Appalachian Trials: The Psychological and Emotional Guide to Successfully Thru-Hiking The Appalachian Trail, by Zach Davis
I write this review in English, because i like the author of the book “Appalachian Trials”, Zach Davis, to read it. Obviously he is not a German and i believe my ability of English writing is still better than his of reading German. At this point i need you to know, my written English is even poorer than my spoken one. My teacher told me, i would never learn this language, when i was 10 years old and still told me the same, when i graduated the high school. So don’t be disappointed, i really do my best here. Now to the book.
Why do i buy this kind of book at all? In 2009 i watched a documentation made by the german television about the Appalachian Trail. At that time the documentation had no effect on me (nothing), i just had an enormous respect for all the people doing this great adventure. In 2011 the documentation was shown again, this time, my heart skipped a beat. The movie had not changed of course, but i had changed a lot. My son was born some weeks before and i tried to find into my new role as stay-at-home-dad. (Vollzeitvater > full-time-father, that’s what this blog usually is about)
I think the idea of this adventure was an attempt by my mind of balancing the new situation. If i was Teddy Bear at home on the couch the opposite would be of course Bear Grylls on the trail. Lack to the possibility of going to Maine, i started hiking with my son as some kind of backpack (more exactly a “front-pack”) at home and went every day 5-15 km with him. Additional i started reading several blogs and one book. “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson is well known, but in my eyes he cheated and the book was more boring than anything else. On the other hand some of the blogs were great. I like “Five Million Footprints” and “The Dusty Camel” a lot and of course “The Good Badger“. Last one was written by a crazy guy with a special kind of humour, i followed him on his complete trip and was happy to hear he would write a book, and here it is: Appalachian Trials by Zach Davis
I bought it as kindle version for our iPad, the price in Euro is 6,22, a cheap capital investment, only topped by “A Walk in the Woods” for exactly one Euro as used version. The difference is that Appalachian Trials is worth the money. In the beginning, when i started reading the book, i was somehow confused. The book was much less funny than i had expected. Where was the crazy, funny guy from the blog? I checked again on his website and the reason for the change was clear. When Zach Davis started to write about his hike, he was a complete rookie, but when he wrote the book, he had become a professional hiker. I was not disappointed at any time of reading the book, but it was completely different from that version of the book i had expected of him. Neither it is a book about the history of the trail, like Bryson did, nor it is a book describing the hike day to day. Somehow i did expect the last, but not for a reason, because Zach told us (readers) already on his blog about his writing in detail.
Maybe i could have known, it would be some kind of scientific: “The Psychological and Emotional Guide to Successfully Thru-Hiking The Appalachian Trail” is not that funny for a sub-title, is it?
For all other non-native-readers out there, i like to let you know, i only needed to check for the translation of exact seven words and the meaning of one sentence (thanks to leo.org). Of course that will tell you nothing, so let me compare it to other English books i read in the original version. It is even less than i needed to check for Harry Potter (any) and on the other end we have the books of David Weber, where i needed to check at least one word on every page and to make it even more complicated, i really needed to translate the title of some books word by word.
So, Appalachian Trials is a joy reading, even for Germans, thank you Zach.
(I do still not fully understand “when shit hits the fan”, sorry, i simply do not like to imagine that )
The book is subdivided in several parts: Pre-trail, On-trail, Post-trail and a lot of bonus material like information to Lyme-Disease (Borreliose), gear, nutrition and some more. All in all i did know all the stuff Zach writes about, because i already read “The Good Badger” blog and some others, like the blog of Ian Mangiardi’s, who wrote the (great) gear-part of the book. But, as you may know already, to find all the information you like to know in the net, is a lot of work and needs a lot of time, that’s one reason people still do buy books. But there is another reason, one you realize, if you write a blog on your own. Some people say: “Oh, you write a blog, you could write a book either.” No, that’s not true, at least not so easy. To write a book ist much more difficult than to write a blog (you can prove me wrong Zach).
I think Zach Davis really tried to gather all information he could get, so others can successfully go on their own hike on the AT. He talked to a lot of people, to get more than one opinion, simply to get the best answers on all the questions and problems that may occur to a thru-hiker. All that information he wrote in an entertaining book, with some personal stories on the side, not as the main attention of the book and he did that very well. He did something nobody else did in this way before, as far as i know. The book has got a very professional touch and i am waiting for Zach Davis next adventure and hopefully new book after that.
Conclusion: Appalachian Trials is is many ways much better written than the blog of the same author. A big part is about the psychological and emotional aspect of the thru-hike, like the sub title says already. I found this kind of information in this completeness nowhere else. Not in other blogs, or in any book i had in my hands. That’s why you should – no – must buy the book if you attend a thru-hike. I am sure of it. The additional information is great, because Zach gets directly to the point, directly to the questions of all others out there like me. His answers to all the questions are of course his own opinion, but it is the opinion of a successful thru-hiker. For me that is more than enough competence. The book is much more serious than i had expected, but it is the funniest scientific book i ever read. Good work Zach, five stars from me.