Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I would walk 500 miles...

I've had a lot of free time to read lately, and two of the books I've just finished have made me really wish it was much warmer outside so that I could head out for a walk in the woods!




A Blistered Kind of Love is written by a couple (Angela and Duffy Ballard) who walked the Pacific Crest Trail from the US/Mexico border all the way north to Canada. The authors take alternating chapters, so you get two distinct points of view, a sort of he said she said. Neither of the two had much prior hiking or camping experience, which made it more relatable to me than if it had been written by someone who was used to walking thirty miles in a day, since I was able to understand their struggles. The trail is not just a test of their physicality, but also of their relationship. I've always said that traveling with someone is one of the best ways to test your relationship with them, and from the book I'd say that walking a thousand miles or so with that person is pretty effective! Despite all the crazyness of their trail adventures, this one left me with the urge to look up hiking shoes on Amazon, and find some local trails to hit! I don't think I could ever do the five straight months of walking thing, nor am I sure I would WANT to, but some day hikes sound awfully good.

The other book was A Walk Across America, by Peter Jenkins. I've heard this one recommended by travel book afficionados for a while, and finally picked it up. (It's been out for longer than I've been alive, so I'm a little late to the party!) I have a kind of embarassing confession- up until when I actually picked up the book, I had been mentally confusing Peter Jenkins with Peter Jennings, and always thought it was by the news anchor. Oops!

In the early 70's, Peter decided to get a first hand view of what the country and its people were really about by walking acorss America with his dog, Cooper. He set off from New York, and hiked down to Louisiana, with plans to continue West across the country. This book covers the NY to Louisiana part of the journey, but his trip west and subsequent trips have books as well, which I am looking forward to reading. Unlike the first book, where they stuck to a set trail, Peter is mostly walking along highways and through small towns, with the intention of meeting everyday people and seeing how they live. He ends up living with a few different families along the way, offering a look into the lives of some pretty diverse people and places. The real star of the book, though, is his dog Cooper, who I totally fell in love with. However, (spoiler alert! Highlight the following sentences to read:)

*books should totally come with some kind of warning label if the dog dies! I ended up crying in my doctor's office waiting room. *

Both books reminded me a little of Bill Bryson's "A Walk In the Woods", probably the best (and best-known) hiking book I know of. The latter also reminded me a little of Blue Highways, by William Least-Heatmoon. I really enjoyed both, although A Walk Across America would probably appeal to a wider audience.

Are there any books that make you want to lace up some hiking boots and go play in the woods? Do you think Jennings's walk would even be possible today, given how safety has changed? (I find it less likely that you could currently meet someone at a gas station and end up invited to sleep in their house that night!) Do several months spent doing nothing but walking through nature sound like a dream to you, or a nightmare?

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