Friday, March 5, 2010

If you can't hike, then read!

I'm getting Springer Fever.

For those of you who don't know, this is the time of year when prospective thru-hikers head to Springer Mountain, Georgia, to start the Appalachian Trail.  For many hikers, whether veteran or aspiring, this is also the time of year when they wish they were heading to Springer Mountain or the start of some other adventure.  The days are getting longer and a little warmer.  Green is shooting from the earth and budding from branches.  Nature seems to beckon us outdoors.

Alas, I find myself in the latter category this year.  I do count my blessings that I've been in the former!  Hiking has changed my life - or ruined it completely - for the better!

So how does one combat Springer Fever without a trail on the horizon?  First, start by checking in with all of your old hiking buddies.  Trust me, almost no one else cares that you wish you were out hiking!  With an old hiking buddy, on the other hand, you can chat away about the latest gear you wish you were buying and about how a bad day in the mountains beats a good day in civilization any old time.

Second, I recommend living vicariously.  Trail Journals is an excellent place to start.  Pick a trail, then check out a few journals to find one that suits you.  If you follow a journal from the current year, you will enjoy the suspense of wondering what will happen next!

My favorite remedy is to read a good travel book.  One of my favorites is Worldwalk by Steven Newman.  As a testament to the fact that I am not a light-weight hiker, I carried this 500 page paperback for a while on the PCT.  I finished it just in time to send it home from Kennedy Meadows before entering the High Sierra.

Newman's account of his four year solo walk around the world is a page-turner.  He meets both kindness and generosity as well as danger and some life-threatening situations.  He walks across four continents, including North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia.  He is sometimes alone, and sometimes surrounded and followed by entire villages of people who have never seen anything like him before.

One of Newman's encounters that has stuck with me occurred in Spain.  Escaping bad weather, Newman seeks shelter under a bridge only to find that he has entered a man's home.  Dressed in rags and filthy, the man welcomes Newman to share his fire and his meal.  Newman, and I, were humbled.

I won't spoil any more of the story, but I do urge you to go out and read it.  Newman earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for his solo walk around the world.  He gave up a lot to take his journey - home comforts including shelter, time with family and friends, all the things one takes for granted when living in the same place with the same people.  And this was all before email.  I think his experience was well worth it.

So, if you miss the trail - or if you simply don't want to give up your home, job and comforts to travel around the world - find a good travel book.  I'll be posting about other books I've enjoyed.  I'd love to hear about your recommendations.

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