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November 15, 2013

Helen Hoover: Wilderness Writer

Filed under: 150 Best Minnesota Books — Lori Williamson @ 10:07 am

As Minnesota is known for its woods and waters, so is it known for its chroniclers of the outdoors. Names like Sigurd Olson readily spring to mind and so too should the name, Helen Hoover.

An Ohioan by birth, Helen and her husband, Adrian, moved to the remote north woods on Minnesota’s Gunflint trail in the mid-1950s. A writer by inclination, and now by necessity, she began to document her surroundings in order to make a living in the harsh environment. She sold articles to magazines as varied as The Saturday Review, Humpty Dumpty, and Audubon.

In 1963, exactly 50 years ago, Helen’s first book was published in New York. The Long-Shadowed Forest, celebrated here, described the plants and animals that surrounded her cabin. Adrian lovingly illustrated the margins of the pages with detailed depictions of the text, creating one of the “must have” books for any Minnesotan.

As the Environmental Movement of the 1970s grew, Hoover’s books inspired many a young activist. After The Long-Shadowed Forest she went on to write six more books; some very personal accounts of the couple’s struggle to survive near the Canadian border. When the Gunflint Trail became more popular and populated, and their privacy more compromised, the Hoovers left Minnesota. Helen died in Colorado in 1984.

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