Sleep In The Dirt

10 Questions with Emily Krall Osterman, Founder of BookTrails

Sponsorship and Non-Profit


Emily Krall Osterman, the Executive Director and Founder of BookTrails, a unique summer camp program in Steamboat Springs, CO that combines reading and outdoor experiences for children.

First off, what book are you reading right now?

I am always reading many books at one time, but my current favorites are the Golden Compass series by Philip Pullman and The Collector, the latest installment in the Navajo mystery series by R Allen Chappell.

What’s the best adventure book you’ve ever read and always recommend to others?

I loved the Emerald Mile by Kevin Fedarko. He tells the story of the fastest ride in history through the Grand Canyon in the most gripping and fascinating narration. My husband and I read it right before we rafted the Grand Canyon and he describes the different rapids and landmarks perfectly, he really transports you into the story.

How did the combination of reading and the outdoors come about?

My background is in environmental education and I always noticed how reading and journaling were great tools for helping children to explore and understand their natural world. I started to gather books with environmental themes and link them with different hands-on activities. This led to the creation of our summer camp, where each week of camp is linked to a different book or theme. Children participate in the different challenges that the book character encounters, like building survival shelters in The Hatchet or learning to forage edible plants in Little House on the Prairie

What and who inspired you to take create the BookTrails program?

My parents own Off the Beaten Path Bookstore, and we decided that we wanted to start a nonprofit summer camp that would integrate reading and writing with outdoor experiences. This wonderful community has inspired us to grow over the last 8 years to serve over 210 children with literacy and outdoor education every summer!

What changes do you notice about these kids when camp is over?

We notice that children have more confidence reading aloud, show a greater interest in books and reading, and they have a heightened appreciation for nature and the outdoors.

Why did you choose the Guard Station tent for BookTrails?

We wanted to start a Counselor-in-Training program for campers who have aged out of the program but still want to be involved with BookTrails. We felt the Guard Station would be a great tent for our CITs to live in during their stay at camp. The tent is spacious, comfortable and sturdy enough to leave up for weeks at a time.

What tent do you use on your days off and what types of adventures do you enjoy when camping without the kiddos?

My family uses a Big House 4 and we pack it in with our one year old son, Griffin, our dog Juniper, two paco pads, and a travel pack n play! We love to go skiing in New Mexico, our favorite place to adventure is Bears Ears, and we try and get out on our raft as much as possible! 

Do you pack a book when you go camping? Why or why not.

Always! Often I pack many books, which is why rafting is the perfect sport for me! I love reading books on the beach after dinner or cuddling up in my sleeping bag!

What’s your favorite campfire story to share with kids?

The story (or the fate) of old Rancher Burnett, the man who first homesteaded on the land that is now our summer camp. You’ll have to join one of our Thursday night campfires to hear it.

How does this important role make you feel and how does it affect your outlook on the future for our kids?

I always say that it is the greatest honor of my life to work with children and help them discover new things about the planet and themselves. My dream is for them to form a lifelong relationship with reading that will provide eternal adventure at their fingertips. Steamboat kids are pretty special and I’d say our outlook is looking very sunny with these future leaders taking the helm! 

Comments (1)

One response

  1. Garett Colin Long

    Bravo Emily! Keeping it local with @bigagnes. This old Whitman alum stumbled upon this article and loved reading about Book Trails. I can imagine you dreaming up this good work while on your Scramble, rafting the White Salmon… or something like that 😉 Congrats on having the liberal arts dream job, too. Cheers!

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