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Zero Days: The Real Life Adventure of Captain Bligh, Nellie Bly, and 10-year-old Scrambler on the Pacific Crest Paperback – November 29, 2007
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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"Then again, if you've ever taken kids camping for a weekend, you may want to pick up "Zero Days"..." -- San Jose Mercury News, November 2007
About the Author
Barbara Egbert, a.k.a. Nellie Bly, is an experienced hiker, backpacker, and travel writer. An English major (and proud of it!), she has worked in print journalism for more than 30 years. She lives with her husband, Gary Chambers (Captain Bligh), and daughter, Mary (the famous Scrambler) , in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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This is a delightful book from several angles. First there is the fascinating story of Mary herself, alternately a young adult and then a child again as she grows and matures on the trail. A nice touch are the reproductions of Mary's journals, which made for great reading. (As an aside, I wish all 5th graders were such good spellers!) Planning a hike like the PCT is not easy, and doing it with a 10 year old provides several extra challenges, such as which stuffed animal must come along for the trip. The author also describes the town stops (the title is derived from these) and explains some of the problems that come with brief returns to civilization, including the tendency to quit hiking. And there are the 'usual' traumas which people who do not hike for distance may not even think of. Where to get water, how to protect food from bears, and how to stay on speaking terms with someone for six months are all important topics that anyone planning to hike the PCT needs to consider.
From my perspective, there were two unique issues that this book raised. The first concerns the future of the PCT. The author wonders what thru hikes will be in the future. I think we are already getting a glimpse with solar powered IPods. She also worries that hikers are already too numerous, or at the very least, that they come together in bunches, which strains resources in the local communities that host them. She wonders how long "trail angels," those of us who try to assist hikers, will keep up their work. (Answer, as long as we can.) These are all good questions and fortunately, Egbert recognizes that answers will have to come from the PCT community, not some government mandate which will likely serve only to limit access. But speaking of limiting access, there is an implicit question in the book about whether it is appropriate to take 10 year olds on hikes like this. After all, they will miss a couple months of school. And there are "dangers." Egbert does not address these questions head on. She places them in the mouths of those she meets on the trail and answers by noting the extensive backpacking experience her daughter had even before launching on a 2,650 mile trek. I think the question should be reversed. Are we harming children by not letting them experience wilderness to this extent? Reading "Scrambler's" journals (Scrambler was Mary's trail name) I think the evidence is overwhelming. We would be far better off if more children missed a little school and a lot of their Gameboys in favor of long hikes with loving parents.