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Life On Foot: A Walk Across America Paperback – February 28, 2014
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About the Author
Nate Damm grew up in the woods and mountains of small-town Maine. In 2011, he hit the road to see what the rest of the world had to offer. He has been traveling and living nomadically since. His first book, Life On Foot - A Walk Across America, is the story of his first journey as a full-time traveler — a coast-to-coast walk across the United States. You can follow his travels and writing at NateDamm.com.
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Top Customer Reviews
But there's no getting around it: I was disappointed at the start. Once again, I told myself, I paid too much attention to the five-star reviews, and not enough attention to the low price and the fact it was an indie effort. But maybe I was just coming at it with outsized expectations. Trekking expectations, in fact. Probably not unreasonable, given that it's about a walk across the US. But I had to wait for the mid-point before the book finally turned into a trek and got interesting for me.
In the first half, it starts off as light soap opera (Nate breaks up with his girlfriend because he wants to do the walk), and then simply launches into walking. Trekking detail is entirely missing: what type of backpack, what's in it, what type of clothing, shoes, socks, CamelBak, etc. What about maps, or GPS or research or planning or strategy? What about the tent, sleeping bag, etc.? We get dribs and drabs here and there, but it's just scattershot, almost like a little kid telling a story and throwing out extraneous scraps of info in his haste to burble it all out. It's not until the 48% mark (on Kindle) that we get some solid technical detail when Nate reveals that he's ditching his backpack and getting a Schwinn Spirit bike trailer that he's going to push the rest of the way. He points out that in the West, towns are fewer and further between, and you need to bring more water, food, and supplies, so a push cart is a necessity. This detail was fascinating, and luckily, there was more to come.
But the first half of the book concentrated heavily on all of the people that Nate ran into during his walk. He spent an amazing amount of time at the homes of various trail angels, getting hot showers, comfy beds and free meals. Really, it was heartening to see, but at the same time, it kind of killed the momentum. Every few pages he ran into yet another guardian angel who took him home for a couple days, fed him like a king, and cleaned him up. This ruined it a bit for me. I wanted to read about a serious cross-country trek, with all the trekking detail, not an endless visiting with friends that includes a cross-country hike.
And the first half wasn't complete. Things happened out of the blue, such as needing desperately to get to a certain post office to pick up a new tent that's been mailed to him. There's no explanation included at all. Why does he need a new tent? What's wrong with the old one? Who's sending the new one? What's better about the new tent? How much better does he sleep in the new tent? Not a word on any of this. The writing inexperience and lack of professional editing really showed through at such times.
But the second half was much better in this regard. The bit about sleeping under a bridge in bad weather, for example - that was fascinating. The first long, extended 70-mile stretch where he's essentially alone for dozens of miles, entirely dependent on what his bike trailer holds - well, the atmosphere of the book changed dramatically. This was the book I wanted to read. The lonely push through Kansas, into Colorado, the mountains, the bear incident, the unbelievable scenery in Utah. The writing improved, the descriptions were better, interesting detail was included, and we got a real sense of the trek. You can see Nate changing through his writing style as this section progresses.
An impressive trek, despite the huge number of trail angels, and an impressive second half for an inexperienced hiker/writer. It's an indie effort - make no mistake - but a pretty good one.
The most important character is, of course, Damm himself. His reactions to his ever-changing surroundings are what truly make this book great. In situations ranging from heartbreak to elation to insanity, the emotional toll of the 3,200-mile walk is endearing to say the least. Amusing quips are abundant throughout, and the first-person narrative is as easy to read as listening to a campfire tale. It is a captivating personal story, and nothing is sugarcoated. It doesn't get any more genuine than this.
And finally, 3 years later, we have a book to prove that I am right about Nate’s writing. Life on Foot – A Walk Across America is compelling, often funny, sometimes sad, definitely inspiring. And darn that Nate, he launched his book before I got mine out there. He beat me by four days! Somewhat ironically, my book is titled A Life Lived Outdoors. But my outdoor adventures can’t top Nate’s!
Nate is my nephew and I must confess that I didn’t think he would make it from the Atlantic Ocean on the Delaware coast to the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco. He did come close, several times, to giving up. Today, he’s one of the country’s best known walkers, a guy who advises others who want to hit the roads and trails of America, with his own website (natedamm.com), constant publication of new columns emailed to his many fans, and a plan to repeat the walk with his new girlfriend.
Mags better read this book before they set out! Nate doesn’t sugarcoat the walk. There was plenty of danger, especially from drivers, and lots of tough days and nights. As he lay in his drenched sleeping bag one night, trying to wait out a terrible storm, I think I may have started shivering myself! His encounter with a charging bear was chilling too. The night he had to fight off four wild and vicious dogs was frightening. It’s a good thing his mother didn’t know any of this until she read the book!
But what will stick with me after gobbling up the book last weekend, is the astonishingly friendly and generous people Nate encountered along the way. Every time I thought, man, he just isn’t going to survive this time, someone pops up to give him a room, a meal, a $20 bill, or, yes, sometimes a beer.
The story about the couple who tracked him down on the road so he could join them for Easter dinner is soooo wonderful. Nate fell in love with Eureka, Nevada, a place that sounds very much like my small Maine town of Mount Vernon. Maybe he recognized home?
Throughout the book, we get some very colorful characters, interesting tidbits of history, descriptions of the amazing and beautiful terrain (ok, it wasn’t all beautiful, but a lot of it was), and details that will fascinate, entertain, and impress you. When you finish the book, you’ll know why I am so very proud of my nephew, Nate Damm.