Recently I came across a book by Bryan Snyder titled Further Off the Map that is perfect for those of you who love the outdoors, especially places well off the beaten path.
The book is easy reading, a series of 53 stories covering the past four years of Bryan’s life, each transporting you into some of the wildest places in the western states.
If there is a common theme running through the book, it is his desire to share his sense of adventure and desire to push himself to the limit, in the process of discovering who he is and ultimately what life is all about.
The stories are each four pages in length, and every one filled with the type of writing that transports you into the scene with the type of vivid detail that almost makes you feel you are there with him.
Though Bryan grew up in the rolling hills and shady creeks of upstate New York, where he explored old farms and rough-hewn countryside when he was a kid, after graduating from college he headed west, first stopping in Prescott, Arizona, where he received a degree in environmental education.
Eventually, Bryan moved to California, where the pay for outdoor education teachers was much better, and settled in Santa Barbara, spending many years working at the nearby Outdoor School at Rancho Alegre, sharing his love of the outdoors with thousands of children from our local schools.
In the summer, he’d head off for the high peaks Colorado and wherever else his companion, a sure-footed Jeep named “Charlie,” could get to before fall classes began again.
As you read through Bryan’s adventures scaling 14,000-foot pinnacles, sliding down rock-strewn chutes in Rocky Mountain National Park, searching for the perfect hot spring or jamming with other musicians at Burning Man, you begin to develop a sense of this dis-ordinary character who’d rather be out on the edge challenging himself, pushing the limits of both time and distance.
Further Off the Map is storytelling at its best. Bryan writes with a richness and depth that sucks you in.
Before long you’ll feel almost like a companion along on the journey, sharing his misfortunes and celebrating his escapes from situations almost certain to end in disaster.
“I see contradictory impulses in my approach to nature, for I desire simple, nurturing outdoor experiences,” he writes in the introduction, “and yet I subconsciously keep pushing the limits of time and distance until complexities arise and threaten to overwhelm me.”
In one particular story about a climb of Little Bear Peak in Colorado, he writes, “My steady train of thought was gradually overpowered by an awful nightmarish sensation … the feeling you get when you realize that the higher you climb, the greater the likelihood of your death.
You dread the moment when you know your gamble has failed, and that you have to retreat, even though backing down could easily kill you.”
Fortunately, Snyder survives the route down, and thus the story gets told.
A self-described “environmental science teacher and professional generator of ill-conceived plans,” Snyder has a style of writing that will captivate you as you read along.
There is a self-effacing style and humor to the stories that always seem to impart an uplifting feeling to the adventures, even when staring death in its face.
“Even when one of the hiking poles snapped in half five minutes from my campsite,” Snyder concluded near the end of one of those hair-raising adventures that make the book such an enjoyable read, “I was able to hold up the two broken ends and laugh. It didn’t really matter. I was alive, uninjured, and immensely thankful that there were 52 other mountains in Colorado easier than this one.”
Be prepared to sit back and enjoy Snyder’s 50-plus tales as he immerses you in a series of great misadventures throughout the western states. For more information about Bryan, visit his website or buy Further Off the Map at Amazon.
Note: Further Off the Map was preceded by Snyder’s first book, Off the Map: Fifty-Five Weeks of Adventuring in the Great American Wilderness and Beyond, which was published in 2013.
You can download a free Kindle or ePub version of it there, along with two books by Bryan dedicated to what he calls “renegade camping” in the western states.
— Noozhawk outdoor writer Ray Ford can be reached at email@example.com. Click here for his website, SBoutdoors.com. Follow him on Twitter: @riveray. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.