PERSONAL: Born June 8, 1956, in South Bend, IN; married; wife's name Jane (a forest ranger and teacher).
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o C. S. Lewis & Co. Publicists, 196 Van Dale Rd., Woodstock, NY 12498. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Author, naturalist, and public speaker. Interpretive naturalist for the U.S. Forest Service at Sawtooth National Recreation Area, ID.
AWARDS, HONORS: Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award, for Through the Woods: A Journey through America's Forests.
Freewheeling: Bicycling the Open Road, Mountaineers (Seattle, WA), 1984.
Walks of California, illustrated by Kent Humphreys, Prentice Hall (New York, NY), 1987.
(With Harvey Wolinsky) The Heart Attack Recovery Handbook, illustrated by Kent Humphreys, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1988.
Walks of the Rockies, illustrated by Kent Humphreys, Prentice Hall (New York, NY), 1988.
Walks of the Pacific Northwest, illustrated by Kent Humphreys, Prentice Hall (New York, NY), 1991.
Rocky Mountain Walks, Fulcrum Publishing (Golden, CO), 1993.
Walking down the Wild: A Journey Through the Yellowstone Rockies, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1993.
(With Kathleen Wall) Lights of Passage: Rituals and Rites of Passage for the Problems and Pleasures of Modern Life, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 1994.
New England Walks, illustrated by Kent Humphreys, Fulcrum Publishing (Golden, CO), 1995.
Northwest Walks, illustrated by Kent Humphreys, Fulcrum Publishing (Golden, CO), 1995.
Spirits of the Wild: The World's Great Nature Myths, Clarkson Potter (New York, NY), 1996.
The Sylvan Path: A Journey through America's Forests, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997, published as Through the Woods: A Journey through America's Forests, 1998.
(With Kathleen Wall) Rites of Passage: Celebrating Life's Changes, Beyond Words, (Hillsboro, OR), 1998.
Shouting at the Sky: Troubled Teens and the Promise of the Wild, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
(With John Clayton and Maureen B. Keilty) Guide to America's Outdoors: Southern Rockies, photographs by George H. H. Huey, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2001.
Hawks Rest: A Season in the Remote Heart of Yellowstone, National Geographic Adventure Press (Washington, DC), 2003.
Also author of Folklore of Medicinal Plants and Herbs, Wofford Library Press. Contributor to magazines and newspapers, including American Forests, Big Sky Journal, Modern Maturity, Outside, Sierra, Travel Holiday, and Vanity Fair.
SIDELIGHTS: The author of more than a dozen books on the American outdoors, Gary Ferguson began his professional career as an interpretive naturalist for the U.S. Forest Service at Sawtooth National Recreation Area in Idaho. Ferguson's body of work constitutes a collective portrait of those still-unspoiled portions of the continental United States, with a focus on ways to discover such areas on one's own, whether on foot or by bicycle.
Much of what Ferguson has published falls under the heading of guidebooks and practical how-to information, but The Sylvan Path: A Journey through America's Forests offers a broader perspective within the familiar format of a travelogue. Setting off ostensibly to follow in the tracks of Joe Knowles, who in 1913 won fame with a claim that he had survived two months in the Maine woods without clothing or food from domesticated sources, Ferguson traced a long semicircular path through the eastern United States.
In his chronicle of a journey that took him from Maine to Tennessee, then up through Indiana to Minnesota, Ferguson "exudes a delighted, boyish charm," wrote Rand Richards Cooper in the New York Times Book Review. The book, as described by Cooper, is filled with "leisurely evenings spent with loggers, fishermen, storytellers, herbalists, and moonshiners—people who not only make their living in the woods but disconnect themselves as much as possible from mass production." A reviewer in Booklist noted "the book's beautifully written prose," and a Publishers Weekly reviewer likewise commented on "prose as inviting and uplifting as a walk in the woods."
With Hawks Rest: A Season in the Remote Heart of Yellowstone, Ferguson tackles a more formidable task. Whereas The Sylvan Path more often than not merely hints at the world of construction, standardization, and technology steadily encroaching on the wilderness, the sense of a threat to the natural environment hangs more heavily over Hawks Rest. Ironically, the book concerns one of the most remote and untouched spots in the lower forty-eight states: Yellowstone National Park and the nearby area. "Hawks Rest" was the name of a two-room cabin owned by the U.S. Forest Service and surrounded by vast stretches of forest abounding with wolves and grizzly bears—a place as far from human civilization as any locale in the continental United States.
The location, with its wild purity, only serves to highlight the danger posed by irresponsible backpackers and hunters. Hawks Rest describes campsites littered with garbage, but the focal point of Ferguson's ire is reserved for the hunting guides and hunters who desecrate the woodlands, often illegally. One of these, for example, shot a grizzly bear simply for attempting to steal the carcass of an elk the hunter had killed.
"For anyone who believes in the ideal of the American wilderness," wrote Brad Newsham in the San Francisco Chronicle, "this otherwise delightful book … will arrive as bad news." According to Frank Clifford in the Los Angeles Times, "A good book about wilderness is like an Irish wake; it fortifies you against the loss. Mournful and defiant as a wolf howl, Hawks Rest is an eloquent tribute to a threatened place and its lone protectors." Reviewers noted that the book does not solely take the part of the environmentalist, even in situations where human lives are threatened by animal predators. As Tom Miller stated in the New York Times Book Review, "Ferguson gives us an evenhanded view of both sides of these complex issues." Concluded Clifford, "Ferguson's indignation comes and goes as quickly as a summer storm, and he and we are inevitably consoled by the incantations of his Hawks Rest neighbors."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 1997, Alice Joyce, review of The Sylvan Path: A Journey through America's Forests, p. 1102.
Los Angeles Times, June 18, 2003, Frank Clifford, review of Hawks Rest: A Season in the Remote Heart of Yellowstone, p. E8.
New York Times Book Review, August 15, 1993, Kathy Cone, review of Walking down the Wild: A Journey through the Yellowstone Rockies, p. 7; June 1, 1997, Rand Richards Cooper, review of The Sylvan Path: A Journey through America's Forests, p. 7.
Publishers Weekly, February 17, 1997, review of The Sylvan Path: A Journey through America's Forests, p. 206.
San Francisco Chronicle, June 8, 2003, Brad Newsham, review of Hawks Rest: A Season in the Remote Heart of Yellowstone.
Gorp Web site,http://gorp.away.com/ (September 10, 2003), "Gary Ferguson—Writer, Naturalist, Wolf Watcher."
Wildwords, Gary Ferguson Home Page,http://www.wildwords.net (September 10, 2003).*