Tuesday, March 18, 2008


This is Saddleback Mountain. The Appalachian Trail goes right across the summit of Saddleback which rises about 200 miles south of Katahdin, the northern terminus of the AT.

Today I was talking with one of my favorite judges who has been section hiking the trail for many years. He plans to retire next year and hit the trail for however many months it takes to finish up. Section hikers break the 2175 mile trail up into manageable bits and hike for a week or two weeks at a time, sometimes picking up where they left off the year before. He told me that for the last several years he has been hiking through Virginia during June and often meets up with the first wave of thru hikers who started early in the year at Springer Mountain, Georgia.
Thru hikers travel the trail from one end to the other in one long season.

In September, 2005, C and I hiked Saddleback. September is a busy month on the Maine stretch of the AT as the last thru hikers are racing to reach Katahdin before the snow closes the park and the trails. This picture of us was taken by some AT hikers.

AT hikers give themselves monikers such as Fiddlehead or Stinky Toes--the men that took our picture gave us trail names, but I don't remember them any more. If I ever gave myself a trail name it would be Fiddlehead because of the non-stop fiddle music sound track that plays in my head--but that's a post for another day--or maybe something I should share with a mental health professional.

Every year, people who have traveled the trail write books about their experiences. One that is particularly enjoyable to hikers and non-hikers, is A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. A little nature, a little history and a whole lot of humor.


TheElementary said...

I read that book a few years ago- I remember thinking how beautiful the Appalachian Trail sounded and was stunned at how long it was.
My favourite part of the book was Bryson's friend stealing laces from a hiker's boots- it was precisely the thing I most wanted to happen to those horrible people. Oh, perhaps I'm mean but they were not the kind of people you'd want to meet while hiking.
I loved the book, and Bryson's descriptions of the area were fantastic.

Beth said...

Hiking that trail is certainly a commitment. I guess if one is at a point in life where a new direction is needed, hiking the trail might help to make that change. I've always admired the people who have hiked it--they are affected by the experience.

Nan - said...

As I read along, I kept thinking of Bryson's book, and then you mentioned it! I'm afraid I had quite a negative response to it when I listened to the unabridged audio. Here's what I wrote in my journal:

"I hadn't read this,and thought it might be interesting because a part of this trail is in the White Mountains. There was nothing horrible about the book, but nothing that made it shine for me either. I find Bryson funny and annoying simultaneously.

What makes him have such arrogance to go on this trek not having trained at all? And to take on the risk of his very overweight, out of shape friend from the past, Katz, whom he hadn't really known for many years. Some of this book just seemed ludicrous like Katz throwing out precious food and even water to lighten his pack.

I read of this kind of stupidity in the local papers way too often to find it funny. On top of everything, the narrator mispronounced a lake in Maine, and a mountain in NH. If you are going to be paid to read a book, you should know how to say the words.

All in all, a disagreeable reading experience."

Whew! I was annoyed wasn't I?? :<)

Weather Boy said...

I thought the Bryson book was a hoot: I loved when they were snowed into the hostel with all the other hikers. Through hiking is a romantic ideal for me, but I doubt it will ever happen. It's fun to think about, though.

Beth said...

Nan, I agree that they were terribly irresponsible and certainly reading in the newspapers about risky rescues of unprepared people in the White Mountains give us a heightened sense of the danger, but he certainly presented it all in an entertaining manner.
Weatherboy--I think you should through hike if that's a dream--plan it with weather lad is a little older--what a great experience for you both--as a teacher if you are in shape for it you could probably pull it off over two summers.

Mary said...


Your information about Section Hikers is amazing! I didn't know about their dedication. It's very challenging.

I like that photo of you :o)


The Texican said...

With gas prices as they are and going up, we should all be prepared to hike in the near future.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

bill bryson is brilliant and as a hiker (altho I don't do as much as I did when I lived in new england) and someone who always wanted to do the whole ap, I adored this book. however, I always have to be careful when I read bryson's books sometimes I'm afraid I may wet my undies because I'm laughing so hard (this was particularly the case with his book set in australia - in a sunburned country)

popped over from theelementary's site (I'm a new friend in her cyberhood! and visa versa, I am happy to say).

maine is marvelous and a place filled with many, many wonderful happy family times for me and my family of creation....see you around.