Great Reads for the Trail Rider

great readsAs much as I hate to admit it winter is the time of the year when my easy chair sees more of me than my saddle. There’s something about a log roaring in the stove that beckons after the evening’s last feeding and checking of the ponies. A warm fire, a comfortable chair, and a good book will help to pass the long winters nights ahead us of us before the spring thaw opens the trails again.

The following is collection of my favorite trail riding and horse camping book, both old and new. From inspirational reads that will have you to aching to ride and camp to How To’s that will give you the skills to do so, this is my winter reading list.




susiedrougasPack Saddles & Gunpowder, by Susie Drougas

If you’re a rider in the Pacific Northwest this book will have you yearning to return to the high country of the Cascade range as you follow Dusty Rose through Big Crow Basin and on into the Pasayten Wilderness in this rousing adventure story. Likewise, if you’re an aspiring back country rider you really ought to give Pack Saddles & Gunpowder a read to hone your LNT skills as Susie deftly wraps the tenants of Leave No Trace into the saga of a reluctant big city lawyer who rides and packs into the high country. Get your copy at


vernhopkinsIt Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time, by Vern Hopkins

This collection of short stories will have you smiling with each chapter as you follow along with Vern on his colorful life of ranching, rodeoing, and horse racing. Vern puts a good-natured swirl in each tale as he shares his remarkable life from 1934 to the present. Get your copy at It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

After Susie and Vern have you longing to ride and pack into the backcountry a trail guide will help you decide where to ride once the snows melt.


kimmccarrelRiding Southern Oregon Horse Trails, By Kim McCarrel

Canter your horse along a sandy beach. Find a hidden spring. Experience the panoramic views from the shoulder of Mt. Thielson. It’s all there and much more in any of the excellent Oregon trail guides written by Kim McCarrel. Where www.TrailMeister is the best general-purpose horse trail and camping directory, Kim’s Oregon Horse Trails series gives turn-by-turn trail directions and highlights that make planning your next trip a breeze. Get your copy at




They Left Their Tracks, By Howard Copenhaver

The recollections from over 60 years outfitting and guiding into Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness flow through the pages in a series of stories that will have you yearning to venture into a wilderness area. My copy was a gift from Smoke Elser. You can get yours from

After you’ve enjoyed, and I know you will, the rousing yarns in “Pack Saddles & Gunpowder”, “It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time”, and They Left Their Tracks” a good set of instructional guides will give you the confidence to do the trail riding and camping that you’ll be dreaming of. Of the volumes of works that line my bookshelves the following are the books that I find myself pulling down and using more than any of the rest. My copies are dirty, dog eared, and filled with my annotations. They’re the references that I use on a regular basis.



mtcanaryPackers Guidebook, by Ed & Sue Haefliger

If packing cargo for camp, trail work, or any other reason is on your list of To-Do’s the Mountain Canary Company’s Packer’s Guidebook should be high on your list of resources to familiarize yourself with. Ed explains the concepts of safe packing in a clear, concise, and entertaining manner as you accompany he and his much better, Sue deep into the backcountry of the Olympic National Forest where Ed is the chief volunteer packer for the park. Get your copy at



mulesweardiamondsWhen Mules Wear Diamonds, by Stacy Gebhards

Another seminal treatise of the art of mountain packing borne from experience this excellent book offers a counter point and complementary with step by step illustrations that help clarify and explain the finer points of packing for those that desire to learn more of the art this is packing safely. Get your copy at




The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Knots and Ropework, by Geoffrey Budworth

“It is extraordinary how little the average individual knows about the art of making even the simplest knots.” R.M. Abraham, 1923. Unfortunately not much has changed in the 90 plus years that have passed since Mr. Abraham made that observation. With detailed instructions and photographs illustrating how to tie over 200 knots this book can turn a knot-a-phobe who relies on gadgets into a rope work aficionado ready for any horse camping trip imaginable. Get your copy at The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Knots and Ropework: Over 200 Tying Techniques with Step-by-Step Photographs




The Ultimate Hang, by Derek Hansen

Hammocks can offer a blissful night’s slumber, or a miserable sleepless eve. I prefer the former but often endured the latter until I found Derek Hansen’s illustrated guide that shares his experiences with hammocking. This very digestible softcover is filled with useful information, humorous illustrations and spot on tips that will help you to make full use of this lightweight and potentially very useful piece of camping equipment. Get your copy at The Ultimate Hang: An Illustrated Guide To Hammock Camping




Finding Your Way in the Outdoors, by Robert Mooers

There are few experiences in life, which can compare with successfully leading the way on a wilderness route. What most people don’t consider is that any place from public part to the back forty of the family ranch, can become a wilderness in the case of an unpleasant accident. Mooers’ book is an excellent primer for both the novice and experienced outdoorsman and includes a number of practical illustrations and diagrams to help you stay found and back in camp in time for dinner. Get your copy at Finding Your Way in the Outdoors




Horse, Hitches and Rocky Trails, by Joe Back

I’ve heard it referred to as the “Packers Bible” and I can’t say that that is unwarranted. This slim soft cover book is filled to the brim with what can only be described as word pictures that will have you wanted to visit the high country for a spell. Get your copy at Horses, Hitches, and Rocky Trails: The Packers Bible


Get the fire going, and pull up the chair you’re going to enjoy these winter reads that will inspire you to ride and camp with your horses and mule and also teach you to do so safely. We live in an amazing place and exploring it on horseback can be phenomenal. A little bit of preparation will ensure that it is.