After the last book I read, I had been looking for a book that really grabbed me and made me want to keep reading. Though I don’t ever intend on hiking the Appalachian Trail, I do like reading about it through trail journals and books. That led me to AWOL on the Appalachian Trail, a wonderful account of one man’s mid-life hike of the historic trail.
It’s the second book I read on hiking the trail and it gave a very good account of the hike and what you encounter during such a long thru-hike.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It was well done and you could tell that the writer kept good details in his journal during the hike. It also probably didn’t hurt that he wrote a newspaper article every week or two during his hike.
As for the book…
Details! The best way I can describe this book is that it’s almost a play-by-play of his hike. The details are many and really capture the essence of a thru-hike like this. Remember, the Appalachian Trail is more than 2,000 miles long, so there are a lot of things to journal and encounter. Items such as animals, other wildlife, people, stopping in towns, injuries and everything else you can consider. Author David Miller really gives you the feel of what it’s like to be on the trail. From not shaving, to days without a shower — you can almost smell (ewww!) what it’s like to be a hiker. His tribulations with hiking shoes or dealing with hikers who seem to uppity to talk to other hikers, he gives you ever piece of what his trip was like.
That makes it hard to put the book down.
It took me about 10 days to finish the book. There were a few days in there that I didn’t read, but the book flowed well and it went quick. I looked forward to reading it each time I picked up my Kindle.
Another positive to the book was it wasn’t all cake and candy. By that I mean, everything wasn’t “Oh yay! The Appalachian Trail rules and this was so easy!”
Miller gets into the negatives of his hike. Such as being away from his wife and three kids for so many months. He takes us into the mind of a thru-hiker with the urge (though with Miller, it never seemed too big of an urge as he knew what he did to be able to hike and didn’t want to leave the trail). But it’s not an easy thing to do, mentally and physically. The amount of food he goes through and the constant, nagging injuries are things that he dealt with.
He also shows what hikers have to go through each day. From hiking anywhere from 10-30 miles in a day, to the terrain, to having to hitchhike into towns or trying to get food and water while on the trail, Miller’s account of the hike is something anyone considering this hike should read.
As much of a positive as the play-by play is, it can also be a negative, though not in a major way. There were times that I wondered how much fun he actually had. If I’m on a trail for 4-6 months and am meeting so many people and staying in different spots, I’m going to have to have some fun. At times, Miller starts to talk about the good times, but then abruptly moves on to hiking the next day. I think a few more details and some good humor in parts would have given the book a little extra oomph.
Outside of that, there’s not many negatives with this book. He offered a few opinions in the book that I think could have been left out and there were parts that I would have liked expanded with explanations, but overall there weren’t many bad things about the book.
Not many books could get me to be interested in hiking 2,000-plus miles. The reality is, this is a hike I’ll likely never try to attempt as being on the trail for six months just isn’t something I’m interested in doing. That being said, his account of the hike really could get someone interested in thinking about this hike. From the amount of bears he saw to the nature and people he encountered, it’s a writer’s dream to be on that trail.
But every batch of goods had bads, including weather, rough people to deal with or running out of key items (such as water). The physical and mental toll it takes on a person is something that everyone should consider.
Still, as Miller shows in the book, it’s something that people from all walks of life have done and it’s something many people could do, if they put their mind to it. His account isn’t sugar-coated and he gives a real feel of what it would be like to take this thru-hike.
I gave it 4 out of 5 stars and would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys hiking, outdoors or just a good read about a real-life adventure.
Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com.