Appalachian Trail Book Sales Increase as Hikers Prepare for Season
It’s that time of the year again. Yes, the forests are dormant and it’s almost morbidly cold outside. But in just a couple months, America’s great trail of the masses, the Appalachian Trail, will begin entertaining the 4,000,000 humans who will trek on it at some point or another this year. Out of this four million, approximately 2,000 hikers set out each spring with the objective of walking the trail’s 2,180 mile length, all the way from Springer Mountain in north Georgia to Mount Katahdin in norhtern Maine. They are referred to as ‘thru-hikers’. In order to walk the entire trail, the average person is required to begin in either March or early April. That is only two months from now. Besides doing the frantic shopping for all the necessary equipment many hikers are trying to learn as much as they can about the trail and trail life. It is no coincidence that sales of Appalachian Trail books jump sharply this time of year. The Amicalola Falls Lodge, located on the ‘approach trail’ to Springer Mountain in north Georgia, has an annual Appalachian Trail Kickoff Event every year in March. I will be speaking and signing books at this year’s event, being held March 8-10.
Personally, sales of my narrative, Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail have doubled in the last two months. This is an account of my 2005 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. It is told from the point of view of a person who had never even spent the night outdoors, but had developed an obsession with hiking the entire trail in one hiking season. In fact, it was Bill Bryson’s bestseller, A Walk in the Woods, (1999) that originally gave me the idea of attempting to do the whole thing. Most hiking narratives I had read had been written by experts, for other experts, in a narrow expert’s language. I wanted to tell the tale from the point of view of someone who was anything but an expert. And believe me, that wasn’t difficult, given all the crises and dramas I experienced along the way. In fact, I had wondered if I could even write an entire book; but it was such a rich experience that after the first draft I had to agonize over cutting the manuscript down to manageable size. Also, I was determined to avoid anything that smacked of a diary; that format tends to bore readers after just a few pages. Rather, a good narrative should have undulations, plots, and subplots, as well as overarching themes.
Fortunately, my strategy seems to have been vindicated as the book has sold steadily from its publicatoin four years ago. Some readers have joked that the book is a “how not to”, as much as a “how to.” Heck, at times I think they are right!
By the way, I certainly don’t want to give the impression that Skywalker is the only worthwhile book out there. David Miller’s (AWOL) Appalachian Trail guidebook is very well done, and virtually required for any serious hiker on the AT. Other narratives that readers can choose from include AWOL on the Appalachian Trail, Three Hundred Zeroes, Barefoot Sisters, and Becoming Odyssa.
For many, including myself, the Appalachian Trail is the journey of their lifetimes. It is only logical they read everything they can get their hands on.
Bill Walker is the author of Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail. He is also the author of Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail, as well as The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago. Walker, who is nearly 7-feet tall, is currently working on a whimsical book on the subject of height.
Thanks for the mention of Three Hundred Zeroes Bill. I like the fact that you point out that people should read an assortment of books before venturing out. As I’ve pointed out many times in the past, we AT authors are not competing with each other, we all have very different tales to tell, and experiences. I’d argue that the books are the most important piece of gear you have BEFORE you go out on the trail.
I read yours several times, cover-to-cover before I ventured out on the AT for my thru-hike, and it was invaluable. I also read Bryson’s, as well as Leslie Mass’, “In Beauty May She Walk,” and Jeff Alt’s, “A Walk For Sunshine.” They were all very different and informative.
Keep up the good work Bill, you’re one of the “Good Guys.”
Dennis, “K1”, AT 07/08
Author of Three Hundred Zeroes: Lessons of the Heart on the Appalachian Trail