The perfect wilderness road trip books


Last updated 7/25/2023 at 11:20am

Few books can transport me to another place these days. With the hecticness of life in general, with busy work schedules, deadlines, and a new house to maintain, reading and getting transported to another place became low on the list.

However, listening to a book while driving on a road trip or cleaning the house has become part of my every day this summer. With the technology of Audible and the willingness of a sister-in-law to share her entire library of C.J. Box books with me, I can listen to the stories of Joe Pickett, Wyoming game warden.

I first fell in love with the story of Joe Pickett and his family because of my husband, Jarod. Jarod has listened to the entire series, including the most recent release of “Storm Watch,” which came out this year.

I had been listening to the series out of order until this summer, when I restarted the series from the beginning. During Jarod and my honeymoon trip to the Grand Tetons and across Wyoming to the Bighorn Mountains, we decided to be “themers” and listen to books starting where Jarod had left off. The setting of the books was the country we were trekking through, over 50 hours in the car over 10 days… yeah, those stories kept us going.

Hearing the stories of Joe Pickett patrolling the Bighorn Mountains or hunting down poachers while we drove through the country where it was taking place made the journey extra special.

According to Box’s website and words about Joe Pickett: “Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett has been the protagonist in more than 20 novels, starting with “Open Season” in 2001. Over that time, he’s taken on environmental terrorists, rogue federal land managers, animal mutilators, crazed cowboy hitmen, corrupt bureaucrats, homicidal animal rights advocates, and violent, dysfunctional families. Joe has matured, lost some of his innocence and naïveté, and committed acts that continue to haunt him. But through it all, he has remained true to himself and his family. And even when he knows that pursuing justice will bring the community, state, and his superiors down on his head, he just can’t help it.”

Following the release of “Open Season,” Box has since written 22 books about the Wyoming game warden. Box grew up in Casper, Wyoming and still currently lives in the state. Box has written several stand-alone novels and the Cody Hoyt/Cassie Dewell novels, which ABC’s TV Show “Big Sky” is based on. Box is a producer.

According to Box’s website: “Box is a Wyoming native and has worked as a ranch hand, surveyor, fishing guide, a small-town newspaper reporter and editor, and he owned an international tourism marketing firm with his wife, Laurie. In 2008 Box was awarded the “Big WYO” Award from the state tourism industry. An avid outdoorsman, Box has hunted, fished, hiked, ridden, and skied throughout Wyoming and the Mountain West. He served on the board of directors for the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo and currently serves on the Wyoming Office of Tourism Board. They have three daughters and two grandchildren. He and his wife Laurie live on their ranch in Wyoming.”

Box began as a small-town newspaper reporter, something that also drew me to read his books, which are New York Times bestsellers — being a small-town reporter myself. When you listen to or read the Joe Pickett series, you can hear the influence of Box’s growing up in Wyoming and continuing to be involved in the state.

Box keeps up with the times. Even though the books are considered “crime fiction,” Box incorporates modern themes into all of his books, including the Joe Pickett books.

The more recent novels see the uptick in technology, COVID-19, and especially what we all know to be happening — the increased number of people moving West.

Ever since COVID (although it was happening before then), areas in the West, particularly mountain towns, seem much more crowded. This is probably due to big city people wanting to escape from the crowds to a “simpler” lifestyle in the woods.

Box discusses the impact of larger crowds in Wyoming and the West and what that’s like for Joe Pickett. The books take place in Saddlestring, Wyoming, an unincorporated town in Johnson County right on the edge of the Bighorn Mountains. Box portrays Pickett as a man who wants to protect not only his family and livelihood but also the land he grew up exploring and patrolling in his career.

I can relate to that. There are places and trails in Sisters that I used to ramble with my dad every Wednesday growing up, and now, even on a weekday, you can rarely even find a place to park in some of those areas. Box portrays through his characters and description of the setting that feeling of protecting the land, but also needing to keep in line with the times.

Joe Pickett’s character and his family are relatable in many ways for me, my husband, and my family. We take our jobs seriously, want to protect our homes, and will do anything to keep our families safe.

I rarely binge a book series anymore. The last time I binged a series was when I was a teenager reading the Harry Potter series. With technology and the ability to listen to the story while doing everyday tasks, I’ve plowed through three books, restarting from the beginning.

“Storm Watch” and Box’s other novels are available at Deschutes Public Library and Paulina Springs Books in Sisters.


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