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Outpost: A Journey to the Wild Ends of the Earth

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There are still wild places out there on our over-crowded planet. Through a series of personal journeys, Dan Richards explores their romantic and exploratory appeal. Wildernesses, seemingly untouched by man's hand: mountains, tundra, forests, oceans and deserts. These are landscapes that speak of deep time, whose scale can knock us down to size. Their wildness is part of t There are still wild places out there on our over-crowded planet. Through a series of personal journeys, Dan Richards explores their romantic and exploratory appeal. Wildernesses, seemingly untouched by man's hand: mountains, tundra, forests, oceans and deserts. These are landscapes that speak of deep time, whose scale can knock us down to size. Their wildness is part of their beauty and such places have long drawn the adventurous, the spiritual, the artistic. For those who go in search of the isolation, silence and adventure of wild places it is - perhaps ironically - to the man-made shelters that they need to head; the outposts: bothies, bivouacs, cabins and huts. Part of their allure is their simplicity: enough architecture to shelter from the weather but not so much as to distract from the immediate environment around. Following a route from the Cairngorms of Scotland to the fire-watching huts of Washington State, from Iceland's Houses of Joy to the desert of New Mexico, and from the frozen beauty of Svalbard to a lighthouse perched in the Atlantic, Richards uncovers landscapes which have inspired writers, artists and musicians, and asks: why are we drawn to wilderness? And how do wild places become a space for inspiration and creativity?


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There are still wild places out there on our over-crowded planet. Through a series of personal journeys, Dan Richards explores their romantic and exploratory appeal. Wildernesses, seemingly untouched by man's hand: mountains, tundra, forests, oceans and deserts. These are landscapes that speak of deep time, whose scale can knock us down to size. Their wildness is part of t There are still wild places out there on our over-crowded planet. Through a series of personal journeys, Dan Richards explores their romantic and exploratory appeal. Wildernesses, seemingly untouched by man's hand: mountains, tundra, forests, oceans and deserts. These are landscapes that speak of deep time, whose scale can knock us down to size. Their wildness is part of their beauty and such places have long drawn the adventurous, the spiritual, the artistic. For those who go in search of the isolation, silence and adventure of wild places it is - perhaps ironically - to the man-made shelters that they need to head; the outposts: bothies, bivouacs, cabins and huts. Part of their allure is their simplicity: enough architecture to shelter from the weather but not so much as to distract from the immediate environment around. Following a route from the Cairngorms of Scotland to the fire-watching huts of Washington State, from Iceland's Houses of Joy to the desert of New Mexico, and from the frozen beauty of Svalbard to a lighthouse perched in the Atlantic, Richards uncovers landscapes which have inspired writers, artists and musicians, and asks: why are we drawn to wilderness? And how do wild places become a space for inspiration and creativity?

30 review for Outpost: A Journey to the Wild Ends of the Earth

  1. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Ray

    Dan Richards attempts to travel to some of the most remote destinations such as the bothies in Scotland to fire-watching huts in Washington state to Iceland's Houses of Joy, to answer why we are drawn to these out of the way places. Does the remoteness, quiet and solitude really inspire creativity? I felt too much time was spent on the logistics of getting there and details of the places instead of the experience they provide or should provide. I did not feel the book answered the question of th Dan Richards attempts to travel to some of the most remote destinations such as the bothies in Scotland to fire-watching huts in Washington state to Iceland's Houses of Joy, to answer why we are drawn to these out of the way places. Does the remoteness, quiet and solitude really inspire creativity? I felt too much time was spent on the logistics of getting there and details of the places instead of the experience they provide or should provide. I did not feel the book answered the question of the allure of these beautiful and remote places.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Should you wish to escape from the relentless 24 / 7 grip of the digital world then you need to turn off your phone and head outside. That will help in all sorts of ways, even if it is just for an hour or so. However to really get away from it all you need to head to the wilder parts of the world, to walk the hills, climb the mountains and cross the deserts. It is in these places where the changes over deep time are almost imperceptible and that are as wild, as they are beautiful. The last thing Should you wish to escape from the relentless 24 / 7 grip of the digital world then you need to turn off your phone and head outside. That will help in all sorts of ways, even if it is just for an hour or so. However to really get away from it all you need to head to the wilder parts of the world, to walk the hills, climb the mountains and cross the deserts. It is in these places where the changes over deep time are almost imperceptible and that are as wild, as they are beautiful. The last thing that you would expect or actually want to see when you are miles from civilisation though is evidence that humans have already been there. However, occasionally a bothy appearing on the horizon can be a welcome sight. Five Star accommodation it isn't, however, these very simple huts or shelters can offer some respite from the relentless weather that you will often find in the wild. He was fascinated as a child by the picture of his father and his team outside a small shed in Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, where they had stayed and the pelvis of a polar bear that his father had brought back from the far north. Richards' desire to head to these far out of the way places is genetic. As you'd know if you read his previous book about his great-great-aunt, Dorothy Pilley, who was one of the pioneering women climbers of her time. With this inspiration and background, he sets off on his journeys from Scotland to Washington, to a mountain in Japan and a retreat in Switzerland and from the heat of Mexico to the bleakness and cold of the Arctic hoping to walk in his father's footsteps. He ends up in Denmark to see an artistic interpretation of a shed too, but he starts his journey in the land of ice and fire; Iceland. All these landscapes have these tiny places of refuge in common and it is these places that have inspired all sorts of people to write and make art and to seek their peace with our planet. In this book, Richards' has sought them out to gain his own insight in what appeals with these remote and beautiful places. He writes in a lyrical way that also has an impish humour too, I know that you shouldn't really laugh at others misfortune, but Dan's description of his hangover as he stepped off the train in Scotland is truly hilarious. As this is the second family inspired travel book that Dan has written, I am hoping that he has got some more relatives that we don't know about yet for his next book. Cracking stuff and one for anyone who likes well-written travel writing. For those that want to go and find the bothies for themselves then there is this guide here: https://www.mountainbothies.org.uk Or perhaps you have skills that can help keep them weatherproof:https://www.theguardian.com/travel/20...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Richard Thorn

    Very erudite but I don't think he nailed his central thesis.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Andy Weston

    I had hoped for so much more from this. Perhaps I should have done more research into it before reading, as primarily it’s the choice of destinations I found in retrospect uninspiring, with the exception of the last, Svalbard. I had hoped for a slightly more accessible version of Robert McFarlane’s Wild Places . As it is, I can think of at least as many ‘outposts’ that I have visited that are interesting; though granted, in the travel blogs I contribute my writing is not in Richards’s league. H I had hoped for so much more from this. Perhaps I should have done more research into it before reading, as primarily it’s the choice of destinations I found in retrospect uninspiring, with the exception of the last, Svalbard. I had hoped for a slightly more accessible version of Robert McFarlane’s Wild Places . As it is, I can think of at least as many ‘outposts’ that I have visited that are interesting; though granted, in the travel blogs I contribute my writing is not in Richards’s league. Having said that, even in the Svalbard chapter, it didn’t jump off the page to me. It’s more difficult than ever to write a book like this these days. It has become common place for intrepid travellers to write blogs. In many of them it’s hard not to laugh at their misfortunes; under-prepared, poorly equipped, as we used to say to moaning children on outdoor trips, ‘I think you may have chosen the wrong course’. There’s a Viz comic character called Spoilt Kid who is taken on a camping trip by his doting mother and wakes to rain and a wet tent, “You never told me it would be like this...” and much profanity. But some of this writing is very good. I spend a long time on these sort of blog-hosting sites, armchair travelling to places I may one day visit, but many of them I won’t... whether it’s the Pamirs, the Peace river in Yukon, or South Ossetia in the disputed Caucasus. And some that I have visited, and written about; the far Western tip of Iceland, the Karakoram, Dusky Sound In Fiordland NZ, Knoydart, and Bosnian Balkans. For now though I’m focused on planning for the next trip, always the most exciting one, lost tracks of the Carpathians.

  5. 4 out of 5

    James Easterson

    Noel Coward once said that having to read footnotes was like having to get up in the middle of lovemaking to answer the door. There is no lovemaking with this book. With nearly every page you will be answering the door. My other problem with this book was the extensive usage of 'English' terminology and slang which for me blocked the flow of reading (this, more my problem than the book's). The best of the book for me was the last chapter and epilogue and discussion of 'Us' as the problem and wha Noel Coward once said that having to read footnotes was like having to get up in the middle of lovemaking to answer the door. There is no lovemaking with this book. With nearly every page you will be answering the door. My other problem with this book was the extensive usage of 'English' terminology and slang which for me blocked the flow of reading (this, more my problem than the book's). The best of the book for me was the last chapter and epilogue and discussion of 'Us' as the problem and what we could possibly do to improve things. A quandary for sure.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Vera

    A bit cheeky, certainly not the lyrical approach of Robert Macfarlane but entertaining and fascinating none the less - Dan's travels and light-hearted approach are both enviable.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    This book took me places I'll never go myself, and I appreciated the vicarious experiences, especially Iceland, the Cascades, and Svalbard. The author was a good companion on the page. I also appreciated the references to (and quotations from) interesting books; I found some titles to add to my reading list. The organization seemed a bit unclear to me in places, but then I was reading during a time of stress when my mind was more sieve-like than usual. Overall, the book held and rewarded my atten This book took me places I'll never go myself, and I appreciated the vicarious experiences, especially Iceland, the Cascades, and Svalbard. The author was a good companion on the page. I also appreciated the references to (and quotations from) interesting books; I found some titles to add to my reading list. The organization seemed a bit unclear to me in places, but then I was reading during a time of stress when my mind was more sieve-like than usual. Overall, the book held and rewarded my attention very agreeably. The last chapter and especially the epilogue get into the ethics of travel, especially travel to remote and/or fragile places. This topic has been on my mind lately as I think about the pandemic and about global warming. The author sees travel as a human essential, but he recommends travel that is benign (leaving no trace, doing no harm) and also respectful and focused on experiencing a place as it is. I'm not sure how realistic it is to suppose that travel can leave no trace, but it was useful to think about these issues in the context of the author's views (he has traveled a lot more than I have).

  8. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    I love small structures. I love wilderness. I love small structures in the wilderness. Little shelters, spaces set apart for refuge, sanctuary and maybe even inspiration/revelation. A hermitage. Protection against the elements or even the everyday. They don't need to be far from the hubbub to be efficacious but so much the better if they stand like a sentinel, an offering of warmth, on a vast landscape (including the landscape of the imagination). So I often felt in reading this book that someon I love small structures. I love wilderness. I love small structures in the wilderness. Little shelters, spaces set apart for refuge, sanctuary and maybe even inspiration/revelation. A hermitage. Protection against the elements or even the everyday. They don't need to be far from the hubbub to be efficacious but so much the better if they stand like a sentinel, an offering of warmth, on a vast landscape (including the landscape of the imagination). So I often felt in reading this book that someone had written a book for me. Cultural referents to things like Sigur Rós and Jack Kerouac didn't hurt either. It's a great adventure and exploration that takes us to Iceland, Germany (and the art world), USA, Mars (Utah), England (a writing shed), Scotland, France, Switzerland (a writers' retreat), Japan and Norway. In the epilogue, with a nice little twist that nudges the book from travel adventure into the realms of the religious with allusions to deeper human yearning, the author says, "So much of this book has been about the search for spaces which afford clarity... And all the time the question of why we go circulates and percolates about. I think it has to do with wonder and faith, a need to explore and discover and light out into the unknown, to see. ...outposts are lighthouses - sites of illumination. Sometimes they afford an immediate sense of revelation, sometimes their secrets must be worked for and earned." That'll do me.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Andy Watt

    By the end, I'd realised how misleading the title actually is. "Outpost: the journey to some not very remote places that I can get to in a couple of hours from a decent hotel as long as someone gives me a lift as I don't drive". How does that sound? Not as catchy maybe, but really quite accurate. Dan Richards writes well - he's an engaging narrator but it's all a bit cynical: not writing about trips he took as much as finding trips to fill a book. He's quite upfront about it but it left me feeli By the end, I'd realised how misleading the title actually is. "Outpost: the journey to some not very remote places that I can get to in a couple of hours from a decent hotel as long as someone gives me a lift as I don't drive". How does that sound? Not as catchy maybe, but really quite accurate. Dan Richards writes well - he's an engaging narrator but it's all a bit cynical: not writing about trips he took as much as finding trips to fill a book. He's quite upfront about it but it left me feeling...meh. So what Dan. If these had been long-from online articles they'd have been a worthwhile read but as a whole book for hardback money...no. Oh and, let's get back to the travel writer who doesn't drive. Who relies upon favours from friends and strangers to get to his pre-booked destinations and visits. Call me old fashioned but how about planning a bit better Dan (or learning to drive maybe)? I'd give it 2.5 if I could. 3 is quite generous.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Grim-Anal King

    This outpost concept turns out to include a wide variety of barely related subject matter which happens to pique the author's interest. The writing is decent, but rarely good enough to carry me happily through the less interesting subjects. World's best shacks beyond the trees/most remote outposts of human habitation this ain't.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Vilhelm

    The author really tried to spin out a much shorter book, with pointless and never ending descriptions of scenery.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Anja Sheppard

    There is something visceral that draws me to nature. Maybe it was the days spent roaming the woods near my house or the many family camping trips, but the wilderness in the world has always drawn me in. At the same time, I like the comfort of my life within society. I don’t have to face the true dangers of the wild with my car, steady supply of food, and heat/air conditioning. What purpose can nature serve in our society, then? This is precisely the question that Dan Richards quests to answer in There is something visceral that draws me to nature. Maybe it was the days spent roaming the woods near my house or the many family camping trips, but the wilderness in the world has always drawn me in. At the same time, I like the comfort of my life within society. I don’t have to face the true dangers of the wild with my car, steady supply of food, and heat/air conditioning. What purpose can nature serve in our society, then? This is precisely the question that Dan Richards quests to answer in his beautiful novel, Outpost. By visiting various secluded sites around the world, be begins to better understand the relationship between man and wild. “The spartan nature of outdoorsing opens us up to the freedom of the unknown. By pulling out the pin that mounts us to a GPS grid we are better are to experience place, space and time. Without our phones we become better connected. Breaking with the digital puts us more intensely in touch with wild country, allows us to negotiate it on the ground and take responsibility for our position.” (189) All lovers of Emerson, the outdoors, or the human condition should read this book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Monica Mac

    I was expecting so much more from this book. It is a book about various places that Dan travelled to, with a LOT of detail about the scenery and the people he came across. As a person who enjoys my own company, I was looking forward to reading all about some remote spots in the world, most of which I will never get to, but it came off as a travel book by a bloke who wanted to go to lots of places that he had heard about, without actually doing as much planning as it needed. And what kind of adve I was expecting so much more from this book. It is a book about various places that Dan travelled to, with a LOT of detail about the scenery and the people he came across. As a person who enjoys my own company, I was looking forward to reading all about some remote spots in the world, most of which I will never get to, but it came off as a travel book by a bloke who wanted to go to lots of places that he had heard about, without actually doing as much planning as it needed. And what kind of adventurer doesn't learn to drive??!! It annoyed me no end that he expected random strangers to just drive him to wherever. He came across as the sort of person who would expect someone he didn't know that well to provide him with shelter and transport, just because he asked them to. I have met a few people like that along my life's journey, and it doesn't impress me much. Oh, and all these amazing places that he visited? What is with the black and white pictures in the book? Such a shame.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gwen

    Loved it! This book is not about the destination, it's about the journey. Reading "Outpost" felt like accompanying the author in his travels: on a hike in rainy Scotland, in a isolated hut in the middle of Iceland and on a skidoo in Svalbard. Dan Richards, while traveling and exploring, talks about preserving our earth and its remote places and to slow down and enjoy the little things in life - the silence on a glacier, the green lush and spirituality of a temple in Japan. He speaks of solitude a Loved it! This book is not about the destination, it's about the journey. Reading "Outpost" felt like accompanying the author in his travels: on a hike in rainy Scotland, in a isolated hut in the middle of Iceland and on a skidoo in Svalbard. Dan Richards, while traveling and exploring, talks about preserving our earth and its remote places and to slow down and enjoy the little things in life - the silence on a glacier, the green lush and spirituality of a temple in Japan. He speaks of solitude and friends, art and architecture, always able to bring a smile on your face! You'll follow him through mountains, desert and ice and snow - unable to lift your nose from the pages and he will make you think - what are you searching for when you travel? :)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Peter Grenholm

    A nice collection of remote places, and the author’s sometimes not so well planned attempts to reach them. To begin with it reads more like a collection of travels than a book, and for a while I was annoyed that the journeys felt more like those of a rich tourist than of an explorer. I was pleased to see that the end of the book addresses all of this, and I think this book will inspire my vacations for many years to come.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Josie

    A wide variety of essays on explorations to various outposts, and a reflection on our impact on the planet through travel. I found some chapters engaging and fascinating, and others too esoteric or abstract for my taste. But, bottom line, as many in the world find travel within their grasp, we must all look at how that coincides with climate change and choose the dog sled over the snowmobile. (That's loosely/not really quoted but you get the idea from the epilogue.)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lydia

    Richards has a really easy style which made this book a breeze to read. He came at discomfort and uncontrollable setbacks with humor, and it wrapped up nicely with poignant self-reflection about humans' impact on the environment. I would recommend this if you have an interest in nature and the far flung places of the world. I learned a lot.

  18. 5 out of 5

    MichaelR

    A scholarly book with lots of literary references and quotes based on the subject of remote cabins used fir writing and inspiration. Different chapters based on the writers travels - the best ones are when he visits places with other people as an adventure.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    This was a great series of travel essays and investigations of the remote. I really enjoyed it and if you're inspired by wanderlust, creativity, or the far reaches of the world, I highly recommend it!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Heather Taylor Johnson

    I just struggled so much with the grammar, urgh! It's hard to know when to blame the author and when to blame the editor but in this case I'm blaming the book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    Fun travel writing. The author makes some interesting trips and discovers some pretty unusual places.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Gallegos

    Really bad editing, book could have used some maps. “Selected Bibliography” comes off as lazy. Good descriptive narrative though. Got really good when he traveled to Svalbard.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    I met Dan at Gladfest in the wonderful Gladstones Library in Hawarden. He was erudite and hugely entertaining. This book did not disappoint. I'm off to read Climbing Days now!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Steve Chilton

    An enjoyable account of visits to some very remote places; a lighthouse, the Mars training base, and bothies in Scotland. Each of the chapters are written like individual essays, some of which worked better than others. Richards also, necessarily, reflected on the issue of the travelling to visit remote places with the environmental impact of doing so.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jim

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dee Tomlinson

  27. 5 out of 5

    Wietse

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andy Davies

  29. 4 out of 5

    Suzy

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jonny Bramley

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