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AWOL on the Appalachian Trail Perfect Paperback – May 18, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 1,559 customer reviews

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David Miller's Top Five Items You Might Not Think to Pack for a Long-Distance Trek (But Will Wish You Did)

Scissors: Scissors are better than a knife for common tasks like opening food packaging, cutting moleskin, or trimming your mustache. I carry the Leatherman Micra, which has a very functional pair of scissors and a knife blade.

Suntan Lotion: The AT is known for rain, cold and for long walks through the "green tunnel." Yet every year, especially before the trees regain their leaves, hikers will get sunburned.

Chafing powder: Hikers disagree about whether hiking uphill or downhill is more demanding, but they all agree that hiking with chaffed, burning skin is less tolerable than the ups and downs. Body Glide is another popular treatment.

Trash Bag: Pack it in; pack it out... and remember to have something to pack it out in. A gallon-sized zippered bag usually suffices.

Belt pouch: Backpack manufacturers have caught on, and many now offer packs with accessible pouches sewn onto the straps on their packs. If your pack doesn’t have belt pouches, buy add-ons. Keep your camera in your belt pouch, and you’ll take many more pictures than you would if your camera was in your pack. Also keep your spoon at the ready; you never know when your hiking partner might leave his food unattended.

Photos from the Appalachian Trail

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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


Awol On The Appalachian Trail by David Miller is the personal story of the author's 146 day, backpacking hike along the entire length of the Appalachian Trail in 2003, averaging more than 17 miles a day from beginning to end. Awol On The Appalachian Trail offers readers an intimate grasp and vivid portrayal of the pure beauty and inspiring landscape of the Appalachian mountains and valleys. Whether an armchair traveler or an active outdoor enthusiasts, Awol On The Appalachian Trail is very highly recommended reading as a first-hand narrative of an incredible journey spanning the entire length of the Appalachian country. --Midwest Book Review

I hiked the Appalachian Trail again last week. My transcendent experience was made possible by David Miller of Titusville, who hiked the entire trail in 2003 and wrote about it in his new book Awol on the Appalachian Trail. Miller is a wonderful writer who expresses the emotions as well as the facts of the world's most famous hiking trail. Of course, fellow Appalachian Trail (AT) hikers reading his book will be like the choir before the preacher, devouring his passages like a mystery novel, despite knowing exactly how it will end. Miller does a particularly good job of describing how hikers' moods change more sharply than the physical ups and downs of the mountain chain -- from senseless euphoria to mindless morosity -- as they put one foot in front of the other for months at a time. In fact, hikers spend many of their thoughts contemplating why in the heck they're out there, suffering through the blisters, bugs, rain and boredom that are as much a part of the experience as the dramatic views and inspiring wilderness. And Miller, as one of the relatively few "thru-hikers" who succeed in making it the whole way in one year, puts such thoughts on paper about as well as anyone. --Robert Hughes, Florida Today Newspaper

David Miller's Awol on the Appalachian Trail allows us to sample the pleasures and the pains of hiking 2,172 miles from Georgia to Maine. Miller has a knack for storytelling and for describing his fellow trekkers. He writes about himself as well, of course, but he does so without any great show of conceit or inflated pride. Readers who are considering the Trail or who simply enjoy being in the outdoors will find this book most appealing, but Miller's talent should bring him an even larger audience. --Jeff Minick, Smoky Mountain News

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Product Details

  • Perfect Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Wingspan Press; 2nd edition (October 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595941096
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595941091
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,559 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #896,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Perfect Paperback
In 2003 David Miller is 41 with a wife and three young daughters. He rejects his computer programming job, and with the consent of his family, starts up the AT. Thus the title.

Near the midpoint of the story, there is a quote: "too much hard work, too much pain, too much time away from my family ..." but he continues. This is a success story. Though he does not say so, David is one of the stronger AT thru-hikers, big miles, day after day. All the usual injuries occur, but these are endured, rather than used as a reason to leave the trail. There is a community of hikers, and the sharing of intense experiences day after day is almost addictive

The reader begins to get a feel for the rituals of shelters and in trail towns. After reading the book, a potential AT hiker should feel much more comfortable with what they are going to encounter. As I read the book, I kept visualizing the AT trails vs the ones I have hiked in California and in Europe - the AT seems much more difficult, though you have more frequent opportunities to get off the trail.

The overall tone of the book is strongly positive. That's a little difficult to explain, since there is a lot about hardship, but trust me, you will understand when you read it.

I recommend this to any long distance hiker, and particularly to someone planning to walk the Appalachian Trail.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
'Awol on the Appalachian Trail' is, quite simply, a wonderful book from start to finish. I have to say that it is one of the most enjoyable, honest, and inspiring accounts that I have read in a long time. This is the best book on the AT that I have yet found.

David Miller / Awol describes his thru-hike on the trail from Georgia to Maine in vivid detail; you really do feel like you are on the trail with him, sharing the highs and lows of the challenge. The conditions of the hike, the fascinating people that he met, the personal and physical challenges, and the gorgeous scenery are all poured into the pages for the reader to soak in.

Although I have not hiked the trail myself, I imagine that this book is as close to doing it yourself as it comes. His ability to narrate the trials and tribulations without downplaying or changing the finer details was appreciated, especially for someone like myself who aspires to one day rise to the challenge of the AT.

The companion web site is fantastic, putting the book in perspective with a wide array of dazzling photos. I found myself referencing them many times as I read new sections of the book.

This book inspired me to take the challenge of hiking the AT and change my life. How many times can a book do that?

Final thoughts -- highly recommended. 5 stars.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
and have found this to be one of the best among them. Strong writing and accounting from all of the parts of the trail make it a great book for those armchair AT Hikers like myself. It is a nice mix of everyday life and what it takes on the trail, trail relationships (some good, some bad), and various observations on life and the trail. What makes it all that more surprising is it is a Self-Published book. It is definitely worthy of a more tangible publishing house.
I have read other books that generalize large parts of the trail and spend more time on the spiritual, philosophical part of why they are doing the trail but David Miller does not make this a predominant part of the book. Additionally I appreciated hearing about parts of the trail that most books seem to skip and it is a timely account from the year 2003.

I also recommend Mic Lowther's book, "Walking North" for another nice combination of trail accountability and philosophy. Bill Schuettes "White Blaze Fever" is good for a great "nuts and bolts" account of the trail.
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Format: Perfect Paperback
To read this story is to live a vicarious adventure. Pick up the book, and boom, you're there. You feel the mist in your face, the cold mountain air in the morning, the sights and sounds of the wilderness, the rough, uneven terrain over root and rock, the smell of plants and earth, the taste of spring water, the setting sun chucking its final spears of the day into pastel clouds on the horizon, the taste of camp food, the familiar smell of sleeping bags and drying socks, and the weariness of body that imparts a sound sleep (or not).

At times you're a solitary soul traversing the length of the Colonies from South to North, alone but for the company of your thoughts, and the family back home that is pulling for you, waiting for you, loving you from afar. Other times you feel the comraderie of intersecting lives on the same trek, and the shared experiences along your way. "Oases of civilization" dot the journey, replete with many ordinary and some strange characters, and urban adventures that stand in stark contrast to the life that lies just beyond the town, where the trail picks up and nature reigns again.

The book is this and more. You finish the book and the pervasive thought that transcends even the wonderful story, the description of Pop Tarts surviving a nasty fall, the love of nature and humanity, and the overpowering sense of accomplishment but not wanting it to end, is the thought that this was an ordinary person stepping out without skipping out. This thought that a regular person with a regular life and responsibilities can accomplish this extraordinary thing, starting with resolve and a few unsure baby steps, is a thought that lingers long after the book is back on the shelf. This thought is like a small voice telling you that he did it and I can do it, too.
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