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Reading and Adventure: The Correlation. A Recollection.

Every epic outdoor destination deserves a great book to travel alongside.

By: Jake & Holly OpenRoadRevival + Save to a List

Holden Caulfield is pressing through the Museum of Natural History as I’m fixated on the Yellowstone River, its tumultuous form raging over boulders just below the surface, just before the lower falls. I'm catching glimpses of it as I flip past pages of this classic novel for the umpteenth time ('Catcher in the Rye').

There is simply something about reading in this very spot that I adore.

But then again, so was the place where Billy Pilgrim became unstuck in time, transcending the molecular structure of life as we know as I sat perched on a boulder above the Zion narrows watching troves of people escape the summer Utah heat. I placed Slaughterhouse Five neatly in my pack, headed up river past the point of corralling tourists, split down Orderville Canyon to regroup in silence. Jealousy grew rampant in my heart upon this character’s fictional ability to ‘visit’ with each passing paragraph.      

There holds a certain affinity in me between books and the open road. Printed words placed beneath my nose, folded calmly in my lap while the majestic undertaking of sprawled-out horizons culminating in snow-capped peaks post-carded before your eyes inch closer. My wife’s hands grasping the steering wheel, eyes focused, radio off and mouths quiet. She is lost in thought while I’m captured in pages.

Upon our destination reached, the obsessive well fails to run dry. 

“I could sit out here for weeks and just read,” I tell her. It’s not the pleasant vote of confidence in her company she prefers, yet no defensive, backwards gesture of explanation is required. Dinner, campfire and conversation are coming. She knows. Yet, for now I’m embedded in the throes of this paperback as if it were paramount to my own existence.

The annoyed look about her turning head makes me smile. I shoot her one back that suggests I’d rather not be bothered, not yet, begrudgingly lifting my head from the page to communicate it non-verbally. It’s the same look she gets at home under the same circumstances. The back-and-forth match which ultimately means its time for me to bookmark it.

Whenever I’m out here, among bristlecone pines and walls of granite, gorge forming rivers and alpine lakes, I can ingest books with a prowess unseen about in the caging walls of home. Serenity has a habit of seeping in and infecting the distraction here, which as a habit consumes us in our normal states of the everyday, compelling us too frequently to do nothing.

Oh, the ‘everydayness’. Binx Bolling ('The Moviegoer'was my company through the rugged onset of the south rim of the Chiso Mountains, my roommate in Big Bend. I read of him while I stared out ‘The Window’ and into the endless path of land sprawled out beyond. Double meanings become increasing relevant when taken in amidst such elements.

The road. The mountains. The desert. The ocean. The natural ambiance of intrinsic sound flooding the scenery, the proper point in which pensive reflection becomes the quest, and not an ordeal. When you feel like thinking, like nonstop thinking about things, instead of purposefully shutting off your brain to offer it up some rest.

Hal Incandenza ('Infinite Jest') is ‘kertwanging’ tennis balls as I stare up at a mess of tailings running down off the not-quite-peak of Mt. Tallac. At the eventual summit, Don Gately is pressing on, front and center, and I know that the PGOAT (Prettiest Girl of All Time) sits somewhere far below my elevation as I stare out sheepishly at South Lake Tahoe looking as if it were constructed of Legos. Technology. Addiction. Pleasure. The mind of David Foster Wallace seems more vivid in this landscape. Clarity. I turn off my device and head back down, the only book I’ve ever preferred not to cart around in physical form. I’m happy because the wind up here is treacherous.

‘Kertwang’, now there is a word! Meaning something ‘is sent curtailing immediately in another direction’, something like a tennis ball, or hell, even life.

Distraction. Authenticity. The power of the mind, for better or worse. How it can clear your conscience or render you worthless upon the angle from which you decide to see it. All a battle within, all an understanding. It’s the power of perspective which comes from books, from exercising your mind, struggling to inform you through a strenuous trail of endless syllables and vocabulary outside your general scope. 

There is little difference between hiking and reading, really. Grueling treks of supreme beauty, steps and pages fought through for the glimpse of something spectacular and grandiose. The destination is the end, yes, but every stumble upon that path had an effect in precisely how you see it. Fiction and nature both pleasurable encounters of interpretation.

Early letters of Hunter S. Thompson reside with me in Escalante, unrest and a vital understanding of the world keeping my mind leery, on edge for it. Hemmingway and Jake Barnes have me longing to be an expat as I search out over the South Dakotan Badlands

Ralph Ellison’s ‘Invisible Man’, the outright celebrant of the ‘Best Book I’ve Ever Read’ award, was done so primarily in the shadows of the Tetons, the shore of Jackson Lake and a few picnic tables in Signal Mountain campground. Morning campfires and instant coffee serving as company for our early morning rendezvouses.

These works of literature have become like friends, like family, and each of which supply their own unique backdrop, a window of escape, a doorway into what the world just might be. A simplistic measure in the complexity of existence, bound up and delivered from one mind to another, the chance to have a profound effect on a complete stranger.

I felt that way about Christopher McCandless, reading ‘Into the Wild’ in a series of afternoons in a bar no less, drink free and at work, devouring it in between split shifts the autumn after I graduated college.

Our puppy, Charley, a blue Doberman with endless energy is, you guessed it, named after the famous work from John Steinbeck.

Oedipa Maas sat with me in Difficult Campground just east of Aspen last June. High upon a mess of boulders overlooking sparse, miniature tents, the roaring sounds of a river flooded with snow-melt in the background, I read. Independence Pass sat nearby. The whole encounter seemed dressed in irony. Difficult. Independence. Oedipa’s search.

This summer, my wife and I sold our house. We’re opting for time over material. Opting for experience over having. ‘Vanlife’ as they call it, is ‘coming soon’. We’re searching for something, hands-up-to-foreheads gazing into the future. Ready. Willing. Yearning for the experience of being alive. Alive in a sense to which we’ve yet to fully feel and embrace.

More time for family. For friends. For reading. For classic introspection and intellectual discourse. For meaning.

Oedipa’s life encompassing quest for the ‘trystero’. 

It just all feels too fitting.

Madly, we are searching for our ‘trystero’ with the passing of each mile and every sunset. For it is the willingness to search which ultimately leads to what matters most.

The experience is our new vow to one another. To read. To write. To discover. To ingest the world with the sense it will one day be taken from us, because it will. One day we will inevitably lose the ability to enjoy it, the final word will get internally whispered and the back cover will be slammed shut.

And at the time, we want to be able to affirm to ourselves in convincing nature that we made the most of our blank pages, that we were a book well-worth reading.



Read on. Exercise your brain. Don’t fall into the trap of the everyday. Book recommendation always adored.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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