Walking Toward Peace-Veterans Healing on America’s Trails

By Cindy Ross

An inspiring narrative about finding purpose in the outdoors, healing in nature, and hope for veterans

NEW APRIL 2021

Walking Toward Peace explores the intimate stories of veterans who 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 resulting 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 such as hiking the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail or canoeing the 2,320-mile Mississippi River. For others, however, brief excursions in the outdoors can offer an opportunity for healing.

Author Cindy Ross shares current research and perspectives of professional therapists and provides information on organizations devoted to healing veterans in the outdoors. Through the veterans’ collective stories of wartime traumas and their present lives, 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 Ross writes about healing through nature for a variety of publications, including Stars & Stripes, Military Times, Yoga Times, and Appalachian Trail Journeys. She is director of River House PA – Healing in Nature, a nonprofit that coordinates with Pennsylvania-area Veteran Affairs hospitals to take veterans into nature to hike, paddle, and mountain bike. Ross is the author of seven books and lives in New Ringgold, Pennsylvania.

Praise for Walking Toward Peace

“Walking and hiking, especially in an ancient wilderness, can heal the mind and body. I say this with certainty after my own 3300 mile walk across America. Read this book as a reminder. Read it as an inspiration. Whether you are trying to manage PTSD or the daily struggles of life, this book is for you. It should be on everyone’s shelf.”

Rory Fanning, author, Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger’s Journey Out of the Military and Across America

“Cindy Ross has written a book that is an ode to those who serve, an accounting of the true costs of that service, and the stories of healing that only the natural world can bring. Each profile offers courage, hope, and example to all those who have been lost, offering a guide and companion to walking in and with the wilderness to find peace.”

— Shannon Huffman Polson, author, The Grit Factor: Courage, Resilience and Leadership in the Most Male Dominated Organization in the World

“In Walking Toward Peace, Cindy Ross reveals some of the most essential ingredients necessary for veterans healing from the horrors and invisible wounds of war. She shares the stories of two dozen wounded warriors who immerse themselves in nature, giving them compassionate witness and amply demonstrating how nature, storytelling, and community are homecoming elements for all warriors. Ross provides these healing examples in a generous and accessible manner.”

— Edward Tick, PhD, author, Warrior’s Return: Restoring the Soul After War

“Cindy Ross’s Walking Toward Peace is a window into the psychological wounds inflicted on America’s combat veterans, as well as a thoughtful consideration of the therapeutic value of long‐distance treks in salving those wounds. I found the book to be highly engaging, thought‐provoking, and a welcome addition to the literature on the health promoting properties of nature‐based recreation.”

— Daniel L. Dustin, PhD, author, Nature’s Grace: America’s Veterans and the Healing Power of Nature

“The stories of the Veterans and the professional studies Ross cites in Walking Toward Peace give a scientific basis to the power of Mother Nature. And, as a person of African American descent, I am happy to see her address Veterans of color and the issue of why more are not attracted to the natural world and the need to engage them in outdoor activities.”

— Anthony Jackson, Major General, US Marine Corps (Ret) and former Director, California State Parks

Walking Toward Peace provides a rich map to the healing power of long‐trail hiking, with way‐points provided by military veterans from Earl Shaffer to men and women coming home today from countless deployments around the world. . Readers will realize, however, that the power is in the journey, not the destination, and will be impressed by Cindy Ross’s adroit writing and trailside intimacy with many of the veterans she meets along the way. I invite you to join in the journey of this book and find some healing of your own.”

— Stacy Bare, US Army veteran, adventurer, and filmmaker, Adventure Not War

“I am elated by the stories Cindy Ross shares here of how individually and collectively these valiant warriors are able to find solace, peace, and a return to sanity in the comforting arms of our Mother Nature. I hope this book helps enlighten others like me, and reinforces the respect and gratitude we owe our defenders and our shared life support‐system, Nature.”

— Audrey Peterman, author, Legacy on the Land: A Black Couple Discovers Our National Inheritance and Tells Why Every American Should Care

Available for excerpt, book review and/or author interview Media & events contact: Tess Day, Publicist, Mountaineers Books, 919‐619‐3318 Tessd@mountaineersbooks.org

Available for excerpt, book review and/or author interview Media & events contact: Tess Day, Publicist, Mountaineers Books, 919‐619‐3318 Tessd@mountaineersbooks.org

“Combining first‐hand accounts with compelling and current research, Cindy Ross focuses on the soldiers’ capacities and abilities, broadening their personal strength to heal and, overtime, improve their mental, spiritual, and physical health. She has provided a beautiful, thoughtful, and useful book that will indeed help veterans but, I would add, also other survivors of trauma.”

—Joyce Mikal‐Flynn, EdD, FNP, MSN, author, Anatomy of a Survivor: Building Resilience, Grit, and Growth After Trauma

“While many can speak to the restorative aspects of nature, this book magnifies the power of the wild to heal wounds that seem too deep. The intense memories experienced by these veterans are so raw that the pain seems untouchable until they are immersed in the forest, where the adversity of the walk and the healing stillness of nature together offer restoration and wholeness.”

— Beth Jones, Certified Nature Forest Therapy Guide

Walking Toward Peace helps put a face not only on the trauma that war inflicts on our veterans, but also the promise that nature provides them for healing and hope. Cindy Ross helps us to witness examples of this transformation and also understand that nature isn’t a miracle cure—but it is a powerful first step in the long journey toward a peaceful soul.”

— Teresa Ana Martinez, Executive Director, Continental Divide Trail Coalition

“These stories of warriors finding true solace on the trail show us the resilience of these men and women and how, through connecting with nature and all the pleasure and pain that comes with the physical commitment of a long‐ distance hike, healing is possible.”

— Sandra Marra, President and CEO, Appalachian Trail Conservancy

“Cindy Ross listens, as she hikes with these men and women, to stories that are usually only shared with fellow vets who can truly understand. Walking Toward Peace will inspire all those seeking a moment of grace and a path toward healing.”

— Kevin Ferris, co‐author, Vets and Pets

“When we honor our veterans, it is tempting to forget their humanity. Cindy Ross opens a window to the whole stories of men and women deeply affected by war and their time in uniform. She asks the reader to understand that they are not all angels or heroes, but simply individuals who did their duty and want to come home as best they can. Her book offers perhaps the most important tribute we can provide our veterans: the truth.”

— Mike Gambone, author, The Greatest Generation Comes Home: The Veteran in American Society

Walking Toward Peace places you in the hearts and minds of veterans from different generations and service branches as they struggle with wartime memories. Ross masterfully captures their stories of healing and redemption as they travel the Appalachian Trail and other long‐distance routes. This is a must read.”

— Brigadier General Jerry Otterbein, US Air Force (Ret)

ABOUT MOUNTAINEERS BOOKS: Anindependent,nonprofitpublisherbasedinSeattle,WA, Mountaineers Books has crafted award-winning books on outdoor recreation, travel, and adventure since 1960 with the publication of Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, now in its 9th edition. Including imprints Skipstone and Braided River they have over 700 books in print and/or e-book. New titles out this season include: Mud, Rocks, Blazes by Heather “Anish” Anderson, A Shape in the Dark by Bjorn Dihle, Orca by Lynda V. Mapes, and more. http://www.mountaineersbooks.org.

240 pages, 17 b&w illustrations, 6 x 9, paperback, $19.95, ISBN 978‐1‐68051‐303‐5

Available for excerpt, book review and/or author interview Media & events contact: Tess Day, Publicist, Mountaineers Books, 919‐619‐3318 Tessd@mountaineersbooks.org

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