My friend Rob walked. A lot. He walked the Appalachian Trail, beginning in Georgia and finishing in Maine. He walked the medieval Camino de Santiago in Spain. He was a writer and a reader; a spiritual yet grounded man; he had twinkling eyes and a laugh that made everyone around him join in. He died in 2016. That year, I read Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery, in honor of him and in order to understand more about the trail known simply as the AT. This blog post is in honor of Rob and all who travel, wander, and explore this world we are on for a short time.
The nature writer John Burroughs wrote, “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” Indeed, walking has many physical, psychological and spiritual benfits. Walking has been called the best form of exercise by doctors, writers, and presidents. What’s great about walking is no one needs special equipment to do it. The walkers featured in the books below haven’t trained the way professonal athletes or marathon runners do; they just laced up their shoes and took that first step.
Books at Your Library
In the Summer of 2016 I read Grandma Gatewood’s Walk : The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery as a tribute to my friend Rob and to learn more about the Appalachian Trail. Before Bill Bryson walked the AT, Emma Gatewood did–three times! Grandma Gatewood, as she was called, was the first woman to hike the entire AT when she told her kids she was going for a walk and began the over 2100 mile trek. Carrying very little and wearing Keds tennis shoes, she is considered a pioneer of the ultra-light hiking movement. More importantly, she is credited as reviving interest in the trail itself. Gatewood was candid in her interviews, describing few safe shelters, poorly kempt trails, and few markers, among other complaints. Montgomery never shies away from how violent Gatewood’s married life was or how crotchety his subject could be. Grab a bowl of GORP and prepare to be inspired to take a walk while reading about Grandma Gatewood and the walk she took.
The Electricity of Every Living Thing: A Woman’s Walk in the Wild to Find Her Way Home by Katherine May is a coming out memoir. May comes out as a grown woman with Asperger Syndrome for whom everyday life had become nearly impossible. To deal with life, diagnosis, and new motherhood she begins the 630 mile South West Coast Path, England’s longest long-distance footpath and a National Trail. The reader will soon become very acquainted with the English coast and with the ins, outs, and in-betweens of being on the spectrum. This is an easy book to pick up and start anywhere and a hard book to put down.
Walking to Vermont: From Times Square into the Green Mountains–A Homeward Adventure by Christopher S. Wren is a memoir of a man who would not be “rushed into retirement.” New York Times foreign correspondent Christopher Wren walks out of his retirement party and to the retirement home he and his wife purchased in Vermont. Sort of. The book starts as slowly as Wren walks (“Super Tortoise” is his trail name). Once it picks up, however, it is an entertaining tail of trail magic and a meditation on aging. Wren saw a lot of the world as a foreign correspondent; hiking through the American Northeast, he writes not only about what he sees but also what is has seen in his lifetime.
Andrew Forsthoefel takes a gap year between undergrad and the rest of his life in Walking to Listen: 4,000 Miles Across America, One Story at a Time. Forsthoefel walks from Pennsylvania to Half Moon Bay, California with a sign that reads “Walking to Listen” and a tape recorder in order to remind himself that the mundane is indeed miraculous. Along the path he travels, he listens and records 85 hours of stories from the people he meets. He experiences the United States in all the country’s honesty, brutality, and beauty. This book is his transcribed encounter with America. Fun fact: His first name is an anagram of the word “wander.”
Films at Your Library
Films to Stream On Kanopy
Walking the West: 2600 Miles from Mexico to Canada Along the Pacific Crest Trail A New Zealander and an Irishman, quit their jobs, cash in their savings and walk 2,626 miles from Mexico to Canada along one of the longest and most challenging foot trails in the world, the Pacific Crest Trail.
Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago This film is an up-close look at the ancient spiritiual pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James. Since the ninth century, millions have embarked on this pilgrimage across northern Spain. There are many routes to Santiago, and “Walking the Camino” focuses on the most well traveled.
Common Roads – Pilgrimage and Backpacking in the 21st Century While the label of ‘pilgrim’ is still mostly associated with devout persons leaving home with purely religious motives, young people taking to the road as ‘backpackers’ are generally perceived as adventure seeking globetrotters. Questioning these stereotypes, anthropologist and filmmaker Tommi Mendel followed two young women, one along the Way of St. James — a centuries old pilgrimage route — through France and Spain, and another backpacking through Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. Documenting their experiences and encounters over a period of three years, this film reveals intriguing parallels between what at first glance appear as two different ways of traveling.