book reviews

My Latest Non-fiction Winner

Every once in a while, a book grabs me  and I know I will never forget it. This is one of those:

***

The Adventures of a Nature Guide

by Enos Mills

5/5

Enos Abijah Mills (1870-1922) spent his entire life exploring nature and then sharing his observations with anyone interested. This book, The Adventures of a Nature Guide, was originally printed in 1920 (reprinted in 2015) and Enos died just two years later. Through his fifty-two years, the burning passion that took life before his teens never dimmed:

“From the time I realized that animals and birds play merrily and frequently, wild life and wild places appealed to me with intensified interest. My estimate of wild folk rose mightily and the watching of wild life at play has claimed a large share of my outings and has given me an interest that never grows old.”

The teaser that persuaded me to buy this book was the opening chapter–Walking Blind in the Snow-covered Mountains. Mills had been exploring the world atop the Continental Divide, alone as was his norm, when he lost his vision to snow blindness. Most of us would ponder our mortality but Mills rationally and calmly found his way back to civilization by employing his remaining senses:

“…feeling my way with the staff so as not to step off a cliff or walk overboard into a canon.”

“[Blindly, trudging through endless snow, I shouted to] attract the attention of a possible prospector, miner, or woodchopper. No voice answered. The many echoes, however, gave me an idea of the topography—of the mountain ridges and canons before me. I listened intently after each shout and noticed the direction from which the reply came, its intensity, and the cross echoes, and concluded that I was going down into the head of a deep, forest-walled canon…”
xx
“…my staff encountered the top of a dead tree that leaned against the ledge. Breaking a number of dead limbs off, I threw them overboard. Listening as they struck the snow below I concluded that it could not be more than thirty feet to the bottom.”

It took Mills more than two days with only a staff and his remaining senses to find his way down the mountain but he never lost his positive attitude or the belief he would prevail. Only a nature lover could see that as an adventure.

It becomes clear as I read his adventures that to Mills, it didn’t matter what nature threw at him–snow, heat, or storms. He considered each an opportunity to learn more about the natural world:

“The following day, while the storm was at its wildest in the lowlands, I was descending the mountains between eleven and nine thousand feet. Much of the time I was in the broken storm cloud, and, as I wrote in my notebook, ‘For two hours the crash and roll of thunder was incessant. I counted twenty-three times that the lightning struck rocks, but I did not see it strike a tree.'”

Throughout the book, Mills shares many amazing experiences. Here’s one where he watches the ever changing inhabitants of a woodpecker’s nest (over a period of years), starting with the original owners and then followed by chipmunks, bluebirds, wrens, and more.

“The woodpecker’s nest is one of the cleanest and safest and probably the most continuously comfortable of all birds’ nests. It keeps out the rain and excludes the extremes of cold and heat.”

Who knew? Here are a few more adventures:

“…is both interesting and necessary for one who enjoys the outdoors to be able to return to the lightning-struck tree, the almost hidden beaver colony, the nest of the humming-bird, and to recall the peculiarities of a particular place and its distance from the orchid or the bear sign which he saw.”

“the wall-like, sixty-degree slope was constantly hugged closely, the wind a number of times saw how nearly possible it was to wipe me off without doing so. The mercury in my pocket thermometer barely showed above the zero mark, and all warming performances—hurrying, arm swinging, and dancing—were impossible on the icy, windswept steep.”

If you are a nature lover, hiking enthusiast, or admirer of the independent spirit, you will enjoy this book.


More non-fiction reviews:

Law of Primitive Man

Letters From the Field Part II

Einstein: His Life and Universe


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Fall 2021. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

69 thoughts on “My Latest Non-fiction Winner

  1. Pingback: A Memoir You Won’t Want to Miss | WordDreams...

  2. The descriptions of how Enos found his way off the mountain while snowblind are fascinating! The first thing that caught my attention about your review is that my home town in Vermont, Enosburg, was named after someone named Enos.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Jacqui – fascinating to learn of a new ‘environmentalist’ and to be able to read up about him … wonderful that he had that early passion. Thanks for posting – stay safe – Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

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