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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Appalachian Trail tale tops 2014 Outdoor Book Awards

OUTDOOR READING -- They call her Grandma Gatewood.  She carries an umbrella, wears a checked skirt, and she loves to hike. 

In fact, she is the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail.  After her first 2,000-mile hike, she did it again, becoming the first person - man or woman - to hike it twice.  And then for good measure, she hiked it a third time.

Grandma Gatewood is the subject of a new book which is one of the award recipients of the 2014 National Outdoor Book Awards, announced today.

The awards program is sponsored by the National Outdoor Book Awards Foundation, Idaho State University and the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education.

Her remarkable Appalachian Trail hikes took place in the 1950's and 60's, and they would have been largely forgotten had it not been for Ben Montgomery who chronicled her life in "Grandma Gatewood's Walk."

"Montgomery is a first rate story teller," said Ron Watters, the chairman of the Awards program.  "He weaves the facts of her life into a moving narrative.  We really come to know and understand this amazing woman who found deliverance in the simple act of walking."

Montgomery's book is the winner of the History/Biography category, one of ten categories which make up the National Outdoor Book Awards. 

The winner of the Outdoor Literature category is "Small Feet, Big Land."  Authored by Erin McKittrick, the book is about her family and their experiences in Alaska.  She and her husband Hig, and her two children live in a 450-square foot yurt near Seldovia in the Southcentral portion of the state.  McKittrick writes of her family's endeavors on wilderness hikes, visits to remote Arctic villages, and their stay for two months atop one of the world's largest glaciers. 

"It's a beautifully written account," said Watters.  "It is, quite simply, what exceptional outdoor literature is all about: an honest, perceptive, and graceful account of life close to nature." 

One of the winning books this year received two awards.  "Life on the Rocks" won the Nature & Environment Category and also tied for first place in the Design & Artistic Merit Category.  This double win represents the first time in the history of the National Outdoor Books that a title entered in two categories has won both. 

"Life on the Rocks," written and photographed by wildlife biologist Bruce L. Smith, is all about mountain goats: their habitat, life cycle, behavior, and the challenges they face in an Alpine environment. 

"This is a stunning book," said Watters, "with dramatic photographs of mountain goats perched on rocky outcrops.  From the very first page, Smith draws us into, and shares with us, that unique high mountain world inhabited by those resplendent white creatures."

The other winning book in the Design category is "Salt: Coastal and Flats Fishing."  It's a coffee table sized book richly illustrated with photographs by Andy Anderson and accompanied with essays by noted fishing expert Tom Rosenbauer.  The Design judges were impressed.  At least two of the judges labeled Anderson's photography as "dazzling."

"Anderson's artistic and dramatic photos combined with an equally dazzling design has created a book that is utterly exhilarating in its depiction of the sport of coastal fishing" Watters said.

Winning the children's category is a book about a mother and son taking a short, early morning canoe trip.  The book, for the 4 to 8 year age group, is entitled "Good Morning Loon" and is written by Elizabeth Varnai and illustrated by Kate Hartley.

The story is told through the eyes of the boy.  While canoeing across a lake, the two spot fascinating wildlife:  a frog, mergansers, beaver, osprey, and a great blue heron.  Just before they are ready to turn back, they finally come across what the boy was hoping to see: a loon.

"It's an enchanting story," said Watters, "and educational.  With each new discovery, the boy learns a little more about the natural world.  It's a perfect bedtime read."

Here is a list of the 2014 winners. 

Outdoor Literature.  Winner.  "Small Feet, Big Land:  Adventure, Home and Family on the Edge of Alaska."  By Erin McKittrick.  Mountaineers Books, Seattle. 

Natural History Literature.  Winner.  "The Small Heart of Things: Being at Home in a Beckoning World."  By Julian Hoffman.  The University of Georgia Press, Athens. 

History/Biography.  Winner.  "Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail."  By Ben Montgomery.  Chicago Review Press, Chicago. 

Classic Award.  Winner.  "Not Without Peril: 150 Years of Misadventure on the Presidential Range of New Hampshire."  By Nicholas Howe. Appalachian Mountain Club Books, Boston. 

Nature & Environment.  Winner.  (Also tied for first place in the Design & Artistic Merit category).  "Life on the Rocks:  A Portrait of the American Mountain Goat."  Written and photographed by Bruce L. Smith.  University Press of Colorado, Boulder, CO. 

Nature and the Environment.  Honorable Mention.  "Feathers: A Beautiful Look at a Bird's Most Unique Feature."  By Stan Tekiela.  Adventure Publications, Cambridge, MN. 

Design & Artistic Merit.  Winner.  "Salt:  Coastal and Flats Fishing."  Photographs by Andy Anderson.  Essays by Tom Rosenbauer.  Rizzoli International Publications, New York.

Children's Category.  Winner.  "Good Morning Loon."  By Elizabeth S. Varnai.  Illustrated by Kate Hartley.  Vista Court Books, New Hope PA.

Outdoor Adventure Guidebooks.  Winner.  "Chattahoochee River User's Guide by Joe Cook."  University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA.

Nature Guidebooks.  Winner.  "The Warbler Guide."  By Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle.  Princeton University Press, Princeton. 

Instructional Category.  Winner.  "Training for the New Alpinism:  A Manual for the Climber as Athlete."  By Steve House and Scott Johnston.  Patagonia Books, Ventura, CA. 

Instructional Category.  Honorable Mention.  "Simple Fly Fishing: Techniques for Tenkara and Rod & Reel."  By Yvon Chouinard, Craig Mathews and Mauro Mazzo.  Paintings by James Prosek.  Patagonia Books, Ventura, CA.

Work of Significance.  "Fieldbook: Scouting's Manual of Basic and Advanced Skills for Outdoor Adventure."  By Robert Birkby. Boy Scouts of America , Irving, TX.

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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