At its heart, Jane Parnell’s mountaineering memoir, Off Trail: Finding My Way Home in the Colorado Rockies published by University of Oklahoma Press, is a love story—the tale of a
At its heart, Jane Parnell’s mountaineering memoir, Off Trail: Finding My Way Home in the Colorado Rockies published by University of Oklahoma Press, is a love story—the tale of a woman’s passion for the mountains of Colorado. Readers may know Jane Parnell as Jane Koerner, who has written for High County News, Mountain Gazette and Outdoor Adventure, among other publications. What most readers don’t know is that Parnell was the first woman to summit the hundred highest peaks in Colorado.
Parnell’s fierce, tender memoir explores the Continental Divide of her childhood with its troubled family dynamics, and a marriage that comes together and comes apart. Anchored by windswept mountains, Parnell comes to terms with her own summits and valleys, such as the loss of her only sibling to schizophrenia and a rape shortly after Parnell graduated from college.
English travel writer Isabella Bird, who in 1873 climbed Longs Peak with the fur trapper Rocky Mountain Jim, figures prominently in Parnell’s book. Through Isabella’s story, the author shows how despite the conveniences enjoyed by modern-day mountaineers, some things never change when it comes to matters of the heart.
In the tradition of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and Tracy Ross’s The Source of All Things, Parnell’s memoir shows us how, by pushing ourselves to the limits of our physical endurance and by confronting our deepest fears, we can become whole again.
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