on February 6, 2012
I am preparing for a 2013 NOBO Thru-hike. I have been reading any book I can get my hands on to help prepare me for the adventure that lies ahead. I have yet to read a bad book however this is the first one that really speaks to the truth of the trail. Many people try to "sell the trail" and only provide the best parts of the trail and what worked best for them. Very few folks actually write about what they did that did not work. This book is 100% from the heart no BS straight up telling it how it really is. I had heard that the mental trail is harder to hike than the physical trial and after reading this book I feel absolutely no questions asked prepared to take on the trail both mentally and physically. Thanks Zach for writing this book.
on February 6, 2012
Anyone will tell you that a long-distance hike isn't purely a physical feat but mainly a mental one. But even with that common knowledge, I had yet to see a book about long distance hiking that emphasizes the mental process that a hiker goes through on his/her journey, until I picked up Appalachian Trials. Appalachian Trials focuses on those psychological pressures that a person could face while hiking the Appalachian Trail. It is singularly the most important part of the journey, yet rarely touched upon in most prep books.
Zach Davis' wit and humor bring his story and advice alive, creating a pleasing and entertaining read. I would certainly recommend this book to anyone planning a long-distance backpacking trip, not only for the mental exercises contained within, but also for the bundle of laughs his humor excites.
on February 6, 2012
There are a lot of hiking books out there, especially for the Appalachian Trail, but this book focuses on the psychological challenge a thru-hike presents. It talks about the mindset needed to complete the hike and gives you exercises (mental, not physical) to complete before and on the trail. Personally, I found this really helpful in my planning process.
And don't worry, for all you gear junkies out there... there is also a section devoted to this very topic. There is a contribution from an hiker who has completed both the AT and the PCT. He shared his vast knowledge, complete with a gear checklist.
I definitely recommend this book if you are considering any long distance hike.
on February 20, 2012
I purchased this book on Kindle a few days ago and actually took notes. The wife is asking if I feel OK(I've never taken notes of anything I've read since completing college and didn't take many then). This isn't just a "Hiking the A.T." book. This is a book on living life to it's fullest and how to laugh in the face of misery. Do as Zach says, not as he sometimes does(read the book)!!
I live about 45 minutes from Springer Mtn. I'm in these woods often doing short 4-5 day section hikes by myself(my preference). Have met many people on the trail. Everything Zach talks about in the book resonates truth. There's no sugar coating or embelishing life on the trail in this book. I couldn't tell you how many books I've read on hiking, gear, nature and social aspects of life on the trail. Never have I picked up a book like this one(read the book).
I often dream of doing a thru-hike while reading these stories. Living vicariously through the eyes of the author. I say that because I'm 50 years young. In descent shape for an old fart, have a job, wife, daughter in college(not cheap). It's just not the thing a responsible dude does, right. Wrong! After reading Zach's book, I've got a fire lit under my bum like never before.
Many of the lessons, and daily rituals Zach talks about(read the book), I currently practice. ie: meditation, acceptance, this too shall pass. I learned them from a little group I belong to that will remain anaonymous.
Well Zach, thanks for the shove. I'm doing this! I have the gear; I'll make the time; I've been section hiking for several years, and now, after reading your book, I know I have the mental fortitude to laugh in the face of misery. I announced this to my wife last night(again asking if I feel ok), and probably looking at March of 2014 as my target. Thanks again Zach. Next is shouting it out from the roof top(to hold me accountable).
I wish you all that you seek in the future young man!! Your quite amazing.
on February 7, 2012
This is a must read for anyone who plans on doing a thru-hike or lives along a trail and helps the hikers (Trail Angels)!! Actually, anyone interested in hiking should read this! Mr. Davis's ability to convey the psychological and emotional challenges of a long distance hike are like nothing else I have read. It is amazing,informational and intriguing! He has an uncanny way of making you want to hang on every word until you reach Mt. Katahdin. I really opened my eyes to the intensity of a thru-hike beyond the physical. Appalachian Trials is the BEST book I've read in a LONG LONG Time!!! And BONUS... the Appendix is just as enjoyable as the book. I learned so much and will be referencing this book when I plan my PCT hike!
Pick a copy up for yourself or send it as a gift to your outdoorsy friends!! I can hardly wait to get my hands on the paper copy, in fact, I might need more than one... one for my guest room, one for my bookshelf and one to carry when the battery on my phone dies and I can't open my Kindle app!
Well Done, Zach Davis! Thank you for sharing your brilliance and insight on an aspect of hiking that is just as important, if not more important, than your physical strength.
LOVED LOVED LOVED this book!!!!
Appalachian Trials: The Psychological and Emotional Guide to Successfully Thru-Hiking The Appalachian Trail BUY IT! :)
on February 7, 2012
There are a lot of fine books about hiking the AT. Many are day-by-day accounts of the writer's trek, or how-to books offering advice on what to bring, what shoes to wear, how to filter water, plan mail drops ... All the mundane stuff that one needs to know - Except how to avoid the pitfalls that cause a majority of otherwise well-prepared thru hikers to fail.
Zach Davis drew from his own Appalachian Trail experience, and wrote about the psychological challenges, how to recognize them, and how to hike through them. And he does it with engaging wit and humor. He covers the other stuff too, but the focus of this book is the tougher stuff. And that makes this the one essential book for anyone thinking about a long trail thru hike.
on March 7, 2012
I never wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail (AT). Until, that is, I lived in the Upper Valley of Vermont last year where the AT wandered through my backyard. Truth be told, the trail was a few hundred yards behind my house, but I could have walked from my backyard to where the AT passed through Norwich without leaving the woods.
I had been thinking about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) for a few years, but for some reason never gave much consideration to the AT. This probably had something to do with being a native of Massachusetts, and living in New England or Upstate New York for most of my life. The AT was close to home, while the PCT was far away and more exotic - at least in my mind. Living next to the AT though prompted me to purchase a Kindle e-book about the Appalachian Trail in early 2011. Several similar titles followed. I was hooked.
Interestingly, while I read several trail memoirs (quite delightful reading, by the way), I did not encounter an AT book about the psychological demands of hiking 2,181 miles up the East coast just for fun.
Zach Davis thru-hiked the AT in 2011. Prior to hiking the AT, Zach admits he had only slept in a tent twice, and had never been backpacking. Nonetheless, he successfully thru-hiked the entire AT on his first attempt, despite contracting a serious virus during his hike.
Following his hike, Zach looked for an AT book about the psychological aspects of thru-hiking the AT. Unable to find such a book, Zach wrote the book himself. That book is Appalachian Trials.
Zach credits former AT thru-hiker Ian Mangiardi (The Dusty Camel) with helping him prepare for the trail by being his "therapist/coach," and now hopes to help other hikers mentally prepare for the trail. He notes that some 2,000 hikers attempt the AT each year; however, seven out of 10 end up off the trail short of their goal.
Zach make these observations in his Introduction:
"You might assume the most difficult aspect of walking the length of the eastern United States would be purely physical...
"In no uncertain terms, the psychological and emotional struggle is what drives people off the Appalachian Trail."
"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."
Zach identifies three types of AT hikers in Appalachian Trials.
1) Hikers who quit due to the mental challenges of the trail
2) Hikers who manage to make it to Katahdin only through determination, but who do not enjoy the process
3) Hikers who enjoy most, or perhaps all, of the process while successfully thru-hiking the AT
Zach hopes to help more hikers make it into the third category.
Appalachian Trials is organized into four sections.
- Bonus material
The first three sections, pre-, on-, and post-trail all address common pitfalls and helpful mental tools to overcome psychological obstacles on the trail. The final section includes an entire chapter on gear for the AT, FAQs, money saving tips, and more.
"When it comes to backpacking 2,200 miles, the greatest determining factor of success is purpose."
The Virginia Blues is the subject of chapter four. Virginia, which accounts for almost precisely one-fourth of the total trail mileage, is often blamed for hiker depression. Virginia is not to blame, Zach argues, instead providing helpful tips for not only surviving, but enjoying, Virginia.
"Hike your own hike" is a trademark AT trail slogan. Sometimes though this may be easier said than done. Zach addresses social dynamics on the trail, groups, and hiking partners while considering how to "hike your own hike" successfully.
Hiking the AT will certainly present thru-hikers with some obstacles. Chapter seven considers how to conquer those obstacles to keep the hike enjoyable.
"If you can't embrace what's happening, you should at the very least accept what's in front of you. Wishing that your day were anything other than what is, is the fastest path to dissatisfaction."
"This very well might be the greatest challenge in your life. What do you want to remember about the way you handled it?"
The story doesn't end when a hiker finishes the AT at Katahdin though. Chapter nine addresses life after the AT with some helpful thoughts adjusting back into the "real world," post-AT depression, and post-trail weight gain. Zach includes seven tips for avoiding post-trail weight gain.
Several bonus chapters are included at the end of the book.
- Chapter 11, written by Ian Mangiardi, covers AT hiking gear.
- Chapter 12 addresses Lyme disease and tick safety.
- Chapter 13 includes FAQs, and some other odds and ends, covering topics from sponsorships to mail drops to whether to hike SoBo or NoBo.
Appalachian Trials fills a unique niche in AT trail literature. This book will help prepare any long-distance hiker, AT or otherwise, for the ups and downs of trail life. Definitely buy this book if you are even thinking about thru-hiking the AT or another long trail. The few dollars you spend will be money well invested.
My longest outdoor excursion to date was a week-long canoe trip/seminary class in Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. I wish I had read Appalachian Trials before taking that trip as it might have prepared me for some of the psychological stress and emotional ups and downs that I experienced on that trip.
Appalachian Trials is available in paperback or for Kindle here on Amazon. Both editions are reasonably priced and a good value for the money.
Zach blogs at The Good Badger, even when he is walking through the woods from Georgia to Maine.
on May 15, 2012
It's not often we see a Good Badger execute somersaults. But one, who chose to share his antics on the Appalachian Trail, did. In Appalachian Trials (be sure to notice the vowel shift) Zach Davis, the owner of the trail name, Good Badger, rolls from funny and glib to serious and profound, proving to be a complex person, as many are who attempt the AT and make it. Hikers and their families are lucky he chose to write such a book, an honest and astute take on the Appalachia Trail, and a must read for those who are currently, or will in the future, find themselves walking the 2,000 odd miles form Georgia to Maine.
Zach's not talking off the cuff but from cataloging both the inner and outer experience, and his personal stories back up his psychological insights and mental hygiene. As Zach slogged the miles in the rain, climbed the rocky outposts, endured the Green Tunnel he took note of the AT's effects on hikers both physically and mentally. He endured his own set of unusual trials while hiking, from being rejected for an important job he hoped to start after his hike, to contracting a debilitating illness while on the trail, which was not diagnosed until he was off the trail.
Published on the heels of a number of memoirs and some incredible guide books, this is may very well become one of the most important books in the hikers prep box, simple because it address, what Zach believes, to be the main reason hikers make it all the way. Mental attitude. Appalachian Trials may prove even more important than choice of equipment or how many maps a hiker carries, because it prepares the long distance backpacker for what the mind goes through while pushing the body to such limits and how important the right frame of mind can be when confronting the obstacles of the self, including the interaction with society before and after the journey and most importantly each individual's purpose and motivations for such a challenge.
The way I see Zach's approach, reminds me of how important Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell viewed the role of quests, initiations and challenges in the invocation and development of the "hero" or the authentic individual, as Jung called it.
On those mountains, 100s of them, one must come to know himself inside and out without the trappings of society to protect them, and therefore must learn to rely on their own inner resources and strengths. Sure there's times each hiker curses the trail, but more times than most, it's the opportunity to discover an inner ally. Out on the trail everyone is reduced to the core - there's now way to be fake to impress or best someone. Personas and habits we adopt to comply with society's expectations slip away with the miles until every hiker comes to know their true self better than ever imagined.
So far this review may make Appalachian Trials sound like a complicated book. Quite the opposite. Throughout his book, Zach employs user friendly analogies anyone can relate to and offers solutions, methods, and techniques to better prepare both the hiker and the worried family back home as to what may, can and should happen while going through such an extreme experience for four to six months.
It's practical, readable and most of all insightful without being preachy or pretentious. Zach's humor, off beat, quirky and often self-deprecating proves this is a guy who can take himself seriously when he has to, but more often than not, will just as soon laugh at his foibles. He's taught himself to be intuitively aware when of when it's time to find a way around a mental mountain with the potential to come crashing down and therefore avoids or survives each setback.
My son Jeff or Loner, as he's known on the trail, started his thru-hike on April 7, 2012 on the approach trial at Amicalola Falls. As a family member of an AT thru-hiker, I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book. Once Jeff left, I found Zach's Good Badger blog and read every word, hungry for more. Appalachian Trials delivered even more than I'd hoped.
I think this book is also a valuable resource and comfort to family and friends of long distance hikers since it offers concrete steps to take at all stages of such a life-altering journey. Of which there are more than the hiker expects: from the prep through the early trail anxieties to the endorphin highs spurned on by exercise and small successes, through the periods of boredom and possible depression during Virginia's 550 mile Green Tunnel, where as Zach explains, the honeymoon stage is over. Zach offers ways the thru-hiker can deal - all the way to the exhausting, emotional and exhilarating summit of Mt. Katadhin.
But Zach doesn't stop there, he goes on to warn and suggest measures to deal with the post-trail let down, the adjustment back into society and how to use the new awareness gained from this pivotal life journey to found a meaningful and enriched lifestyle.
Throughout Appalachian Trials, Zach makes user friendly analogies anyone can relate to and offers solutions, methods, techniques to better prepare both the hiker and the worried family back home as to what may, can and should happen while going through such an extreme experience for four to six months.
While reading Appalachian Trials, I felt like I was sitting in a room with Zach, a large window to our sides, offering a panoramic view of the woods on a beautiful day, that's how the conversational style of this book engages the reader. I felt like I came to know Zach, as well a man, who while often exhibiting his off-kilter sense of humor, also, at the same time offered a thoughtful, insightful view not just of the AT but also of our society's culture and how easy it is to forget one's true self trying to measure up to outer standards. On the AT, it's just the hiker and nature, bottom line. More than just a hiker's backpack is pared down to the core necessities.
The writing in Appalachian Trials appears to be an effortless task on Zach's part, so easily do we read it and understand his observations and advice. But, as an editor, I know differently. Pay attention to a normal conversation and you'll hear how to rambles, is tangential, wanders off course, sometimes to never veer back, stops and starts, and sometimes ends abruptly without flow. Zach put more time and effort in completing this book than is evident on the surface, like taking a bad day on the trail with its missteps and lost footing, and using the time in the shelter of an evening to recall it with all its wonders and remarkable lessons intact.
That's the landscape of this book, the path Zach leads you on, not only on the Appalachian Trail but also in life.
on February 7, 2012
This book will help your mind! Most books focus on the day to day challenges, over-the-top gear lists and so on, but this book focusses on what is obviously as (if not more) important as your physical preparations. So this is a nice breath of fresh air in this genre.
I've read the majority of the book so far (leaving the post-trail until I actually complete the AT - don't want to jinx myself!!!) and I have to say that it held my total interest throughout and I have no doubt I'll be reading this treasure at least a couple more times before I set off on the trail this April.
Hike your own hike and you'll surely do well. Hike with Zach Davis' philosophy and you'll no doubt have significantly fewer "If onlys" when you're done.
Good job, fella!
on February 24, 2012
After over 5,000 miles of hiking, one would think there is little left to learn -- WRONG. Zach Davis writes a comprehensive guide to how to deal with the mental struggles of hiking everyday for six months. Think work gets tiring and boring? Wait until you hike 20 miles a day... for MONTHS. With Zach's guide, you'll be able to cope with it, understand what your mind will be going through from the beginning, and ways to battle the inevitable desire to run around naked waving your arms and screaming 'I'm going insaneeeeeee!' (Don't know from experience... said person may not have embarrassed themselves if they had read this book first...) Read it. Learn from it. Go on a hike.