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Trail Ways, Path Wise: An Appalachian Trail Through-Hike Paperback – November 1, 2005

4.1 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"John Illig writes of his 2,100 mile adventure with humor, wisdom and love. His journey is both comic and mythic." -- review, by author J. Finney Boylan 

The author'’s style is breezy, intimate; he talks to you, to himself, to his trail mates. When he describes a day on the AT you see it, feel it, as if you are there. He writes fluidly, always compellingly readable. --Jane Weinberger, Windswept House Publishing

Just in time to counteract Bill Bryson's lumbering, ‘A Walk in the Woods,’ here is a book by a guy who actually made it through. John Illig is light on his feet and writes with tripping prose. --John Hanson Mitchell, Author of Ceremonial Time, Living at the End of Time

About the Author

John Illig is the squash coach at Middlebury College in Vermont.  He lives riverside in the Green Mountains with his wife and their two dogs on 11 acres, with National Forest for a backyard.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Elderberry Press (OR) (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932762426
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932762426
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,358,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"Trail Ways, Path Wise" is an entertaining and inspiring tale. John Illig shares every thought with the reader so that it feels as if you could be the one hiking solo on the Appalachian Trail. The detail John uses in his descriptions and the great dialogue between characters that he incorporates really make the journey come alive. You will suffer with him when he starts the hike with 75 pounds on his back and later, when he hikes an insane number of miles with a dysfunctional shoe. You will rejoice with him when he reaches his PO boxes and gets to take warm showers. You will laugh with him during his encounters with other hikers--all of whom have their own quirks and unique trail personalities. You will admire his determination and feel inspired to follow in his footsteps. You will not want to put the book down as John will never fail to amuse you as he recounts his interactions with others and describes his own thoughts and reflections. I recently read several chapters aloud to my dad as we were on our own journey--a road trip home from college. My dad laughed so hard the he had tears in his eyes and had to be careful not to run us off the road. Also, if you are interested in hiking part or all of the AT in your lifetime, reading this book is a great way to become familiar with the trail and learn what experiences to expect.
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Format: Paperback
Trail Ways, Path Wise

"There is no single right way to hike the trail. There is no one correct way to experience the woods...Fast or slow, my hike meant more to me than anyone would ever know." Here author John Illig finishes a thought about the solace and beauty that attracts so many different types of people to the woods (and the Appalachian Trail, in particular). Illig is one of those people and fortunately for us, Illig shares his Appalachian Trail (AT) through-hike with readers in a way that is at once engaging, exhilarating, and deeply honest.

Illig, an athlete and outdoorsman but an inexperienced hiker, approaches the formidable challenge of through-hiking the AT in an endearingly naive and humorous fashion (the way most of us would probably would). The 29-year old Illig had the summer of '93 off from his job coaching squash in Maine and thought that the 2,147-mile trail, spanning 14 states, would not only be an excuse to spend time in the woods, but for someone self-described as "restless", an opportunity to, "fulfill a primordial urge and get up and go - and go, and go...!"

Trail Ways, Path Wise is most simply Illig's tale of hiking the AT from its southern end, Springer Mountain in Georgia, to its northernmost tip, Mount Katahdin in Maine. Illig writes in the present but laces his narrative with retrospective morsels, and tells us upfront that he was able to hike the entire trail. When one goes into the woods and stays there, in the "the green tunnel" as Illig calls it, an inevitable transformation takes place; hiker, trail, and woods coalesce.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was my first of three hiking books by John Illig. It also is the book that focuses the most on the actual act of hiking. He begins the AT loaded down with an incredible assortment of heavy items but soon learns the law of the trail and churns about huge miles on an almost daily basis. He isn't as obsessed with finding hiking partners and getting to trail towns as are the writers of many of the AT narratives that I have read. He also shows real determination for overcoming a bout of lyme disease and still finishing the trail. The only annoying aspect of this book was his obsession with getting letters form a girlfriend referred to only as the Y, and he gets quite upset when he doesn't get that anticipated letter a few times in the book. Overall, an interesting book that should compel the reader to check out Illig's two sequels about his hikes on the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read three of John's books about hiking. The AT, the PCT, the CDT. He did them all. He is determined to peel the layers of the onion through pushing himself. These hikes are intense. The CDT turned out to be his hardest hike. Through his tales I was able to see him bare his soul, uncover his weaknesses, reveal his emotional self, and work through his life challenges, one by one. I saw that his honesty as he struggled with going off of meds during these hikes was very enlightening to me. I love it when authors are raw. This is a wide open, honest story worth reading.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I almost didn't get started because the early pages probably averaged 20 "I's" each. Instead of trying to combine simple sentences, he ends up with choppy "I did this...", "I went here....", etc . Probably half the book is simply listing hiking distances per day, distances to next shelter, people he met that day, and where others he met were in relation to him. Pretty boring. Then, he had this irritating habit to compare events upcoming with those he is currently at (instead of letting the reader do it). For example, we hear about his feelings about the final leg BEFORE he has even started the hike !

In the author's defense, however, he most likely was summarizing right out of his daily journal. But still, the book would've been infinitely better with a little reorganization (and elimination of repeated events).

But I would still recommend you read this ! He does tell some great stories (about himself and others), some tragedy along the way (his and others'), and some wonderful observations and thoughts. Really, the other reviewers' complaints come from those passages where the author is relating his reactions and point-of-view to things along the way. What's wrong with that?

I can't resist quoting my favorite passage...one couple he met had their dog with them walking free, and he observes:
"Dogs on the trail have freedom to romp amid endless smells, sights and sounds. I wondered what they think it's about . Do they think there is a reason for the trek? Do they think they are going somewhere? Do they ever expect to reach a destination? Do they care? Do they have an awareness of time? Do they worry those early days whether this sudden magical fun isn't merely a
temporary gift? Do they believe that the world is an endless, limitless place?
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