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Waking Up in a Tent: Empty Nest on the Pacific Crest Trail

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A sixty-something woman with fear of heights and creaky knees decides to spend two months backpacking the High Sierra. What could possibly go wrong? “What was I thinking? In that moment of madness, I completely forgot that I’m a total wuss, terrified of heights. In my defense, it doesn’t come up much in my city life, although I do need to practice meditative deep breathi A sixty-something woman with fear of heights and creaky knees decides to spend two months backpacking the High Sierra. What could possibly go wrong? “What was I thinking? In that moment of madness, I completely forgot that I’m a total wuss, terrified of heights. In my defense, it doesn’t come up much in my city life, although I do need to practice meditative deep breathing on freeway overpasses….” So swept along by the enthusiasm of her usually very predictable husband, a newly retired engineer, Laurel agrees to leave her overly busy life behind, let go of her worries about her grown children, and spend two months hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. She hopes the shared adventure will bring added intimacy to her odd-couple marriage and that time in nature will support her spiritual growth, or at least help her talk some sense into her rampaging inner critic. Despite paralyzing fear, sickness, injury, and hail, the majestic grandeur of the High Sierra did work some kind of miracle. “I picked up Waking up in a Tent, planning to spend a few minutes looking it over. Before I knew it, two hours had flown by and I was halfway through the book. Much of the book’s charm comes from Laurel’s determination to bring a spiritual perspective to hardships on the trail and friction with her husband. It’s not only a great read, but an education in how to maintain a rewarding marriage.” Carolyn Godschild Miller, Ph.D. author of Creating Miracles, A Practical Guide to Divine Intervention “I’ve never been backpacking, but I felt I was there on the trail with Laurel and John, marveling at the beauty around me. Although Laurel struggles, she never takes herself too seriously, and that’s where the humor comes in. I laughed out loud at the depictions of her inner dialogue.” Joan Bell


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A sixty-something woman with fear of heights and creaky knees decides to spend two months backpacking the High Sierra. What could possibly go wrong? “What was I thinking? In that moment of madness, I completely forgot that I’m a total wuss, terrified of heights. In my defense, it doesn’t come up much in my city life, although I do need to practice meditative deep breathi A sixty-something woman with fear of heights and creaky knees decides to spend two months backpacking the High Sierra. What could possibly go wrong? “What was I thinking? In that moment of madness, I completely forgot that I’m a total wuss, terrified of heights. In my defense, it doesn’t come up much in my city life, although I do need to practice meditative deep breathing on freeway overpasses….” So swept along by the enthusiasm of her usually very predictable husband, a newly retired engineer, Laurel agrees to leave her overly busy life behind, let go of her worries about her grown children, and spend two months hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. She hopes the shared adventure will bring added intimacy to her odd-couple marriage and that time in nature will support her spiritual growth, or at least help her talk some sense into her rampaging inner critic. Despite paralyzing fear, sickness, injury, and hail, the majestic grandeur of the High Sierra did work some kind of miracle. “I picked up Waking up in a Tent, planning to spend a few minutes looking it over. Before I knew it, two hours had flown by and I was halfway through the book. Much of the book’s charm comes from Laurel’s determination to bring a spiritual perspective to hardships on the trail and friction with her husband. It’s not only a great read, but an education in how to maintain a rewarding marriage.” Carolyn Godschild Miller, Ph.D. author of Creating Miracles, A Practical Guide to Divine Intervention “I’ve never been backpacking, but I felt I was there on the trail with Laurel and John, marveling at the beauty around me. Although Laurel struggles, she never takes herself too seriously, and that’s where the humor comes in. I laughed out loud at the depictions of her inner dialogue.” Joan Bell

30 review for Waking Up in a Tent: Empty Nest on the Pacific Crest Trail

  1. 5 out of 5

    John Gord

    I'm biased! (I was there.) Reading this book gave me views of our relationship that I had never had before. I was aware of the outside events and beauty of our hike, but the book gives me insight into the inner workings of coping with the stress of difficult situations (weather, illness, and fear) on the trail and the intensified stress of dealing with a (sometimes difficult) spouse in a situation that does not allow any real opportunity for a time-out. Thank you, Laurel, for so eloquently descr I'm biased! (I was there.) Reading this book gave me views of our relationship that I had never had before. I was aware of the outside events and beauty of our hike, but the book gives me insight into the inner workings of coping with the stress of difficult situations (weather, illness, and fear) on the trail and the intensified stress of dealing with a (sometimes difficult) spouse in a situation that does not allow any real opportunity for a time-out. Thank you, Laurel, for so eloquently describing how it is you manage to put up with some of my more annoying behavior!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeph

    This is obviously not the first memoir describing life and adventures on the Pacific Crest Trail, but so what? Every person is different, and every journey is different, and Laurel Gord is an interesting person with a unique and fascinating journey to recount. I have always loved exploring the wild open spaces in my home state of California, and even though Laurel Gord did not always find the PCT to be a particularly comfortable environment, she never loses sight of the natural beauty that surro This is obviously not the first memoir describing life and adventures on the Pacific Crest Trail, but so what? Every person is different, and every journey is different, and Laurel Gord is an interesting person with a unique and fascinating journey to recount. I have always loved exploring the wild open spaces in my home state of California, and even though Laurel Gord did not always find the PCT to be a particularly comfortable environment, she never loses sight of the natural beauty that surrounds her throughout the story. This book made me more eager than ever to explore more of the big beautiful world that surrounds me.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kim Wolfe

    Very interesting point of view from a woman my age and a loving couple. Could have done without the sexual visual. Thank you for taking all of us readers on your trip.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn G.

    Gord's book is certainly an entertaining "read," but more important to me, it offers an inspiring nuts-and-bolts view of the inner workings of a good, loving relationship. Here the trials and tribulations that test any marriage are condensed into the uncertainties, emotional stressors and physical hardships faced by an older couple back-packing together. It was moving to watch Laurel struggle to remember love in the face of sometimes paralyzing fear, hunger, thirst, pain and physical exhaustion. Gord's book is certainly an entertaining "read," but more important to me, it offers an inspiring nuts-and-bolts view of the inner workings of a good, loving relationship. Here the trials and tribulations that test any marriage are condensed into the uncertainties, emotional stressors and physical hardships faced by an older couple back-packing together. It was moving to watch Laurel struggle to remember love in the face of sometimes paralyzing fear, hunger, thirst, pain and physical exhaustion. We all know the powerful temptation to lash out at a partner in such circumstances, and Laurel doesn't always resist it. But she earns my admiration for consistently dragging herself back to a more constructive, appreciative state of mind. Waking Up in a Tent shows readers the attitudes necessary to maintain a loving relationship over many years.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kathyseal

    A very honest, endearing and funny read. To enrich their empty nest relationship, the author goes backpacking -- for the first time in her life, and in her 60s -- with her husband. She thrills to the Pacific Crest Trail at the same time as she struggles with terror on high, narrow trails and while crossing fiercely rushing streams. Then, of course, there's her aging body.... she confronts it all with determination, and you'll be cheering for her from your armchair. An engrossing read. I found it A very honest, endearing and funny read. To enrich their empty nest relationship, the author goes backpacking -- for the first time in her life, and in her 60s -- with her husband. She thrills to the Pacific Crest Trail at the same time as she struggles with terror on high, narrow trails and while crossing fiercely rushing streams. Then, of course, there's her aging body.... she confronts it all with determination, and you'll be cheering for her from your armchair. An engrossing read. I found it satisfying, and felt like I'd made a new friend.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen

    Honest, funny, more than just a hiking book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Donna Pelletier

    I thought this book was a fun read. I am about the same age as the author which perhaps made it even more fascinating to me. TMI on the urinary tract infection. I love the way she expresses her anger to herself in her mind and then talks herself down from it. A great skill to have to keep the peace.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Estella

    Laurel Gord, a retiree with a fear of heights, details her story of backpacking on the Pacific Crest Trail, an adventure partly inspired by Cheryl Strayed's book, WILD. In Gord's book, rich descriptions of gorgeous vistas play nicely with refreshingly honest accounts of dialogue (with her husband and with friends they make along the trail), self-talk (delightfully getting through discomfort, injury, and phobia), and a touch of memoir (Gord was a self-described "street freak" of the sixties, trav Laurel Gord, a retiree with a fear of heights, details her story of backpacking on the Pacific Crest Trail, an adventure partly inspired by Cheryl Strayed's book, WILD. In Gord's book, rich descriptions of gorgeous vistas play nicely with refreshingly honest accounts of dialogue (with her husband and with friends they make along the trail), self-talk (delightfully getting through discomfort, injury, and phobia), and a touch of memoir (Gord was a self-described "street freak" of the sixties, traveling and living in communes). The writing style is relatable and likable. It's a fun and accessible read anytime, especially for spring/summer travels.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    Her husband must be,,,,, The most patient man living..book is primarily about whining, and complaining about more thing s than not. Plus way to much information regarding uti’s and other more “personal” ailments

  10. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Old timers hit the trail Love books about hikers out on the trail. This one especially hit a cord as they were seniors, like me. Respect them for having planned and executed what they set out to accomplish with all its trials and tribulations. WTG Farmer John and Sky Blue!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alan W. Harwood

    PCT Section Hike. A must read book for all hikers. One of the most enjoyable hiking adventures as seen through the eyes of an older lady with a multitude of neurotic symptoms.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jody A Mashensic

    Ok, not my favorite PCT book. The female protagonist spends way too much time whining about everything. On the rate occasion she described the trail, she does a barely adequate job.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Pam Lee-miller

    Sweet read Honest and descriptive tale of a couples hike on pct... Your never too old to learn more Bout yourself and find yourself thru the hike.. well done!

  14. 4 out of 5

    randy casebier

    Hooray for Older Hikers: Telling it like it is. This book is totally different from other hiker books. Most are written by younger adults and of those by men. A few are by women. This is the only one so far by an older woman hiking the trail. She is honest and tells it as she experienced it . A great read for female hikers.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Paul Catterton

    Not one of my favourite travelogues I guess there's something to be said for honesty on a writer's part; you experience all the ups and downs of her journey. It's admirable that she attempted the PCT in her 60s, but I soon tired of her complaints. Might want to consider other authors. Not one of my favourite travelogues I guess there's something to be said for honesty on a writer's part; you experience all the ups and downs of her journey. It's admirable that she attempted the PCT in her 60s, but I soon tired of her complaints. Might want to consider other authors.

  16. 4 out of 5

    richard homan

    A well written log of their 240 mile hike in the high Sierras. Its more then just a description of the PCT-its entertaining , funny and serious. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    David Lawson

  18. 4 out of 5

    Joan Bell

  19. 4 out of 5

    Christine Truncali

  20. 4 out of 5

    Melanie L

  21. 4 out of 5

    Karen Paulson

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Graves Barnett

  23. 4 out of 5

    David Barrow

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Hall

  25. 4 out of 5

    Gail French

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lynn F. Pierce

  28. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Bednar

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cassie Manjares

  30. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Egger

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