Trail Champions Honorary Committee
A pioneer of the Leave No Trace Ethic (with her late husband Guy), a Director of the Waterman Fund, and an icon in the hiking and conservation world.
Laura and her husband Guy (1932-2000) lived for nearly 30 years as homesteaders on 27 acres in Corinth, Vermont where they moved in 1973 to develop Barra, a self-built, off the- grid homestead where they raised their own food and made a living from their writing. Having moved to New York City after college to work in publishing, Laura met Guy and they began to plan their exit from city life to a rural country life of self-sufficient living with plenty of time for mountains. Enthusiastic hikers from the late 1960s, they saw the results of their own impacts on the trails and at campsites and began writing about it. Their first book, “Backwoods Ethics: A Guide to Low-Impact Camping and Hiking” (1979, republished in 2016 as “The Green Guide to Low-Impact Hiking and Camping”) was seen as a prophetic call to reevaluate the impacts of our outdoor recreation on wilderness.
Laura and Guy wrote “Wilderness Ethics: Preserving the Spirit of Wildness” (1993, 2014) in which they looked beyond preserving the ecology of the backcountry to focus on its spiritual dimensions—its fragile, untamed wildness.
Ongoing was the Waterman’s strong interest in the history of our mountains of the Northeast. This resulted in “Forest and Crag: A History of Hiking, Trail Blazing, and Adventure in the Northeast Mountains” (1989, 2003, 2019) and “Yankee Rock & Ice: A History of Climbing in the Northeastern United States” (1993, 2018).
Laura and Guy volunteered for the United States Forest Service as well as other hiking and conservation organizations. They were awarded the American Alpine Club’s 2012 David R. Brower Award for outstanding service in mountain conservation. Dedicated trail workers, their main focus was Franconia Ridge, which they maintained under the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Adopt-A-Trail program for nearly 20 years. After Guy’s death, Laura and friends founded the Waterman Fund (watermanfund.org) that works to preserve alpine areas across northeastern North America through providing financial resources for stewardship, research and educational projects.
Most recently, Laura published “Starvation Shore,” a book about the 1881 scientific expedition led by Army Lt. Adolphus Greely to Lady Franklin Bay in the Arctic focusing on the trials and suffering of the group. Of the 25 explorers who embarked on the Greely Expedition to the Canadian Arctic, only seven returned alive. The novel, released in March 2019, is the latest evolution of Waterman’s long, productive career as a writer.