Current Reads

This week finds two new non-fiction additions to my regular fiction readings. I have developed an insatiable appetite since rekindling my love the great outdoors and mountains around me. If you yield to that same call, check out Hiking the Big South Fork by Brenda Deaver, Howard Duncan, and Jo Anna Smith or Balancing on Blue by Keith Foskett.

 

Now in its third edition, Hiking the Big South Fork is packed with up-to-date information on the trails of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in Tennessee and Kentucky. The book combines numerous details about the natural history of the area with fascinating tidbits of folklore and legend to provide an interpretive guide to the trails. The authors have walked, measured, and rated every hiking trail, and, for this edition, they include information about trails in the adjoining Pickett State Park and Forest.

The book features detailed maps; checklists of mammals, birds, and wildflowers; and valuable advice on safety, park rules and regulations, and accommodations. The trail descriptions include difficulty ratings, distance and time information, notes on accommodations and special considerations, and detailed mileage indicators to keep hikers informed of their progress and to clarify points of confusion. Also included is a handy chart designed for backpackers who wish to combine trails for longer excursions.

Strollers, hikers, and backpackers looking for a less-crowded alternative to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will enjoy discovering this beautiful, rugged National Park Service area. Only a ninety-minute drive northwest of Knoxville, the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is easily reached in half a day or less from Louisville, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Atlanta.

 

Amazing journeys begin with a single step, but only the determined keep hiking.

Short-listed for Outdoor Book of the Year by The Great Outdoors Magazine

Every year thousands of adventurers attempt to hike all 2,180 miles of the gruelling and unforgiving Appalachian Trail. Around five months later, beaten and bruised, those who finish are known as thru-hikers.

Keith Foskett weaves a true-life tale that’s as thought-provoking as it is entertaining. Accompanied by an array of eclectic characters – including a world-champion juggler, a drug dealer, and a sex-starved builder from Minnesota – he takes the reader on a compelling adventure that pushes the limits of both endurance and imagination.

During his five months living in the woods, Foskett’s psychological apprehensions are stretched to the limit against the wild elements of nature. By turns humorous and harrowing, his journey allows him to overcome his fears while reflecting on the man he’s meant to be. His adventure weaves a route through some of America’s wildest landscapes and history, and is told with insight, humour and reflection.

Perhaps he too will tame the most renowned long-distance hiking trail in the world, and emerge as a thru-hiker.

Current Reads

While continuing my current fiction reads, I still find myself dipping into the nonfiction waters. This week I have been partaking of Colin Fletcher’s and Chip Rawlins’ The Complete Walker IV. I have read this and it’s earlier version so many times that I have lost count. My love of all things outdoors keeps me coming back time after time.

For the first time since 1984, we have a new edition of the classic book that Field & Stream called “the Hiker’s Bible.” For this version, the celebrated writer and hiker Colin Fletcher has taken on a coauthor, Chip Rawlins, himself an avid outdoorsman and a poet from Wyoming. Together, they have made this fourth edition of The Complete Walker the most informative, entertaining, and thorough version yet.

The eighteen years since the publication of The Complete Walker III have seen revolutionary changes in hiking and camping equipment: developments in waterproofing technology, smaller and more durable stoves, lighter boots, more manageable tents, and a wider array of food options. The equipment recommendations are therefore not merely revised and tweaked, but completely revamped. During these two decades we have also seen a deepening of environmental consciousness. Not only has backpacking become more popular, but a whole ethic of responsible outdoorsmanship has emerged. In this book the authors confidently lead us through these technological, ethical, and spiritual changes.

Fletcher and Rawlins’s thorough appraisal and recommendation of equipment begins with a “Ground Plan,” a discussion of general hiking preparedness. How much to bring? What are the ideal clothes, food, boots, and tents for your trip? They evaluate each of these variables in detail—including open, honest critiques and endorsements of brand-name equipment. Their equipment searches are exhaustive; they talk in detail about everything from socks to freeze-dried trail curries.

They end as they began, with a philosophical and literary disquisition on the reasons to walk, capped off with a delightful collection of quotes about walking and the outdoor life. After a thoughtful and painstaking analysis of hiking gear from hats to boots, from longjohns to tent flaps, they remind us that ultimately hiking is about the experience of being outdoors and seeing the green world anew.

Like its predecessors, The Complete Walker IV is an essential purchase for anyone captivated by the outdoor life.