Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Armchair Hiking

Last December, when I was feeling under the weather and the weather was less than wonderful for hiking, I read Bill Bryson's book,  A Walk in the Woods. The book had been on my bookstack for a few years and I just never got to it. But I saw that the movie version was going to be on-demand, so I wa determined to read the book before seeing the movie.

Winter is a good time to be an armchair hiker, although I still like getting out in the woods during the winter, my days of hiking in cold mud and deep snow are probably over.

A Walk in the Woods is the account of his attempts to walk the Appalachian Trail. After some years in England, Bryson (now living in New Hampshire, with his wife and his four children) decided to reacquaint himself with his homeland by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail. (The subtitle of the book is "Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail.")

Any long hike or walk in the woods is not all laughs. In Bryson's book, you'll learn about the AT's history and (hopefully) come to believe in the need for the conservation of this fragile wilderness.

I had that same ambition when I was in my early twenties. I wanted to walk the AT from Georgia to Maine in order to find myself, rather than America.

I read several books about the trail, bought maps, made plans. Completing the entire 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail in one trip is a mammoth undertaking. Each year, thousands of hikers attempt a thru-hike and only about one in four makes it all the way.

According to AppalachianTrail.org, a typical thru-hiker takes 5 to 7 months to hike the entire A.T. You can walk in either direction, but there is a lot of planning, setting resupply points, regulations, and physical and mental preparations.

I did what many sojourners do at first. I hiked sections of the trail nearest to me on day and weekend hikes. My section hikes ended with a blown-out knee. Then came the birth of my sons, and life, and my hikes became walks. That is not a bad thing.

My favorite of the five books below

If you want to do some armchair hiking in New Jersey - or prep for actual hikes as the weather warms up - here are five books to get you started.
  1. Explorer's Guide 50 Hikes in New Jersey: Walks, Hikes, and Backpacking Trips from the Kittatinnies to Cape May  
  2. Hiking New Jersey: A Guide To 50 Of The Garden State's Greatest Hiking Adventures   
  3. New Jersey Walk Book: A Companion to the New York Walk Book
  4. Kittatinny Trails
  5. Hiking the Jersey Highlands: Wilderness in Your Back Yard
I don't know if my thru-hike would have been as fun or as funny as Bryson's sojourn with his out-of-shape buddy, Stephen, but I think I missed out on a good life adventure.

Anyway, the book would be a good weekend armchair adventure as we transition out of winter, and if you're still not ready for even an armchair reading hike, settle back on that couch and watch the movie version of A Walk in the Woods with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte.

And then, get out on a real trail!


Portions of this post first appeared on Weekends in Paradelle 

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