Hiking Books Are Enablers–Make Great Christmas Gifts
In this day and age of mass consumerism, the Christmas shopper is to be pitied. She (he) faces a staggering variety of choices. With that in mind, let me quickly make the case for purchasing hiking narratives.
Hiking is something you do because you want to, not because you have to. The same goes for hiking books. They’re not like food, medical services, etc. in the sense they are obligatory. I have always thought of hiking–especially long-distance hiking–as a shout of freedom. And the way I first got involved was through a hiking book.
In my early forties, I read Bill Bryson’s renowned hiking memoir, A Walk in the Woods. It told the story of two middle-aged former high-school buddies attempting to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. I immediately thought, ‘Cool–what a great way to travel. Perhaps because I had a long history as a ‘streetwalker’, it was especially meaningful to me. Nonetheless, this book served to inspire enough people to take foot to the Appalachian Trail that if you saw a graph of hiker, there would be a parabola for the years after the book’s release. The same could now be said for Cheryl Strayed’s Pacific Crest Trail memoir, Wild–From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, which is now being turned into a Hollywood movie starring Reese Witherspoon.
One thing is for sure–each hiking narrative is different. Because I never had even spent the night outdoors before attempting to thru-hike the 2,180 mile Appalachian Trail, my journey was a titanic struggle between incompetence on the one hand and a-once-in-a-lifetime determination on the other. Some have even joked that my books are as much about what NOT to do, as what to do. I’ll accept that, and not that it is just as important to know what NOT to do!
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, ‘The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago‘, and ‘Getting High–The Annapurna Circuit in Nepal’. Walker, who is nearly 7-feet tall, is currently working on a whimsical book on the subject of height.
Each hiking book