Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What to Read While Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Though it's probably a little too cold to hike the Appalachian Trail right now, perhaps these books will help you start planning your own hiking adventure so that you'll be ready to go when spring rolls around:

As Far as the Eye Can See by David Brill
Unsure of what he wanted to do with his life, recent college graduate David Brill chose to hike the Appalachian Trail in 1979.  Six months and 2,100 miles later he emerged a changed person, evolving from an inexperienced outdoorsman into a seasoned hiker.  This memoir chronicles the adversities and adventures of his trip.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
In an attempt to reconnect with America after living in Britain for 20 years, author Bill Bryson decided to hike the Appalachian Trail and record his experiences.  His narrative is both hilarious and insightful, filled with interesting historical facts, little-known trivia, and a cast of characters almost too zany to be believed.  You’ll want to lace up your hiking boots and set off down the trail by the time you’re done. 

Essays & Lectures by Ralph Waldo Emerson
A contemporary of Henry David Thoreau, Emerson was one of the most important American thinkers of the 19th century.  His essay “Nature,” included in this volume, was highly influential in its linking of spirituality with the study of nature.  The philosophies espoused in Emerson’s works have been carried out by many a hiker.  

The Appalachian Trail Reader edited by David Emblidge
The Appalachian Trail Reader is a fascinating collection of essays, trail diaries, and poems written by a wide variety of authors, ranging from anonymous hikers to famous American literary figures like Walt Whitman and James Dickey.  Recommended for those interested in gaining a historical perspective of the AT.      

Hiking the Appalachian Trail edited by David Hare
This massive two volume collection compiles the stories of 46 men and women who have hiked the whole Appalachian Trail.  In addition to the stories, Hiking the Appalachian Trail contains practical advice on everything from menu and equipment suggestions to photography and bird watching tips, making it a must read for would-be hikers.   

Guide to Shenandoah National Park by Henry Heatwole
Not interested in hiking the entire trail?  Here’s a comprehensive guide to all of the great hiking spots located here in our own backyard.  About 90 miles of the AT run within Shenandoah National Park, and this book will help you select the hike that’s right for you.

Me and the Boy by Paul Hemphill
When Hemphill set out to hike the entire AT with his 19-year-old son, he had little idea of what an intense bonding experience it would be for the two of them.  Poignant and emotional, Me and the Boy is a fine account of a journey marked by painful revelations and, ultimately, powerful healing.

In Beauty May She Walk by Leslie Mass
Think you’re too old to hike the Appalachian Trail?  Your opinion might change after reading In Beauty May She Walk, the inspirational story of a 60-year-old woman who thru-hikes the entire AT.  Mass honestly portrays the difficulties and struggles she faced on her grueling journey, while also conveying the great sense of achievement she felt upon completion.

Time For Everything by George Meek
Virginia author George Meek recommends “section-hiking” as a great way to hike the AT.  In contrast to the strenuous pace set by thru-hikers, section-hikers take a more relaxed journey by dividing the trail into portions that can be covered over several years. In Time For Everything, Meek draws from his own six-year section-hike to give valuable pointers to the novice.

AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller
Miller perfectly captures what it is like to be a thru-hiker, or someone who hikes the entire trail from end-to-end in one continuous journey.  Taking the name “AWOL” (most thu-hikers adopt a trail name), Miller quits his job to fulfill his dream.  He vividly describes the physical struggles, such as hiking through injuries, and the profound sense of community that is fostered between thru-hikers. 

Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit
Solnit tackles a seemingly mundane subject with style and intelligence, introducing many thought-provoking ideas about walking.  From its examination of the many reasons why people walk to its look at the impact of automobiles and urbanization on walking for pleasure, Wanderlust will make you rethink an activity you probably take for granted.    

Walden by  Henry David Thoreau
Walden is a must read for anyone interested in “getting back to nature.” It tells of Thoreau’s two year stint of solitary living at Walden Pond in the  1840s, where his motto was “Simplify, simplify.”  Check out Thoreau’s book The Maine Woods to read about his adventure climbing Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

Walking Home by Kelly Winters
For Kelly Winters the AT represented “not a physical place, but an emotional, psychological, spiritual one.”  Grappling with her identity and sexual orientation, Winters uses her six month thru-hike as a pilgrimage to discover the authentic self she’s long kept subdued.

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