"A film hasn't done its job correctly unless you forget you're sitting in a theater." — Roman Polanski
Many Americans are largely unaware of the fascinating Native American sites that dot our landscapes and can be visited by the public. From tall mounds, akin in function to the ancient pyramids, to haunting images etched in desert stone, there are many sites to see off the beaten tourist trails. They can tell us a lot about the people who made this continent their home hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago.
In his Ancient America: Fifty Archaeological Sites to See For Yourself, author Kenneth L. Feder gives you a wonderfully friendly tour of 50 such sites. Some are located in state or national parks. Some are found as local museums. All are worth a look. As a professor of anthropology, Dr. Feder is extremely knowledgeable, but his conversational tone makes this is a genuinely accessible guide.
Rolling down the highways, watching the usually dull scenery go by, you might never guess that there are interesting places to explore not that far from the interstate. For some people, being a hiker means doing the Appalachian Trail, preferably all the way through. But there are a lot of other trails, many just as scenic, within an hour or two or a day’s drive of our area.
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The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
In 1925, the legendary British explorer Percy Fawcett ventured into the Amazon jungle, in search of a fabled civilization. He never returned. Over the years countless people perished trying to find evidence of his party and the place he called "The Lost City of Z." In this masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, journalist David Grann interweaves the spellbinding stories of Fawcett's quest for "Z" and his own journey into the deadly jungle, as he unravels the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century. (catalog summary)
The Lost City of Z is a 2016 American action adventure biographical film written and directed by James Gray. It stars Charlie Hunnam as Fawcett, along with Robert Pattinson as his fellow explorer Henry Costin, and Sienna Miller as his wife Nina Fawcett. The film had its world premiere as closing night film on October 15, 2016, at the New York Film Festival. The film is scheduled to be released in the United States on April 14, 2017. See the offical trailer for The Lost City of Z, below the book recomendations.
If you like The Lost City of Z, check out these other adventure titles.
The Creature in the Map: A Journey to El Dorado by Charles Nicholl
The first quest was Sir Walter Raleigh's futile search for the legendary city of El Dorado in the Venezuelan highlands in 1595; the second is the author's research and on-site investigations into the often murky particulars of Raleigh's expeditions. In 1595 Raleigh's fortunes were on the wane. His efforts at colonizing Virginia had failed, he had lost favor at the English court, and his finances had declined. Thus his search for the city takes on the stench of frenzied, cockeyed desperation. Comparisons are made with the ill-fated, half-mad efforts of Spanish explorer Aguirre, and they seem apt. (catalog summary)
The Shenandoah Valley is convenient to our region and offers a lot in the way of recreation and history, but it’s rare that travelers can find material on lesser-known towns and roadways. Andrea Sutcliffe’s Touring Shenandoah Valley Backroads is a good companion for people who enjoy a ramble away from the homogenized offerings of the well-traveled Interstate.
The book is split into 13 regional tours. They cover a lot of ground between them, from Front Royal to Fincastle. You’ll find “Walks in the Woods” at Massanutten Mountain briefly described, details on Grand Caverns (or Grottoes, as Thomas Jefferson knew it), and directions to the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley with its exhibits on regional history and art, and many other sites to investigate along the way.
Emma Rowena Caldwell was an intelligent, attractive young woman and a hard worker. Growing up in rural Ohio in the very early 1900s, there wasn’t much opportunity for someone in her circumstances. Born into a poor family with 15 brothers and sisters, she grew up to know farm work, but she also loved to read. At 19, she married 27-year-old, college-educated P.C. Gatewood. It wasn’t very long before the beatings started. And continued.
In 1940, having borne him eleven children and endured near constant torment, she left him. Few outside her community knew the part of her story she left behind her. But everyone across America came to know “Grandma Gatewood,” the first woman to walk the entire Appalachian Trail—more than 2,000 miles—from Georgia to Maine. By herself.
If your idea of a great day or weekend trip is more about the lay of the land than condition of the asphalt, you will enjoy looking through the Virginia Atlas & Gazetteer. This is one of those big, old-school map books of many pages. Unlike navigating exclusively with GPS, which doles out your instructions bit by relevant bit, the Atlas and Gazetteer gives you the bigger picture to ponder.
Use Outdoor Clues to Find Your Way • Predict the Weather • Locate Water • Track Animals—and Other Forgotten Skills
Tristan Gooley, the only living person to have both flown and sailed solo across the Atlantic, has set down a fascinating, discursive discussion of the many ways a person might learn to find his way in the wild.
Actor and travel writer Andrew McCarthy eventually discovered his family roots in Ireland and added on more family besides when he wed a Dublin girl.
His several-page story of a reunion across generations is part of Journeys Home, a collection of more than two dozen tales of seekers who found out more about themselves by finding where they came from: Cuba, Africa (and then to Virginia), Peru, Prague, India, Taiwan, and England, among others. Journeys Home is replete with glorious photographs, old and new, that are typical of the quality a reader would expect from its publisher, National Geographic.
Nature programs on TV can only go into so much detail about the fascinating history that underlies our beautiful world. After all, there are commercial breaks to consider and trying to produce a show for the most casual channel surfer. So viewers come away with an idea of what a place looks like—and maybe a few facts about it—but for the truly curious, there is a dearth of content.
Mountains of the Heart: A Natural History of the Appalachians, by Scott Weidensaul, has been a go-to classic for around 20 years. Written in a casual and fascinating yet scientifically accurate way, the narrative draws in readers who do not want to crack academic tomes on the subject but who do wish to learn more about the region’s alpine tundra and the still-living remnants of mighty chestnut trees.