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Stories from the Field: Mental Health and the Outdoors

Aug 18, 2021

Cindy Ross is the author of the new book, "Walking Toward Peace- Veterans Healing on America's Trails," which profiles combat veterans who found healing through the outdoors as well as long-distance expeditions. She shares her journey of writing the book and what she learned from veterans.
Cindy Ross has written numerous articles and books, including "The World is Our Classroom- How One Family Used Nature and Travel to Shape an Extraordinary Education" and "A Woman's Journey on the Appalachian Trail."


Bio from Cindy's Website

In April 2021, Walking Toward Peace- Veterans Healing on America’s Trails, The Mountaineers Books, Seattle, will be released. The veterans’ portraits were created by her son, Bryce Gladfelter.

Walking Toward Peace shares the intimate stories of veterans who, post-deployment, have wrestled with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Through a process called “ecotherapy,” spending time in nature to promote healing and mental health, they have found new tools to deal with issues that have resulted from combat experiences: survivor’s guilt, nightmares, lack of trust, depression, hypervigilance, thoughts of suicide, and lack of purpose. Some veterans profiled here have gone to extremes, spending months on long-distance expeditions, like hiking the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail or canoeing the 2,320-mile Mississippi River. For many others, however, brief excursions in the outdoors offer an opportunity for healing. Author Cindy Ross examines current research and perspectives of professional therapists and provides information on organizations devoted to healing veterans in the outdoors. Each featured veteran is depicted in an illustrated portrait.

Veterans share their stories, frequently as they sit by a campfire, describing wartime traumas and their present lives. Through their collective voices what becomes clear is that anyone suffering from any form of PTSD may discover the powerful comfort and healing that can be found in the outdoors.

Cindy and Her family

Cindy lives near the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania with her husband, Todd in a log home they built themselves from raw trees. They grow much of their own food on their rural property.

As a family, besides the Continental Divide Trail, they have traveled to Asia, Africa, South America, and Europe hiking, cycling and paddling and have traveled extensively throughout the US.

Besides Cindy’s nine published books, she has written over 1,000 magazine articles for such national magazines as Outside, Backpacker, Paddler, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Outdoor Life, Canoe & Kayak, Adventure Cyclist, Sailing, Wooden Boat, Scouting, Native Peoples, etc. Travel stories in newspapers include The LA Times, The San Francisco Examiner, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The Toronto Star, The Christian Science Monitor, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, etc.

Cindy has appeared on Philadelphia’s NBC “The 10 Show;” Philadelphia’s ABC “Sunday Live”; NYC’s CBS News “Up to the Minute;” NYC’s Channel 11Warner Bros., “The Morning News,” and Denver’s CBS. Her family and llamas were featured on a half-hour show on Animal Planet, called “Pet Story.”