book review

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George (Creating Your Own Outdoor Survival Adventure!)

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“I am running away from home, and this is just the kind of forest I have always dreamed I would run to. I think I’ll camp here tonight.” I hopped out of the cab.

“Well, now, ain’t that sumpin? You know, when I was your age, I did the same thing. Only thing was, I was a farm boy and ran to the city, and you’re a city boy running to the woods. I was scared of the city–do you think you’ll be scared of the woods?”

“Heck ,no !” I shouted loudly.

                        — My Side of the Mountain

My Side of the Mountain

Recently we took out an old favorite My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, and read it aloud.

This is an extraordinary book which has been read for the last couple of generations in our family. It’s the amazing story of successful survival by a boy named Sam Gribley. How many of us thought of running away as young kids?  I tried it once but stopped at my grandmother’s on the way out. She was making my favorite soup so I stayed the weekend. Bottom line is, I didn’t make it any farther than that 🙂

Where this story takes a turn is that Sam Gribley makes it past the first block and keeps on going all the way up to his grandfather’s land in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York. There he makes a house in a huge hollow tree, steals a baby falcon who he trains to hunt, collects and gathers berries, roots, and nuts, makes a weasel into a companion and uses his wits for survival. This is a touching account of learning to live off the land and growing up in the process. By the end of this book no one in my house nor the visiting friends were immune to the need to get out there and start surviving. In lieu of running away, our boys got out the tools, went into the woods on our property and built themselves a proper lean to shelter.

 Jean Craighead George passed away last year but left all of us with over 100 titles to love and cherish. She also has the most amazing website which is so inviting. Please stop by and get to know her better.

Jean Craighead George

Something To Do

How to build a shelter

I decided to make a bed before I cooked. I cut off some boughs for a mattress, then I leaned some dead limbs against the boulder and covered them with hemlock boughs. This made a kind of tent. I crawled in, lay down, and felt alone and secret and very excited.”

                                                                         — My Side of the Mountain

At the break of dawn, …….

morning sunrise


…three young boys and a cat named Oscar met in the backyard to spend a day surviving “in the wild.”


They went for a walk in the woods and gather long sticks and branches that they could saw and tie into a shelter frame.



Once they had the sticks at the length they needed they tied it into a square frame.



They put their frame under a tall monkey pine tree and secured it to the thick branches. Afterwards they gather leafy branches and tied them onto the shelter frame.



While some were finishing the shelter. Others were creating pottery from our ever ending supply of red clay. 



After coming inside the house for a nice warm meal, they ventured back out to spend the night under their shelter. It started raining and surviving in the wild entered the back recesses of their minds as they came inside for “movie night and a pizza.

Outdoor Survival Advenure

How to Hit the Trail

If you should want to run away to the wild, you need to think of where you’re going and what you’ll need. For us in the Smoky Mountains, weather changes quickly and we need to be ready for anything.

Unlike Sam Gribley, I’m not anticipating anyone playing “survivor man” in our house anytime soon. I will share with you however, that it is a secret dream of my son and husband to sneak off into the wilderness and live off  the land.

For the times we do venture into the wild, here’s what we always include in our backpacks.

  • Enough water for each person about 2 quarts a day.
  • A Flashlight
  • Molskin to cover blisters
  • Band-aids
  • Wear broken-in comfortable shoes (never wear new shoes hiking)
  • Insect repellant
  • Sunscreen
  • A map
  • Multi-purpose pocketknife
  • Water Purifying tablets
  • Sweater or Jacket
  • Extra pair of socks
  • Magnifying glass
  • Binoculars
  • Waterproof matches
  • Notebook & pen/pencil

If you’re spending the night 

  • Sleeping bag
  • Tarp and Cord
  • Hatchet
  • Cooking pot, Sierra cup
  • Fork and Spoon or a spork
  • Toothbrush/Toothpaste
  • Biodegradable soap

Before you leave always let someone know where you’ll be going and when you’ll be back.

Check the weather before you leave.

What kind of outdoor adventure have you had lately?


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5 thoughts on “My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George (Creating Your Own Outdoor Survival Adventure!)

  1. WOW! I found your post on my Pinterest feed, and to be completely honest, clicked on it because of the LEGO person (well, and because I want my boys to love nature and learn survival skills). I have heard of this book but would have never looked at it further had I not seen this post, so thank you! My boys are in K and pre-K, so I might be able to read this book aloud to them next year and tackle your awesome extension activities. Rock on!

  2. What a great post! Ms George is a favorite at our house. She has provided a book title especially for everyone in the household. Thanks for sharing!

  3. My 5th grade teacher read this book to the class. I have loved Jean Craighead George’s books ever since then. I read My Side of The Mountain to my son when he was about 5. He loved it. We also watched the 1969 movie. I am sure this is a book we will read several times again. We will have to get out and do a survival exploration with this book in mind. Thanks for sharing such a great activity. I am pinning this post.

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