Hiking the Appalachian Trail

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Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Throughout history, the forest and the wilderness symbolize the unknown, both in physical and spiritual terms. These books about hiking the Appalachian Trail, both fiction and nonfiction, deal with our desire to explore and navigate the wilderness, to find out truths about ourselves, such as do we have the stamina and conviction to finish our goal of hiking the trail; and perhaps, to live vicariously through the lives of others. 

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson tells us about his journey, adventures, triumphs, and challenges on the Appalachian Trail. When Bill Bryson moves to a small town in New Hampshire after twenty years in Britain he notices a path that vanishes into a wood on the edge of town. But it’s not just any path – it’s the Appalachian Trail. In spite of being warned about the numerous perils of the trail from friends: bears, rattlesnakes, water moccasins, wolves, poison ivy and Lyme disease, he decides that he wants to hike the Appalachian Trail. His unlikely hiking companion, Stephen Katz, is an old friend of his that he has barely seen for twenty-five years. Bill and Stephen’s friendship is tumultuous, especially when Stephen throws items that they need from his pack over a cliff in temper. But despite that and despite the challenges of hiking the Appalachian Trail, Bill Bryson shows us the beauty of the Appalachian Trail and the joy of hiking it.

Dog Gone by Pauls Toutonghi is a tale of heartbreak, loss and redemption. On a beautiful day in October, Fielding Marshall is hiking the Appalachian Trail with his beloved six-year-old golden retriever mix named Gonker. Gonker bolts into the woods and is lost. He is nowhere to be found. Fielding Marshall is in a state of panic because Gonker has Addison’s disease. If he’s not found in twenty-three days, he will die. Virginia, Fielding Marshall’s mother, does everything in her power to help him find the dog. As a victim of childhood abuse who depended upon her dog, Oji, for love, affection and acceptance, she completely understands the deep bond between dog and owner. Although Gonker takes a physically grueling journey, his owner and his owner’s family takes an equally impressive journey towards love, acceptance and belonging in their own family. 

Slow and Steady Hiking the Appalachian Trail by Robert A. Callaway is a story of two brothers hiking the Appalachian Trail. If you are seriously considering hiking the Appalachian Trail, then this is the book for you. Robert Callaway first became interested in hiking the Appalachian Trail when at age eight, his mother mentioned that his grandfather had wanted to hike the trail, but didn’t get a chance to do so. At age 63, he and his retired brother, Tommy, who is in his late fifties, decide to hike the Appalachian Trail in its entirety. They received nicknames from other hikers that they meet. Robert is Steady and Tommy is Slow. Throughout the book, we witness Robert's daily experiences on the trail,as well as the challenges, rewards and people that he meets along the way. In his last chapter, What I Loved and What I Learned Hiking the Appalachian Trail, he mentions that he loved hiking the Appalachian Trail and the psychological and physical confidence that he developed in his ability to hike on in good weather and bad.

Black Heart on the Appalachian Trail by T.J. Forrester tells the story of three troubled people trying to find redemption. The three main characters in this novel, recently imprisoned Taz Chavis, troubled young scientist Simone Decker, and Richard Nelson, an alcoholic who wants to get sober, are all hiking the Appalachian Trail. Taz Chavis is fulfilling a dream to hike the trail, sparked by a book on the Appalachian Trail that he read in prison. Simone is fighting murderous urges and is hiking the Appalachian Trail to try to change herself from the inside. Richard Nelson is fighting his alcoholism and is seeking a final adventure before taking over the family business back home. Will hiking the Appalachian Trail soothe their souls and set them on the right path?  

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: the inspiring story of the woman who saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery is the true inspirational story of a 67 year-old great-grandmother who hiked 2,050 miles on the Appalachian Trail – from Oglethorpe, Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine-- in tennis shoes. When she reached the top of Katahdin, she sang the first verse of “America the Beautiful”. Why did she do this? “Because,” she told a reporter, “I wanted to.” If you aren’t inspired to hike the Appalachian Trail after reading her story, you will at least be inspired to accomplish something equally amazing.