If you can see Mt. Baker, you are part of The Experience

Book reviews, summer 2023


By Meg Olson

Campfire Stories: Volumes I and II

Dave Kyu and Ilyssa Kyu

Mountaineers Books

This collection of writings that celebrates America’s national parks and trails was born of a spontaneous road trip that sparked a passion for the outdoors and an impulse years later sitting by the campfire to reach for cell phones. The authors set out to visit the national parks and put together stories that connect readers to the place as they sit around the campfire.

Each volume highlights six national parks, from Acadia at the northeast tip of the U.S. to Olympic at the northwest corner, Everglades at the southeast edge to the Grand Canyon in the southwest. The authors introduce readers to the park and share a collection of stories and poems they have chosen after visiting the park and talking to the people who know it best, from rangers to tribal elders. While the stories and poems highlight the park, they also speak to our connection with nature wherever we are and are meant to be read aloud.

Favorite bit: Both volumes include storytelling tips at the beginning to help readers get into the swing of reading aloud.

On Island Time: A Traveler’s Atlas

Chandler O’Leary

Sasquatch Books

A love letter to the islands of the Salish Sea by a sketchbook-toting, island-loving explorer, “On Island Time” is perfect for armchair traveling while you plan your next adventure or the glove box when you hit the ferry.

From Anderson Island in south Puget Sound, north to Desolation Sound, Chandler O’Leary offers herself as your guide and traveling companion. Hand-drawn maps give an overview of each place you will visit. Watercolor illustrations share the flavor of the place. The accompanying text will give visitors tidbits of inside information as well as the big picture and lots of suggestions about what to see and do, from hidden gems to bucket list basics.

Primarily aimed at road-trippers, the book also addresses visiting the islands by boat and exploring by bike and on foot.

The atlas is peppered with pages highlighting different elements of island living. There are spreads on the bounty of regional seafood, marine mammals (don’t touch those seal pups!), exploring the intertidal zone, and the multitude of ferries and other boats to help you get around. There is also lots of practical advice including packing guides, ferry etiquette and border crossings. The book opens with an acknowledgement that travelers are visiting the unceded homelands of many Indigenous peoples and their traditions and cultures are honored throughout.

Favorite bit: Any book that suggests you “stop into the Kingfisher Bookstore” in Coupeville definitely knows what it’s talking about. Besides that we love the little snapshots of island creations drawn throughout the book and especially on the endpapers: Quirky signs, hand-built mailboxes, little free libraries and more!

Note: We were enthusiastically preparing for Chandler O’Leary to visit Kingfisher Bookstore to celebrate this wonderful book when Chandler died suddenly this spring. We will miss her talent, enthusiasm and passion for our region.

The Mountains are Calling

Nancy Blakey

Sasquatch Books

Down the backbone of the Cascades, along the rainforest flanks of the Olympics, from a quick soak in a hot spring to multi-day adventures, from tents to lodges and strolls to scrambles, here is your invitation to, like John Muir, hear the call of the mountains and go.

A primer to our regional mountains, this is more of a book of ideas than a guidebook but it is still packed with plenty of information. Kicking off with Mountains 101, it features clear, accessible basics from what to wear to wildfire basics and how to drive on icy roads. Each section includes top spots and helpful maps to go with each mountain destination, along with day hikes, backpacking route suggestions and other adventures. There are suggestions for exploring in snowy and green months. Options for accommodation cover campgrounds to lodges and unique places to stay.

Favorite bit: The green pages! Throughout the book are green pages with microdoses of cool stuff that send you off to learn more: Volcano types, how to build a snow camp, poisonous plants, edible mushrooms.

The Naturalist at Home

Kelly Brenner

Mountaineers Books

Anyone is a naturalist, Kelly Brenner tells us, if they take the time to observe, document and learn from the natural world. She offers 20 projects for every season that anyone can tackle, from building a terrarium to making tree bark rubbings. Despite the title, all the projects at least start in the field, making the book a perfect companion for planning and taking on an expedition in the Pacific Northwest. Along with practical instructions for each project, Brenner also serves up rich background information about the species being studied as well as the people who have studied them.

Favorite bit: Fabulous and previously unknown vocabulary describing outdoor exploration activities, from dock fouling (looking for creatures in the murky water under a dock) to bush beating (knocking bugs off a bush so you can study them).


David Schmader

Sasquatch Books

An essential guide for road-tripping cinephiles in the Pacific Northwest. This illustrated handbook features pithy synopses of over 200 films and television shows filmed in the region including pilgrimage-worthy locations. Stars and filmmakers with a Northwest connection are featured in sidebars, as are genres from dystopian to xxx that have flourished here.

Favorite bit: It wraps up with a fabulous thematic guide to binge watching.

Meg Olson is the co-owner of the Kingfisher Bookstore in Coupeville, which has a bit of everything but specializes in the natural and human history of the Pacific Northwest. She likes to explore, in person or on pages.