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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Awol on the Appalachian Trail

I never had the pleasure of meeting David “Awol” Miller out on the Appalachian Trail. He thru-hiked it the year after I made my first attempt (the second has yet to commence). However after reading Miller’s recent book “Awol on the Appalachian Trail”  I certainly wished I had. I have had the opportunity to speak with him and exchange e-mails recently. I am so impressed with his written style and the energetic flow of his book that I asked him for assistance and information as I too attempt my first book, which will also incorporate the Appalachian Trail.

Miller's book kept me entranced from the first chapter and I read non-stop for a couple of hours. Not only was the description of the sometimes colorful characters he ran into on his sojourns amusing and poignant but his thought process appealed to mine as it bought to mind my own memories of while I was out there. The first three chapters were particularly appealing to me as I had been out there in the same region and it seemed, like just yesterday that I too had walked this way. When he says “Alone, cruising serenely through the woods, is a situation that nurtures emotional liberation. In the bustle of everyday life there is no time for frivolous thoughts”, I recalled the stressful time that I was going through with my divorce prior to my hike. Indeed the AT was my head clearing mission.

As his journey along the trail continues Miller wrote a column for his local newspaper back in Florida and so shared with his home town his travails and hopes and glories, all in a very humble fashion, in the way he tends to live his life everyday. We feel the distance he has put between him and the distant outside world, and how satisfying it is to sometimes put all our worries aside, and just live for today when he confides “In suburbia the din of traffic, machines, and the voices of other people were the norm. I didn’t feel harassed by noise. In the forest I appreciate the quiet and the clarity of thought that it induces. It is a welcome unanticipated benefit. I feel unstressed, fit, alert and invigorated …” He goes on to reiterate these thoughts a little later when he adds “…I have come to recognize that most of what is memorable and pleasing about my time on the trail are ordinary moments in the outdoors……It is fulfilling to be saturated with the sights, sounds and smells…”

For those uninitiated in the AT, and for those that have hiked on it ourselves, the book captivates and enthralls, and we are as excited as Miller is when he reaches his goal at Mt. Katahdin and completes his 2170 mile thru-hike from Georgia to Maine

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