My first copy was free, but I'm going to buy more as gifts because I want this author to write more!
When I got my copy of this book at a recent booksellers convention, Robert Rubin asked me as he signed it, "So, is this a dream of yours, to hike the Appalachian Trail?" No doubt an amusing question to ask of a slightly plump, middle-aged woman exhausted after 4 hours of walking the floors, but in actuality, I had to tell him -- "Yes!"
Years ago I had a dream, to take 6 months off from work and life, and walk the Appalachian Trail, alone. There has to be more to life than working 9-to-5, I'd thought -- a sentiment Rubin shared when he made his decision to abandon job and wife for half a year. In my case, time slipped away. I grew older, with more responsibilities and limitations, and recently realized that for me, this long and lone journey isn't likely to happen. This book simultaneously put that dream to rest, while making it come as true as it can be for me.
In the beginning of the book, Rubin shares a quote you'd find at the start of the journey -- "Appalachian Trail - Georgia to Maine - A Footpath for those who seek Fellowship with the Wilderness." In this shared journal of his 6 month venture, Rubin finds just that, and more. From the start. he knows he's going on some sort of pilgrimage -- a search for meaning in his life. Though he never spells out what he found, by the end of his journey, it is clear that he has gotten where he needed to go.
Rubin is a true storyteller, weaving together day-to-day happenings with past events that put him on this path, pulling the reader in so close we are there with him as his body is put through the rigors of 2,160 miles of walking, climbing, falling (don't let hikers tell you they never fall on the Appalachian trail!), being sick and eating portable meals that eventually taste like paste. His humor shows through - I laughed outloud in several places (that's just not like me - I'm more of a silent smirker). He develops friendships with other thruhikers -- those who are hiking the trail from start to finish -- Kilgore Trout, RockDancer and many more - while struggling to assure his wife of ten years that though he's left her behind (alone at home with the dog), he will be coming back.
Hiking this trail is one of the last adventures in the United States -- it would be impossible to finish it without changing your self, to some degree. Each section has a map of the leg of the journey he's on with miles hiked, and miles to go. By the end of the book, as the 'to go' got down to less than 150, I was nearly as excited as he must have been -- almost there! Never once did I get the message from him (though others would strongly disagree) that those who don't make it all the way through are 'less than.' In fact, I find myself wondering now if I could be a "section hiker" -- for me, a month would more than meet my pilgrimage needs, while probably being the emotional and physical equivalent of Rubin's 6 month journey.
If you're a wanna be hiker, if you watch the Travel Channel, or liked watching "Survivor" for the adventure and camaraderie (before it started getting really mean), you will love this book! I'll be buying a copy for at least one of my three sons, the middle one who isn't quite sure what to do with the rest of his life. Meanwhile, I'm going to buy myself a book on short hikes on the Appalachian Trail. Anyone care to join me?