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Rogue River Journal: A Winter Alone

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  153 ratings  ·  27 reviews
In November of 2000, after the presidential election but before the final results had been handed down by the Supreme Court, John Daniel climbed into his pickup, drove to a remote location in Oregon's Rogue River Canyon, and quit civilization. The strictures were severe with no two-way human communication — not even with his wife — and no radio, no music, not even his cat. ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 3rd 2006 by Counterpoint (first published April 10th 2005)
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Dec 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature, memoir, oregon, history
I don't know John Daniel, but our paths in life have crossed many times. Perhaps because of that, this book rings true. We were born the same year, picked a never seen Reed College far from our eastern US homes, then attended only in 1966 & 67. After stints in the San Francisco Bay area we both ended up living in rural western Lane County with a love of the natural world here.

John Daniel visits lot of universal truths about life, parents, and nature with this book. It is part biography (of his
Jan 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
This book spoke to me on a number of levels. Good memoirs tend to do that. I keep a spiral next to my bed in which I jot down memorable quotes from the books that I read. This is a somewhat time-consuming process in that I must pause from my reading, pick up my spiral, flip to an open page, and copy a passage. Needless to say, the passage has to be especially memorable to merit such an interruption. Mr. Daniel's book included a number of such passages, so many that I did not write all of them do ...more
Oct 14, 2007 rated it liked it
It took me a little while to get into it, but then I really warmed up to it and could barely put it down. The chapters are organized into the days of his journal, so it's easy to read for just a few minutes at a time. It's a thoughtful reflection on coming of age in the 60s, the labor movement, the sadness that alcoholism can wreak upon a family, and human beings' place in the natural world. That may seem like a disconnected list of things, but Daniel ties it all together well. It was also fun t ...more
Oct 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I read this book in the course of one long day, and loved its beautiful evocation of southern Oregon, its wry tone and its wonderful movement back and forth between the immediate natural world and the author's memoir of his father. One of the best. ...more
Marie Carmean
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
I will not be completing this's just NOT what I thought it was going to be. There were parts of it I enjoyed, but he spent so much time talking about his Union activist parents with their open marriage and the effect such things had on his well as other issues that really had very little to do with spending five months in solitude in the Oregon woods. Just wasn't my cup of tea. ...more
Jan 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
Ten years later... I loved it all. Poetic and relatable, I read it only during the winter months and found it to be a solace.
May 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Luke by: Brian Donohue
This book grew on me. I've never read "Walden" (it's on my list!) so maybe I missed out having that as a reference with which to view Rogue River Journal. John Daniel decided to rid himself of as many of the trappings of society as he could and spend the 2000-2001 winter in a cabin located in the Rogue River Valley. He uses the opportunity to reflect on his life, his beliefs, and his father. He is seeking some kind of life-affirming revelation and he attempts to provoke it by copious meditation ...more
Alex Marshall
Aug 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Alex by: April Kline
When he says "alone," he means alone. He hikes into the Rogue River canyon wilderness in November, just before the pass closes, and bails out in March when the snow melts. No radio, no Internet, no phone except for a weekly outgoing I'm-OK message. He lives in a snuggish cabin, lives on whatever he can grow, persuade on to his hook or bring himself to shoot, and a certain amount of tinned stuff he's brought with him. He sees very few people and speaks with no-one.

He's also brought copious notes
Susan Eubank
Here are the questions we discussed during the Reading the Western Landscape Book Club at the Arboretum Library of the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden on Wednesday, March 18, 2020:
(view spoiler)
Oct 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: true-stories
I liked the author's story of his growing up years and how he tried to develop a relationship with his emotionally distant father. What I didn't like was all the detail about his father's career as Union Rep although it was very informative. I hadn't a clue about Unions before reading this book

The author wrote this book while sequestering himself in a cabin in the woods during a 4 month period. He often compared himself to Walden which I got a big kick out of. It was a time of personal and spiri
Will Waller
A story of an atheist writer from Eugene who goes to the southern Oregon Rogue River Valley to find both himself and a story about his alcoholic Father.
Thoreau who wrote: “I wished to dive into the same deep stream of a thoughtuful and devoted life.”
Edward Abbey asked the question: “Are men no better than sheep or cattle always in view of one another in order to feel a sense of safety?”—can we live alone the author asks?

Early in his time, he descripes his set-up: he is in a small writer’s cabin
Nov 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, nature
This book has many more strengths than weaknesses. The premise is an examination of the author's life, particularly with respect to his relationship with his father, during a winter of solitude in the Rogue River wilderness. Not surprisingly, it's an extremely introspective and thoughtful book. Its strengths include lots of local interest, a perceptive account of the cultural revolution that took place in the late 60's and early 70s, and some beautiful passages that describe the author's natural ...more
Aug 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: memoir readers
Shelves: memoir
I enjoyed this book for many reasons. The author came of age when I did and went through a lot of the same gyrations during the 60s and 70s - so he is a kindred spirit. The book merges many aspects of his experience: as a writer spending 5 months alone in the woods, as a spiritual seeker, as the son of an alcoholic who was a charismatic union organizer. Somehow he weaves all this together in a journal-style books that is rich with descriptions of the Rogue River Valley. Thoreau is a reference po ...more
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Took me forever to finish, but I think that's just because of general holiday busyness. It was about different things than I was expecting it to be about, and if you had asked me if I wanted to read a book about those things, I would have said no, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The library copy is now riddled with book darts marking sentences that really, really resonated with me. I'm very glad I read it. ...more
Sep 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I began the book expecting to enjoy some good nature writing about a winter spent writing in solitude. The story was much deeper. Through his writing, Daniel recounts his relationship with his now deceased father who suffered from alchohlism. He reconciles the effect of this on his own development. Along the way he gives a good history of the American labor movement from the 40"s through the 70's. A beautifully written story. It's a little slow to start but soon pulls you along. ...more
Sean Patrick
Sep 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The voice is one that some may love or hate, but it is confident to stand with Thoreau--albeit in the wilderness of the southern Oregon mountains along a remote stretch of river. More than that, the book is a meditation on history, our relationship to ourselves and our fragmented past, and a probing look at the author's alcoholic father. When youth's idealism becomes life's ordinary successes and failures--I'm finding it in myself, as well. ...more
Avram Chetron
Aug 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those intersted in southern Oregon, in solitude, and in growing up in the mid-20th century
John Daniel has lived a life that many of his generation can relate to and recall with pleasure, poignancy, sorrow, and thankfulness. He writes perceptively about nature, about fathers and sons, and about right living. He's not entirely admirable by any means, but his humanity shines through this book and it's hard not to like the man as he reveals himself to you. It's also hard to not want to hear more of his story. ...more
Jun 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is my kind of book. An essay about a winter spent alone in a cabin on the Rogue, just as the title indicates. It's an easy read with a lot of thoughts about living simply and thoughtfully in a place I'd love to spend an extended amount of time in. How do people come up with such large blocks of time anyway? ...more
Lea Selig
Jan 16, 2014 rated it liked it
I would've liked less about his dad and the unions and more about his life in the cabin or his journey in general. It was a little too political for a pleasure reading book. Maybe if you're into that sort of thing. ...more
Nov 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An introspective book written by a favorite local writer of mine, John Daniel. He wrote this book while staying in an isolated, remote cabin (through a winter) in country that holds many fond memories for me.

Gary J.
Jan 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Loved reading this book, since about half of it is set in the cabin and wilderness of Dutch Henry Homestead, where I was when I read it.
Nov 25, 2016 rated it liked it
The author really was writing about his and his fathers life. Sometimes hard to stay with the story.
Katharine Holden
Feb 12, 2013 rated it did not like it
A book, perhaps, more interesting to the author and his family than to readers. Author's great endeavor rather lame, actually. ...more
Jul 15, 2009 rated it liked it
An intriguing concept, spending time alone, writing and observing nature. Also reviewing your own past and how you got where you are...sometimes more self indulgent...but aren't we all. ...more
Rich Dean
Aug 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
for book club
Feb 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
I wish i had read this before we rafted the Rogue. Delightful.
Aug 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Wow! Brave guy, good writer.
rated it it was ok
Feb 04, 2012
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Jun 06, 2020
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Born in South Carolina and raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., John Daniel has lived in the West since 1966. After attending and dropping out of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, he worked as a logger, railroad inspector, rock climbing instructor, hod carrier, and poet-in-the-schools. He began to write poetry and prose in the 1970s while living on a ranch in south-central Oregon. In 1982 he ...more

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“At Reed College, I learned very quickly that I didn't know nearly enough. I learned, first, that every student there was as smart as I was, and quite a few seemed smarter.” 3 likes
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