Doern art“Long-distance walking is good for you and good for the earth… But most of all, walking is a joyful celebration of life and the diverse, beautiful, and curious world in which we live.” -from the Introduction.

Walking is simple, but it can also be profound. In an increasingly complex and frantic world, walking can simplify our lives. It encourages intimate contact with places and people, promotes health, and is one of the most sustainable forms of recreation. Robert and Martha Manning invite readers to explore the pleasures of long-distance walking in their inspiring new book, Walking Distance.

At the heart of Walking Distance are firsthand descriptions of thirty of the world’s great long-distance hikes, spanning six continents and ranging from inn-to-inn to backpacking trips. Each entry – from Turkey’s Lycian Way to Vermont’s Long Trail – features personal anecdotes, natural and cultural history, and useful tips, including suggestions for preparing for hikes and for additional reading. Each trail narrative is richly illustrated with color photographs and maps. (description from publisher)

appalachian trailCompleted in 1937 by a small cadre of volunteers, the Appalachian Trail spans fourteen states from Maine to Georgia and is more than 2,000 miles long. Now, 75 years after its completion, the A.T. remains America’s premier hiking trail and is known as “the People’s Path.” Visitors from all over the world are drawn to the trail for a variety of reasons: to reconnect with nature, to escape the stress of city life, to meet new people, or to experience a simpler life. Out of three million annual visitors, almost 2,000 attempt to earn the distinction of “thru-hiker” by walking all five million footsteps in one continuous journey.

The only illustrated book officially published with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, The Appalachian Trail explores highlights of this legendary footpath with more than 250 spectacular contemporary images, historical photos and documents from the ATC archives, and detailed maps pinpointing each location along the trail. Readers can experience the trail as if their boots were on the path–passing by the iconic white trail blazes, taking in the surrounding wilderness at scenic overlooks, meeting other hikers at lean-tos or shelters, freezing at the sight of a black bear, moose, or other majestic wildlife.

With fascinating essays on topics ranging from the history of the trail to the hiking experience, this book is perfect for anyone interested in conservation, outdoor recreation, or American history, or for those who dream of one day becoming thru-hikers themselves. (description from publisher)

Classic Hikes of North America is a beautifully photographed and eminently practical account of the best back country journeys in the United States and Canada.

Peter Potterfield, an experienced hiker and photographer, has analyzed and graded these spectacular wilderness experiences with both beginners and avid hikers in mind. Included in the book is helpful information, such as: level of difficulty, trail conditions, recommended seasons, potential hazards and difficulties, resource information, and detailed maps of hiking routes.

Illustrated with more than 200 color photographs and hiking directions, here is inspiration and information in a single volume. There are routes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Big Beaver–Little Beaver Loop in the North Cascades National Park of Washington State, and the Slate Range in the Canadian Rockies, Alberta and British Columbia, and many more. These are journeys to dream on, and Potterfield puts them within reach of any aspiring hiker. (description from publisher)

Wild: Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail is a powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe and built her back up again.

 At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State-and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise”. But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone. Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail.

Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her. (description from publisher)

Wow! This is a great book for travel dreamers or doers.  Subtitled A Rough Guide to Travel Adventures by Greg Witt, Ultimate Adventures showcases all sorts of exotic locations — some places I’ve never even heard of, but now can’t wait to see.  And though there are many adventures which are geared more to the adrenaline junkie, there are still plenty of “soft” experiences for the more conservative traveler.  For instance, I know I’ll never ever attempt a 51-day ski trip to the South Pole or ice diving in Russia’s White Sea.  But maybe I could handle hiking New Zealand’s Milford Trek, as I’ve had friends who’ve successfully completed it.

One handy feature is a 5-star rating system covering 4 elements: physical, psychological, skill level and wow! factor.  This is designed to help the reader decide if this trip is a good match for their abilities.  For example, climbing Mt. Kilamanjaro is ranked high (4) for the physical endurance required, only a 2 for the skill level needed (it’s basic hiking, not technical rock climbing) but it scores a 5 for Wow factor.

It’s well-organized (by continents); the photos are breathtaking and the descriptions should inspire even the stodgiest couch potato.  As a librarian, I don’t need to buy many books, but I do plan to purchase this one!

Working on your bucket list? Here’s a great book that will get you out into some of the most beautiful places in the world for a once in a lifetime experience.

Fifty Place to Hike Before You Die explores the world’s greatest walking adventures. Some, such as the Lunana Snowman Trek in Bhutan  or the Kangshung Valley Trek in Tibet, are difficult, multiweek backpacking adventures. Others, such as Japan’s Nakesando Trail, are more leisurely, traveling from village to village or try Italy’s Amalfi Coast, visiting bistros along the way. There are hikes from all parts of the world and include the expected – the Matterhorn in Switzerland and the Grand Canyon in Arizona – and the surprising – Snow Lake in Pakistan and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. All of them have one thing in common though – extraordinary experiences in extraordinary places.

The major shortcoming of this book is the brevity of each entry – while basics of each trail are included, the serious traveler will need to investigate more complete information in other sources. Treat Fifty Hikes as an appetizer, an introduction to possibility and inspiration. Then choose a destination, get out your hiking boots and mark another item off that list!

The Appalacian Trail (AT), a continuous hiking trail spanning the eastern United States from Georgia to Maine, has been the source of many adventures and stories but by far the funniest (and arguably the best) is A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.

Bryson, middle-aged and overweight, decides to reconnect with nature and America by hiking the often arduous AT. He recruits long-time friend Stephen Katz who is even less athletic than Bryson (he packs for the hike by filling his backpack with candy bars – and nothing else) and sets off optimistically. What ensues is both laugh-out-loud funny and thoughtful, beautiful and provocative. Although the pair end up hiking only parts of the trail (the beginning and the end plus several day hikes in the central section), their experience is no less authentic than those of a thru-hiker.

Along the way Bryson (one of our best writers) fills you in on the history and lore of the trial, the varied accounts of the towns scattered along its length, the unique and beautiful landscape and wildlife of the areas crossed (although the chapter on bears is likely to keep you awake at night whether you’re in a tent or at home), insights into human nature and the value of keeping your friends – even those that drive you nuts.

But most of all, you’ll laugh. A lot.