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If you only walk long enough Exploring the Pyrenees Paperback – January 26, 2016
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This book recounts the author's travels over several sessions on the Pyrenean Way, a long distance hiking path that traverses the mountains from the Atlantic Ocean to the Meditteranean Sea, entirely, I gather, on the French side of the border. It is thus comparable to the famous Appalachian Trail in the United States.
It is however, a very different kind of trail than the Appalachian. The later, while never far from the East Cost Megalopolis, largely travels through very sparsely populated remote areas, passing only near small towns. In my part of the country, the Superior Hiking Trail of Northern Minnesota will take you exclusively through trees, and more trees. The Pyrenneas Mountains, however, contain a higly develped rural economy with a fairly large population. Given the much longer history of Europe compared to North America, this is not too surprising.
The result is that while we do learn much about the natural world of the Pyrenneas, there is a very large emphasis on the human element of the mountains. Very well written, the book reads much like a novel: we meet many intresting characters during the journey, we visit the towns and hostels he stays at, and learn much about the history of the area, and the ways the mountains are changing. Throughout, the reader absorbs a lot of the local flavor of these localities, and the kind of people who live there. All of this is in the context of the physical travails of making a long hike of this nature. Many travel books tend to be either dry and merely descriptive, or overly florid in prose. Thankfully, this book avoids both.
Being mildly conversant in French, I enjoyed the rather large quantities of French phraseology (I could test myself before seeing the immediate translation).
Some attention is also paid to forestry and conservaton issues, which are of major interest to me. Some of these issues are quite different from those in North America.
I was amused, for example, that similar to Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods," about the Appalachian Trail, the author has an obsession with bears! I can tell you that I have never seen a bear on any of my hikes, and the only time any one usually does is if they leave food out at a campsite overnight. In fact, the reintroduction of bears in the Pyrennees is very controversial. This is in contrast to North America, where such a controversy would seem unlikely. Bears have never left, and they are likely to continue to rule.
I would recommend this book to anyone who pursues travel log adventures of this type, or anyone who wants to learn some history of this part of Europe in an informal and engaging way.