Thursday, July 14, 2016

AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller

David Miller frustrated with his job as a computer programmer and the limitations of now 3 weeks paid vacation, drops everything, his job, his family and decided to go on a thru-hike of the Appalachian trail, or, as it's referred to: the AT.  Thankfully, his wife fully supports him, though his job does not grant his leave, and he resigns.

A thru-hike is where a person hikes by foot for the entire trail from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. There are different interpretations of this, which David goes into for the book. A "White Blazer" which sticks to the original trail and a "Blue Blazer" which has some short cuts. There are national parks along the way, with shelters, designated camping grounds as well as trail towns where hikers can go to resupply, pick up their posts and rest. 

It's refreshing to read a book about a man who essentially abandons the expectations of what a man in his 40s needs to do, and decides that life is about adventure. He repeatedly states that his wife supports him absolutely, and mentions that he wouldn't have gone if it wasn't for his wife's blessings.

Which is good, because this would have been a different book if it had ended with his wife divorcing him. I felt bad that the only time they hiked together, he decided to hike 20 miles with her, and of course she burned out. I would be so angry if my husband did that to me. Like, not only did she have to hold the fort down, the only time they ever hiked together, he did it to prove a point to her. Sure, he sort of apologized for it, but he seemed a bit dimwitted about it. Like, of course someone can't hike for 20 miles in one day.

He's very blunt about the woes of hiking and his mindset of nearly quitting a few times. He discusses the tolls it takes on his knees, ankles and feet, as well as his back from carrying the 35 pound  backpack. Even though he doesn't shy away from the pain of hiking, he does make it sound romantic, walking into the wilderness in order to get in touch with what really matters; what life is all about.

It makes me want to do it as well. However, I am realistic. I could probably never do the thru-hike. Josh would want to do it with me and the both of us couldn't just quit our jobs and hike for six months with no income. I'm also not sure if I could go that much time without a space to call my own.

David encounters many different hikers; some are thru-hiking like he is, and others are sections hikers (hike a section over several years) and others are weekend or day hikers. However, it's interesting that David actively keep to himself and even though he meets many people during the course of the trail, he doesn't stay with them, instead deciding to walk much of the trail by himself.

Even though I found the book fascinating, I couldn't relate to him walking the trail alone. I think it's a part of being a woman now, even though it's not correct at all, is being wary of traveling by herself. He also talks about hitchhiking, and going into random stranger's houses for a bed and a meal, something he chalks up to "trail magic." I don't know about all of that.

I would most likely would like to travel with someone anyway, I don't think I would have the luxury of traveling alone: no one to financially support me while I was away, along with not feeling safe enough alone on the trail.

It's a soothing book to listen too. I'm not sure if I would have felt the same way if I had read it, but listening to it felt like I could zone out, do some work, and come back to it, and feel like I have not missed anything. That might not be the best thing to admit but it was a good enough book to listen too during the work hours.

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