northeast. We reached out to James Peltz at SUNY Press in Albany, New York, whose enthusiasm for the book made it clear that Forest and Crag had found a new and welcoming home.

Guy and I began our research in 1979, forty years before the publication of this edition (so in some ways this is as much a fortieth anniversary edition as it is a thirtieth). Much of that story we detailed in the Preface to the First Edition: how we began with the crazy misguided conception that while this book would be a good-sized project, surely it couldn’t take us longer than three years. It took us a decade. I’d like, now, to reflect back on the process of writing a big book. Or, to be more accurate, our experience of writing a book that turned out to be a whale of a project, one that was much bigger than we ever dreamed.

It got off to a great start, an exciting time for Guy and me, a true honeymoon of a research effort that — and this was what we were really happy about — literally sent us to the mountains. Our attack continued on two other fronts simultaneously.

We wrote letters to everyone we knew, as well as those we didn’t know but knew were in a position to give us information that bore on the history of their region: Katahdin, the Whites, the Greens, Adirondacks, Catskills, Massachusetts’s Berkshires, Connecticut’s blue-blaze trail system, trails north of New York City, and the Appalachian Trail that threads it all together. Each person we wrote to suggested more people who could give us more information. Of course, we eagerly followed up and got more helpful suggestions from hikers, staff at the hiking clubs, public agencies, and conservation organizations.

We began visiting libraries around the region, and after each research trip, we staggered back to our cabin with pack-fulls of notes, copies of magazine articles, notes from interviews, and sometimes gifts from our interviewees: books, early guide books, photographs, metal trail markers, wooden trail signs, and once two pairs of exquisitely made wooden snowshoes with gut webbing and leather bindings dating from the 1920s. We had opened the floodgates on an unstoppable river of primary data, secondary data, personal memories of those in their seventies, eighties, nineties — and one hearty senior of 106 — who had made the history by building trails, exploring the mountains in winter, or helping to found a hiking club.

This avalanche of material demanded we set up a system that allowed us easily to retrieve this information. Using folders, we based our filing system on the table of contents of a book that, as yet, had no title. Inevitably, this table of contents began to split and grow, expand and subdivide, as the research trips multiplied and the mail brought more letters and packages to our post office box in the village. Our cabin was small. It didn’t take long before this onslaught of paper swelled out of the neat wooden files we had built when we constructed our cabin and into cardboard boxes picked up at the supermarket. These ended up piled three-deep and encroached on our limited floor space, often serving as tables if we had a houseful of guests.

We had started writing nearly simultaneous to our earliest research forays and immediately ran into difficulties. We became so interested in tracing down every colonial ascent that we had written what could have become nearly a book in itself, or at least a lengthy article. Time to stop and reassess. If we exhausted every piece of early mountain exploration in this way, we saw we’d be working on this book for the rest of our lives. It would never get published because it was too blasted fat, and we’d never go hiking again because we’d be working on a book about hiking that was going to take forever. It was a bad moment. We never came up with a permanent or even good solution. But we never stopped hiking. One of our hardest tasks was attempting to justify reining in the material. It helped to say that perhaps others would take the book’s more lightly covered themes and explore them in greater depth, writing their own books or articles that would continue to add to the human story of the Northeast’s mountains.

We wrote on two manual typewriters on a small wooden table, facing each other. This was how we worked on all our writing projects, but writing history, this kind of collaboration, quickly revealed the incompatibility of our writing styles. Guy’s training was as a speech writer; he wrote fast and to tight deadlines. Mine was as an editor. As a writer, I was slow, the kind who labors over sentences with many cross-outs and much thinking through, requiring many drafts. Too many drafts. Too slow for Guy. It was not helpful for a smooth collaboration on a big book. The upshot was that Guy became the primary writer on Forest and Crag.

The book, however, needed both of us if it was ever going to get written. Guy continued to feel a daunting pressure from the sheer length. Having an end point that kept receding into the distance was unlike any of his previous writing experiences. He fought against the book taking over his life, which in this case meant preventing him from getting to the mountains on the regular basis he needed for his own mental health.

I, on the other hand, was less disturbed by long projects. I had the example of my father, who wrote books of prodigious length that took years and eventually got published. There was no reason why Forest and Crag wouldn’t see daylight — if we stuck to it. Here I was banking on Guy, who said to me more than once that a primary reason why he continued to work was that he didn’t want to let down all the people who had helped us. He just didn’t feel he could face that — their disappointment.

When the book came out and I held it in my hands, the heft of it felt right. All during the writing of Forest and Crag, I had in my mind Irma Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking. She had written a big book that exhausted the subject. I wanted Forest and Crag to carry the kind of weight that felt exhaustive. If Guy had a big book in mind it might have been Thomas Carlyle’s History of the French Revolution, which we read together while we were working on Forest and Crag to have the experience of reading a truly great history. But if Guy had this thought, he never mentioned it, nor did I mention my Joy of Cooking vision to him. To me, at the time, it felt too risky to articulate.

In sum, in our case, writing a big book required only a certain basic ignorance of the extent of the project, an initial enthusiasm that got us in too deep to pull out easily, a punishing sense of obligation to the generosity of others, and an overriding and insane love for our Northeast mountains.

Where are we now, thirty years after Forest and Crag’s publication? In the Preface to the First Edition we wrote that “the idea of integrating the histories of all the mountains of the Northeast in one book offered opportunities for comparing and contrasting the pace of change. . . ,” particularly in “relation to social history and Americans’ evolving attitudes toward mountains and wilderness.” In the Preface to the Second Edition, which I wrote for AMC’s 2003 release, I concluded, “The age of exploration in the nineteenth century has re-ceded into the past, as has the age of trail building in the twentieth. The age of stewardship has dawned with the new millennium. . . .”

As I look back at the ensuing decade and a half, I can only conclude that the most important work that can happen in the mountains now is stewardship. That people are coming to the mountains in greater numbers than ever previously witnessed is evidenced in the spillover of cars from parking lots onto the shoulders of highways and interstates. The trails on the popular peaks see so much traffic that hikers are forced to step out of the treadway to allow others to pass. This is so common that damage to the vegetation has accelerated, and above treeline especially, where the plants recover slowly or not at all, they are, in some areas, in danger of obliteration altogether.

Our mountains need our care. We hikers are not the only threats. Our mountains contend with climate change as well as all the other ways we humans have impacted the world around us. But hikers will continue to reach for the summits. My hope for the future is that each one of us becomes a steward by learning how to minimize our impacts; that the story we will write ten or thirty or fifty or one hundred years from now will be one of health for our trails and alpine summits; that as we take in the far-off views, we will see a flourishing forest, and as we climb above the trees, we will experience an untrampled wild garden of alpine plants, remnants of the Ice Age, colonizers of this terrain for ten thousand years. Here is the alpine zone, home as well to birds, insects, and animals. It is this entire ecosystem that awes us and deserves our most heartfelt protection.

Laura Waterman
East Corinth, Vermont
September 2018

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Forest and Crag

A History of Hiking, Trail Blazing, and Adventure in the Northeast Mountains, Thirtieth Anniversary Edition

Thirty years after its initial publication, this beloved classic is back in print. Superbly researched and written, Forest and Crag is the definitive history of our love affair with the mountains of the Northeastern United States, from the Catskills and the Adirondacks of New York to the Green Mountains of Vermont, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and the mountains of Maine. It’s all here in one comprehensive volume: the struggles of early pioneers in America’s first frontier wilderness; the first ascent of every major peak in the Northeast; the building of the trail networks, including the Appalachian Trail; the golden era of the summit resort hotels; and the unforeseen consequences of the backpacking boom of the 1970s and 80s. Laura and Guy Waterman spent a decade researching and writing Forest and Crag, and in it they draw together widely scattered sources. What emerges is a compelling story of our ever-evolving relationship with the mountains and wilderness, a story that will fascinate historians, outdoor enthusiasts, and armchair adventurers alike.

~ ~ ~

“This is a superb, monumental history. The Watermans are adept at the capsule profile, whether of peaks or persons. A gallery of characters unrolls, as diverse as those in a novel by Dickens.”
~ Paul Jamieson, former editor, The Adirondack Reader

“In its quality, comprehensiveness, and regional orientation, Forest and Crag is unprecedented in American letters. It will become a classic in social, intellectual, and environmental history.”
~ Roderick Frazier Nash, author of Wilderness and the American Mind, Fifth Edition

“Written with grace, style, and good humor, seasoned with a refreshing sense of wonder, Forest and Crag reads more like a gripping novel than the serious research work it really is.”
~ Magnetic North

Forest and Crag presents a incredible gift for today’s hikers — the opportunity to take a thoughtful and vigorous ramble into the past, and to explore the Northeastern mountains of yesteryear. What an adventure — and what better way to contemplate how we shape the region’s future?”
~ Peter Crane, Mount Washington Observatory

Forest and Crag traces the Northeast’s human and natural history by following the hiking experience from the early adventurers to the more recent development of an environmental ethic. The Watermans tell this story with clear respect and deep joy for the mountains that shaped the stories of the region’s hikers and hiking clubs.”
~ Mary Margaret Sloan, Chief Operating Officer, Positive Tracks

“The Watermans’ true genius is their ability to string all the facts together in a narrative so lively that even the footnotes and end-notes are read as eagerly as one would devour dessert at the end of a good meal.”
~ Tony Goodwin, coeditor of High Peaks Trails, 14th Edition

Yankee Rock and Ice by Laura Waterman - book cover
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Yankee Rock & Ice

A History of Climbing in the Northeastern United States, 2nd Edition

First published in 1993 and hailed as a classic, Yankee Rock & Ice is now reissued in a new edition with four new chapters covering the 1990s through today to bring the book up to date. This comprehensive and entertaining history of roped rock and ice climbing in the Northeast traces the growth of this popular sport in New England and New York and covers the first trailblazers of the eighteenth century through today’s events and personalities. Well-known mountaineers and preservationists, Guy and Laura Waterman have explored every corner of the mountains of New England and New York and done solid historical research on first ascents of classic routes and the climbers who have made them legendary. Climber Michael Wejchert joins Laura for the work on the second edition.

~ ~ ~

“Humor, meticulous research, a grand sense of history, and firsthand experience on the rock and ice they describe put the Watermans’ latest book high on the must-read list for anyone who loves New England’s hills.”
~ Appalachia

“Dividing their account roughly into decades and describing the major eastern climbing areas in loving detail, Guy and Laura weave a rich tapestry with vivid scenes in which they portray the leading players…. Relish this remarkable book. It’s a fun read and an inexhaustible reservoir of history, and certain to be a classic.”
~ The American Alpine Journal

“There is a historic spirit in these lands where our nation was born, and the climbing folklore is similarly colorful. Now, finally, with the publication of Yankee Rock & Ice, this lore can be shared among a wider audience.”
~ Bob Palais, Climbing magazine

“I, who grew up climbing in the Northeast, found Yankee Rock & Ice both educational and delightful. It is a necessary piece of gear on the rack of all armchair mountaineers, as well as an accurate topo of where we’ve been.”
~ Ramsay Thomas, Rock and Ice magazine

“Laura and Guy Waterman have achieved something similar to a controversial first ascent.”
~ Peter Beal, Appalchian Mountain Club, Boston Climber’s Newsletter

“A necessary purchase for libraries in the Northeast and desirable for all sports collections.”
~ Library Journal

The Green Guide by Laura Waterman - book cover
Foreword by Bill McKibben

I’M VERY GLAD, of course, that Laura and Guy Waterman’s fine book has emerged in a new edition, one suitable for the new earth we inhabit.

It should be said up-front that we have failed — as a species, as a civilization — most of the ethical tests set for us in the larger, frontwoods world. Simply by continuing to pour carbon into the atmosphere, we have turned the oceans 30% more acidic, melted much of the planet’s ice, and made its weather far more extreme (do not camp beneath that large pine bough—the fact that it’s been there for half a century does not guarantee it will last the night, given that the storms on our new planet are manifestly nastier). Some have tried — a little and around the edges — to limit their impact on the earth, but taken as a whole we’ve shown very little conscientiousness.

You might take this as license to trash your campsite, or at least build a big, honking blaze: What, after all, is a bit more carbon? But think instead of the way in which you’ve been granted a microcosm of the planet for a night. Here you are, in a place more lightly touched by humans than most other places. For a night, you are its steward. See what it takes to nurture and protect it; see what sacrifices of immediate ease and comfort you’re willing to make.

The payoff for conscientiousness, as I wrote in the original edition of this book, will be connection. You’ll have an opportunity to actually fit in with a place, to feel its tempo, to sense what it’s like without your overwhelming presence. At this late date, along with the possibly hopeless job of slowing down the destruction, our work as humans involves bearing witness. Part of that task is simply bearing witness to the beauty of the earth (and how much easier to observe this if you haven’t built that bonfire). However, we must also bear witness to our own possibility of lightness and grace, to remind ourselves, if only for a few nights, that there is nothing inevitable about the ways we currently inhabit the earth.

If you come out of the woods convinced of that truth, then perhaps you will participate in the building movement to prevent more destruction. In which case, the ethics of the backwoods will have helped preserve not only the few square meters of your campsite, but also every cubic meter of the atmosphere on which we and all else depend. Change can come, but it must start somewhere, and deep in the wild is as good a place as any!

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The Green Guide to Low-Impact Hiking and Camping

Foreword by Bill McKibben

Originally published as Backwoods Ethics in 1979, Laura and Guy Waterman’s definitive guide to low-impact hiking and camping was a prophetic call to reevaluate the impact of outdoor recreation on the wilderness. Enthusiastically received by environmentalists and wilderness managers at the time, its warnings and advice are now more relevant than ever. With wisdom and gentle humor, Laura and Guy Waterman present a strong case for the importance of respecting the natural world while you’re enjoying it. In his foreword to the new edition, world-famous environmentalist Bill McKibben puts the Watermans’ advice into context for today’s world. Day hikers, campers, and backpackers who follow the sensible techniques laid out in this book will help preserve the wilderness experience for generations to come.

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“I’m very glad that this fine book has emerged in a new edition, one suitable for the new earth we inhabit.”
~ from the Foreword by Bill McKibben

“For those who venture into the backcountry to hike, climb, or camp, and have true reverence for the bountiful beauty they find there, this book is a must read.”
~ Tom Wessels, author of Reading the Forested Landscape

“An essential book for those who camp and wander in wild places.”
~ Robert Alden Rubin, author of On the Beaten Path

Wilderness Ethics by Laura Waterman - book cover
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Wilderness Ethics

Preserving the Spirit of Wildness

2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Wilderness Act — the landmark piece of legislation that set aside and protected pristine parts of the American landscape. This anniversary edition of Wilderness Ethics helps to put the many issues surrounding wilderness in focus.

Without some management, the world’s wilderness cannot survive the number of people who seek to enjoy it.  But with too much management, or the wrong kind, we will destroy the spiritual component of wildness in our zeal to preserve its physical side. In Wilderness Ethics, Laura and Guy Waterman look beyond the ecology of the backcountry to the factors that make it “wild.”

Improved trailside facilities, large groups seeking “wilderness experiences,” technological supports such as cell phones and emergency helicopters, and even new regulations designed to preserve wild areas, have all had an impact on the way we experience the backcountry. With humor and insight, the Watermans explore the most difficult wilderness management issues, asking us to evaluate the impact that even “environmentally conscious” values have on the wilderness experience, and to ask the question: what are we trying to preserve?

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“The Watermans’ compelling book concentrates a half century of growing doubts about the success of wilderness protection programs in the United States…. is wildness so fragile a quality that it might be destroyed even in a designated wilderness? At the heart of this paradox is the fact that wildness is not so much a place, but a feeling about one.”
~ From the Foreword by Roderick Frazier Nash

Losing the Garden by Laura Waterman - book cover
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Losing the Garden

The Story of a Marriage

In 1973, Laura and Guy Waterman decided to give up all the conveniences of life and live self-sufficiently, for the land, in a cabin in the mountains of Vermont. For nearly three decades they created a deliberate life, eating food they grew themselves and using no running water or electricity. Losing the Garden is an honest account of their life together, their marriage, and the event that would end it — the day Guy climbed a summit and sat down among the rocks to die. This is the memoir of a woman who was compelled to ask herself, “How could I support my husband’s plan to commit suicide?” In her intimate examination, we explore their intricate and troubled family histories and reach a deep understanding of the marriage that tried to transcend them. At its heart, this is a love story and an affirmation of life after loss.

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“A compelling memoir demands a precarious dance between the universal and the unusual…. The result is a very slow waltz during which the dancers hardly touch.”
~ Boston Globe, chosen as an Editor’s Pick

“This is a survivor’s tale of an unusual life and a loving marriage. Waterman’s well-written and heartfelt book will resonate with anyone whose life has been touched by the suicide of a loved one.”
~ Library Journal

“It’s pretty rare to read a manuscript and find yourself thinking: this is a classic, a book that people will read for many years to come.”
~ Bill McKibben, author of Wandering Home

A Fine Kind of Madness by Laura Waterman - book cover
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A Fine Kind of Madness

Mountain Adventures Tall & True

In this standout collection of the writings of Guy Waterman and Laura Waterman, readers will discover a rich blend of outdoor adventures great and small. Some fiction, some nonfiction, all these stories explore the basic impulse to climb, its roots, and the underlying drives of remarkable individual climbers. One story, a fictionalized letter exchange between two ambitious female climbers of the Victorian Era — Fanny Bullock Workman and Annie Peck — captures the competitive spirit between them. The true story A Night in Odell Gully demonstrates “that serious climbers know, better than almost anyone else in our sheltered modern life, what death and dying means.” This collection is certain to be a touchstone for all who are drawn to the mountains.