OK, so it’s January and walking probably is not on your radar at this moment. But the days swim by, and all of a sudden it will be March, and you may feel the tug of the great outdoors. Here are some titles written by those who have walked, and walked and walked.
My old favorite and I’m sure many of you will agree is A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson, wherein he and his friend Katz, an overweight couch potato, attempt to walk the entire length (2,100 miles) of the AT from Georgia to Maine. Although he and Katz do not realize their goal, Bryson paints a vivid picture of life on the Trail. He laughs about himself, the trail, other hikers and especially Katz, at the same time he offers an informative yet distressing dose of history. Bryson does not hesitate to express his opinions—of the Trail, the Park Service and the other hikers.
I particularly enjoyed the part when he and Katz finally get to a town after a particularly difficult hike and buy a package of three Hostess cupcakes. They each eat one and plan to split the third. But a particularly obnoxious hiker acquaintance comes along and eats it first. Bryson describes the combination of crestfallen and murderous look on the face of his junk food addict friend, Katz.
Bryson has written books on many different subjects: travel, memoirs, science, and history, with his patented funny/serious approach and I liked them all, but A Walk in the Woods will remain my favorite.
On the other side of the country is the Pacific Crest Trail, much more arduous and less populated than the Adirondack Trail. Cheryl Strayed, 22 years old with almost no hiking experience, decides to walk the 1000 miles from Southern California to Washington State, and more importantly, to do it alone, as therapy for her life gone astray (hence her name).
After the death of her mother, her family fell apart, and then her life fell apart. She left school; she left her husband, got into drugs and then got deeper into drugs. She happened to see a guidebook on the Pacific Crest Trail, and then made up her mind to do it, without any training. Her memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, documents her adventure on the trail, from her incredible unpreparedness, to the friends she met along the way. It was more of a soul searching journey than Bryson’s book, but she graphically describes her travails, such as her feet and her toenails (or the lack of them by the end of the hike). It is definitely a page turner, and the reader will look forward to finding out if her life turns out the way she wants it to.
Another soul searching “walk as therapy” memoir is Lynn Darling’s Out of the Woods: a Memoir of Wayfinding. Finding herself alone after her daughter leaves for college, she searches for answers to her life by moving to rural Vermont with her new dog and a compass, and hikes unmapped trails. Will she find the direction she seeks? Read this well received book.
Walking the Amazon, 360 days One Step at a Time by Ed Stafford is only for the hardiest of hikers. Stafford’s goal was to hike the length of the Amazon River….4,000 miles, some of it alone. He literally was attacked by Indians at one point. How much more exciting can you expect?
For those of you that would like to stay closer to home, and have a tamer adventure, here are some ideas: http://www.everytrail.com/best/hiking-maryland