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Appalachian Trials: A Psychological and Emotional Guide To Thru-Hike the Appalachian Trail (Volume 1) Paperback – February 8, 2012
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About the Author
Zach Davis is an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, writer, and uncompromising dream chaser with a passionate disdain for convention. You can read more of his adventures at http://www.theGoodBadger.com
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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.
The book is littered, to the point of distraction, with spelling and grammar errors. I hate spelling errors!!!
You know what else I hate? Paying $8 for a book that the author didn't bother to edit (or have edited). I paid you $8, and so did 168 other people. You've made at least $1,352 off of us on a product that never got edited. Or maybe the print version got edited and the Kindle version (which I read) got uploaded from a draft version. Either way, I hate paying for poor quality.
The mental hygiene advice was not particularly enlightening but perhaps worth my time to read. Having been on many extended length backpacking trips I don't feel as if I got any insight from him that I didn't already have. Perhaps the author confirmed some of my own ideas and suspicions about mental health on the trail but I definitely didn't have any moments of epiphany from his writing. Probably because I was too distracted by bad spelling.
At the end of the book we come to the section on gear which really just put the nail in the coffin for this book. The section was guest written by Ian Mangiardi and proved to me beyond a doubt that this book is not worth paying for.
The section on stoves has this direct quote: "The best stove for me will always be a screw-on IsoButane stove. These will always be the lightest weight...". I was slightly stunned by this comment. For those of you who are not aware, canister stoves are not the lightest weight stoves (alcohol stoves and Esbit far surpass IsoButane as the lightest stoves). There is no attempt to mention Esbit or Alcohol which leaves me feeling like this is either just blatantly false information or purposely abridged to a fault.
In the shelter section, Ian mentions that NEMO Equipment "will always be [his] go-to brand for quality, lightweight tents". There's a pretty good chance that this is because he's sponsored by NEMO Equipment which he fails to mention in the book. NEMO tents are, in my mind and by the numbers, not even close to a top choice lightweight tent competitor.
Shameless undisclosed plugs for your sponsors in a book which new hikers are bound to use as advice for their hikes? This is just down right deceptive and harmful to the hiking community.
This book would have gotten a three star review without the needless gear advice section which really dropped the book down to a two due to poor information and seemingly deceptive sponsor support. The book was written as a mental preparation book for a hike and should have stayed that way. A gear book needs to be a separate topic and needs to be given due attention by a competent and fair author.
Read this book if you can get it for free or borrow it from a friend. Do not pay money for this book. If you can look past the terrible editing and not read the gear section, I think you'll get something useful from this book.