February 20, 2006

"A Journey North"

One Woman's Story of Hiking
the Appalachian Trail
by Adrienne Hall

Book Description:
"Hiking 2,159 miles from Georgia to Maine was not my idea... I was not a lost youth searching for an identity. I was not retired and looking for a new way to spend my time. I was not sorting through death or divorce. I was not recently fired from a job. The truth is, my boyfriend asked me on a date." So begins the story of one young woman's journey along the legendary Appalachian Trail. What starts as a date turns into the experience of a lifetime as Adrienne Hall faces blinding snowstorms, flooded rivers, and seemingly endless mountaintops. Yet despite the physical and mental hardships, she finds her commitment to her hiking companion and the AT experience growing with every mile. When she emerges from her trip - a million footsteps, countless candy bars, and one engagement proposal later - Adrienne has lived an adventure that few will ever know. Written with warmth, insight, and a keen sense of observation, A Journey North is a personal story about discovering what it means to hike the amazing corridor of wilderness that is the Appalachian Trail.

Meaningful Quotes:
Would we collect blisters and bruises and bulging muscles as the trees collect nicks and broken limbs and lightning scars? After six months, would a stranger be looking into our eyes? I felt like a clean slate, waiting for the trail to write my story.

We left the smokies with the understanding that the mountains demand a lot from those who tread there. No wonder we didn't see a bear, or a boar, or a wolf - they were busy surviving.

If I wasn't walking, I was usually cold. I began to realize that those were the cards I had been dealt. There was no reshuffling the deck - no house to come back to, no hot shower at night, no guarantee of dry clothes or comfortable walking. I began to realize that this was no vacation. I laughed at the people back home who thought I was taking time off to play in the woods. This was work, hard work.

For Americans as a group, wilderness is important to our national psyche. It has become important for our sanity and our identity. Something about freedom and inherent danger and the endless possibilities in wild places conjures the same feelings we get when we talk about the American dream and independence and freedom.

Everyone loved and hated the trail as we did. But when we were all together, we mostly loved it.

There was comfort in meeting another person who had seen the same views, had shivered on the same nights, and has felt the same pain. Relationships come easy. There was a certain level of understanding, an immediate sense of trust and intimacy that could be achieved in society only after months of contact. On the trail, bonds were formed after a few hours. These shared experiences somehow built the foundations for a sense of community on the trail.

Life is littered with material things and societal stresses. Our minds become cluttered with extras - with meetings and deadlines, wars and presidential debates, scandals and cell phones, latest fashions and lawsuits. Sometimes it takes a view from a hilltop to get a perspective and clear your mind. Backpacking has a way of reducing life to its more simple truths, like eating and finding shelter. It strips away the distractions and lets you focus on the core of life itself.

Adventures are tucked in the folds of fabric that create the tapestry of our lives. Paths radiate across the tapestry in every direction. Some paths trace the creases, others part strands of red and gold, some twist and tangle through the tassels. I am certain there is a journey for every one of us. There is a path that awaits our footsteps. I am ready now to blaze my own trail and I've learned the importance of experiencing each moment of the journey to it's fullest. It's no easy task, but we must try. It is up to each of us to choose our path with care and defend it passionately. We all would do well to fight furiously to ensure that the path we travel will forever lead to the most beautiful places.

My life always shines with renewed clarity when the landscape unfolds into a canyon at my feet and exposes those rocks of times long forgotten by everything except our primal souls.

A Journey North available at Powells and Amazon

Other books by Adrienne Hall:
The Essential Backpacker
Backpacking: A Woman's Guide
Solo Hiking