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Trail Reading: Appalachian Trials

Thursday, March 8, 2012
Appalachian Trials: The Psychological and Emotional Guide to Successfully Thru-Hiking The Appalachian Trail.

There are quite a few books on how to hike the Appalachian Trail, but Appalachian Trials is the only one of its class to deal with the mental trials one encounters while thru-hiking the Appalachian trail.

The Appalachian Trail, also commonly known as the AT, is a 2,184 mile foot path that spans from Spring Mountain, Georgia to Mt. Katahdin, Maine, crossing through a total of 14 states in the process. Most who hit the trail opt to go on a leisurely few mile hike. Others hike the trail sections at a time (known as section-hikers). Each section hiker divides the trail into their own subset of sections, but will eventually hike the entire stretch. Then there are the select few who are called thru-hikers. Thru-hikers complete the entire trail in a single calendar year.

Over 2,000 people start the trail each year, however 70% of all who set off to complete a thru-hike drop out. They do this because of health issues, gear malfunctions, and but more often than not, it's due to psychological turmoil. When I say this, I am not talking about a person who is pulled off the trail in a straight jacket and sent to a psych ward or a mental hospital. I am talking about being home sick, having what many refer to as "hikers depression", or those who simply can't handle the repetitive nature of the trail. As one could imagine, six months of hiking does become repetitive.

Appalachian Trials by Zach Davis not only chronicles his own on-trail psyche, but he also offers concise and practical advice on how aspiring thru-hikers can overcome their own AT mental trials. Davis introduces the book by noting: "what was interesting to me about the trail were the mind games, the AT culture, the roller coaster of emotions, and the personal metamorphosis that comes from living in the woods for half a year."

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Additionally, there is a great gear chapter for those looking for a complete gear guide. Zach also leveraged his Internet marketing background to crowdsource the most pressing questions aspiring thru-hikers have, and answers each of these at the end of the book. Such topics include how to avoid chafing, the best nutritional regimen, and tricks for saving some cash on the trail.

Still, Davis is persistent in noting that the book's main focus is "the most important piece of equipment hikers will be taking with them - the gear between their ears."

One of the great things about this Davis' writing is his how relate-able his story is. Because Davis went into the trail with an utter lack of experience in both hiking and backpacking, he was forced to learn all of the skills necessary for surviving outdoors in a short time span. Davis' inspiration for embarking on the trail was the result of hitting a rut in both his job and life, and he decided to put it all on the trail. The insights he gathers from his journey serve as an inspiration to all, hikers and non-hikers alike.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking to hike the AT, or for those who are curious to know what a half-year of living in the woods is like.

Submitted by: Adam Nutting a web designer/developer during the work week and aspiring Appalachian Trail thru-hiker on weekends. Adam spends his free time preparing and blogging about his upcoming AT thru-hike in 2013. Follow Adam's journey on twitter, Facebook, or his website.

Categories: Education