Tag Archives: adventure

the 29th day

The 29th Day – Surviving A Grizzly Attack by Alex Messenger

From Audible:

A 600-mile canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness is a 17-year-old’s dream adventure, but after he is mauled by a grizzly bear, it’s all about staying alive.

This true-life wilderness survival epic recounts 17-year-old Alex Messenger’s near-lethal encounter with a grizzly bear during a canoe trip in the Canadian tundra. The story follows Alex and his five companions as they paddle north through harrowing rapids and stunning terrain. Twenty-nine days into the trip, while out hiking alone, Alex is attacked by a barren-ground grizzly. Left for dead, he wakes to find that his summer adventure has become a struggle to stay alive. Over the next hours and days, Alex and his companions tend his wounds and use their resilience, ingenuity, and dogged perseverance to reach help at a remote village a thousand miles north of the US-Canadian border.

The Twenty-Ninth Day is a coming-of-age story like no other, filled with inspiring subarctic landscapes, thrilling riverine paddling, and a trial by fire of the human spirit.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

A fascinating story of a once in a lifetime adventure that goes incredibly wrong. The story provides background to the trip and builds up through the journey until the bear attack and then follows the aftermath and his fight to reach safety, supported by his friends.

With stories like this I’m always amazed by the detail of recall. He creates a vivid picture of the Tundra wilderness and what it is like to explore there and the challenges they faced travelling by canoe. However, the detailed recall of the bear attack was astounding considering how quickly it all must have happened and the shock he experienced afterwards. It did make me wonder if it was embellished a bit but I’m taking it at face value.

The remoteness of their location and the actual wilderness of the area they were travelling through was really brought home in the immediate period after the attack. These teenage boys showed remarkable courage and perseverance to support and care for their injured friend and get him to safety.

Where the audiobook falls down is the narration. The author chose to narrate his own story and it’s a good example why it’s a good idea to employ a professional reader. He has a strong, pleasant voice but reads in a flat monotone with no variation for emotion. The story would have been so much more gripping if read in a way that reflected the experiences being described. However, it’s still very much worth a listen.

Header image source: fossbytes.com

where’s the next shelter?

Where’s the Next Shelter? written and read by Gary Sizer

From Audible:

Where’s the Next Shelter? is the true story of three travelers on the Appalachian Trail, a 2,000-mile hike that stretches from Georgia to Maine, told from the perspective of Gary Sizer, a seasoned backpacker and former marine who quickly finds himself humbled by the endeavor. He teams up with Megan, a sassy college grad whose indomitable spirit eclipses her lack of experience; and Lemmy, a cartoonist from overseas whose off-kilter commentary on the wonders and frustrations of the trail keeps everyone laughing.

Sprawling through the woods and towns of the Appalachian Mountains, the trail carries the trio through real and fanciful ups and downs ranging from hilarious to perilous. Much more than an orderly account of mountaintops and meals, this book is an adventure about friends figuring things out as they go. It’s about screwups and solutions, awe and inspiration.

If you long for the horizon or to sleep under the stars, then come along for the hike of a lifetime. All you have to do is take the first step.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Yes, yet another audiobook on long distance hiking and my second in a row on the AT! This one took a bit of getting used to. The author reads his own story and he reads at a speed that is slightly too fast for comfortable listening. He also has a slightly irreverent attitude that while novel means quite a lot of swearing. Hearing fuck in an audiobook conversation while not shocking is kind of jarring and I was nearly at the end before I was getting used to it.

A consistent element of the story style is the author recounting conversations as they happen and verbatim. I find it difficult to believe that he was able to recall so many conversations over such a long period of time and almost a year after finishing the trail.

Sizer himself is an interesting character and I found his friendship and relationship with other hikers and trail angels really well written and described. In particular his special relationship with Voldemort (Megan) and Lemmy is particularly enjoyable.

Another good depiction of the AT and I found it particularly interesting how Sizer’s description was different to that of David Miller’s while still staying so similar in many ways.

Header image source: fossbytes.com

awol on the appalachian trail

Awol on the Appalachian Trail written by David Miller and read by Christopher Lane

From Audible:

In 2003, software engineer David Miller left his job, family, and friends to hike 2,172 miles of the Appalachian Trail. AWOL on the Appalachian Trail is Miller’s account of this thru-hike from Georgia to Maine. Listeners are treated to rich descriptions of the Appalachian Mountains, the isolation and reverie, the inspiration that fueled his quest, and the rewards of taking a less conventional path through life. While this book abounds with introspection and perseverance, it also provides useful passages about hiking gear and planning. This is not merely a travel guide; it is a beautifully written and highly personal view into one man’s journey and the insights gained by abandoning what is comfortable and routine.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

I listened to this straight after “Journeys North” and I think it would have been more enjoyable with a gap between the two. It’s also the very first AT based audiobook for me and it seems that the PCT is a much more diverse adventure and also seems to attract a more interesting participant. This means that while the author is interesting and has his own good back story those around him seem less so. Again this could be due to comparing everyone to Journeys North.

I did enjoy the writing style of the story which kept it tipping along at a steady pace. He also provided a lot of information about the AT itself and I felt that I knew it much better at the end compared to Bill Bryson’s book which was more about his experience than the actual trail.

At a similar age to the author I found great admiration for how he was able to recognise the way his career was affecting his mental health and happiness and was able to change the script of his life with the incredible support of his wife. I was really glad he filled us in at the end on how he returned to real life once again.

My only regret with this book is that I should have listened to it before Journeys North.

Header image source: fossbytes.com

journeys north: the pacific crest trail

Journeys North: The Pacific Crest Trail by Barney Scout Mann

From Audible:

In Journeys North, legendary trail angel, thru hiker, and former PCTA board member Barney Scout Mann spins a compelling tale of six hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2007 as they walk from Mexico to Canada. This ensemble story unfolds as these half-dozen hikers – including Barney and his wife, Sandy – trod north, slowly forming relationships and revealing their deepest secrets and aspirations. They face a once-in-a-generation drought and early severe winter storms that test their will in this bare-knuckled adventure. In fact, only a third of all the hikers who set out on the trail that year would finish.

As the group approaches Canada, a storm rages. How will these very different hikers, ranging in age, gender, and background, respond to the hardship and suffering ahead of them? Can they all make the final 60-mile push through freezing temperatures, sleet, and snow, or will some reach their breaking point?

Journeys North is a story of grit, compassion, and the relationships people forge when they strive toward a common goal.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I absolutely loved this, easily the best  audiobook I’ve listened to so far. Really well written and excellently narrated but it’s the story that makes it special.

Most thru-hike stories focus on the author, their personal story and the people they meet along the way. This one gives the other five stories equal merit and this makes it unique.

Scout seems to be a very special person and I really enjoyed his take on the PCT but also his insights into the lives of the friends he made along the way. It’s obvious that much of the information was provided by them, rather than just observations, which points to the close relationship he had with each one.

A truly inspirational story of resilience, determination and the strength of humanity.

Header image source: fossbytes.com

the lincoln highway

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

From Goodreads:

In June, 1954, eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson is driven home to Nebraska by the warden of the work farm where he has just served a year for involuntary manslaughter. His mother long gone, his father recently deceased, and the family farm foreclosed upon by the bank, Emmett’s intention is to pick up his eight-year-old brother and head west where they can start their lives anew. But when the warden drives away, Emmett discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Together, they have hatched an altogether different plan for Emmett’s future.

Spanning just ten days and told from multiple points of view, Towles’s third novel will satisfy fans of his multi-layered literary styling while providing them an array of new and richly imagined settings, characters, and themes.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I loved this book! It’s completely different from anything I normally read and written in a very formal, old fashioned manner of speech. Once I got used to that (pretty quickly to be honest) it added to the read.

The four main boys plus Sally are brilliant characters, each one so different yet work so well together. The array of supporting characters are also well rounded and easy to keep in your head. I hate when too many characters lead to confusion but not in this case.

Great story, great characters, great book.

Shout out to Rootchopper for bringing it to my attention.

trippin’ through my 60s

Trippin’ Through My 60s by Reginald Spittle

From Amazon:

As a child of the Sixties, Reg Spittle was no stranger to unrest and rebellion. So it was no surprise that, at age 60, when he closed his office door for the last time and left the working world behind, his restlessness would lead him to a path less traveled.

Trippin’ Through My 60s is a lighthearted look at how Reg discovered and pursued his passion for trekking along four famed European long-distance trails:

  • Scotland’s West Highland Way
  • The Alps’ Tour du Mont Blanc
  • Italy’s Way of St. Francis
  • England’s South West Coast Path

Unexpected challenges, wrong turns, and humor evoke memories of life in the Sixties and create the backdrop for Reg’s adventures as he tackles backpacking escapades that push him to the edge.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I’ve been following Reg’s blog for quite a while now (Books and my Backpack) and enjoy his reviews and recommendations of books by other authors. He mentions his own two books occasionally but isn’t pushy with them. However, I’ve been meaning to check them out for quite a while now. Recently, I spotted this book, his second, on Amazon and added it to my reading list.

This book covers four trekking trips that Reg and his wife Sue undertook in their retirement. I was particularly interested as the first two treks were The West Highland Way and The Tour de Mont Blanc. I was interested to see how they coped with the challenge of these two tough trails.

Reg has a very casual and relaxed way of writing. Even when he and his wife are struggling to cope with the conditions and demands of the trail he seems to be able to retain good spirits and take the best from every situation.

I very much enjoyed those first two treks as I’ve watched some YouTube videos of walkers on the West Highland Way and canoeists on the Great Glen Way. My visit to Switzerland in 2019 to Pierre’s house in Valais also involved a day trip to Chamonix which is where the Tour de Mont Blanc starts and finishes. Lots of the scenery and placenames were familiar and there was a real sense of adventure from their depiction.

The final two treks were also interesting but less adventurous than the first two. I also found the descriptions of these two trips a bit repetitive, especially the English trip which is why I dropped a star*

Overall I really enjoyed this book, Reg and his wife are inspiring to anyone considering long distance and multi day treks. They are living proof that age shouldn’t be a barrier to your dreams and that it’s never too late to chase them. I’d recommend this book to anyone with an interest in walking or the outdoors.

*I was very tempted to drop a second star due to his horrified reaction to eating smokey bacon crisps for the first time. My favourite flavour!

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

pan celtic race

As part of my interest in longer distance Audax cycling I came across this fantastic event a couple of years ago. It’s a self-supported ultra long-distance endurance cycling event. The 2019 event was the first as far as I know and the route was simply amazing.

The 2020 event was scuppered by Covid but by keeping it restricted to England & Wales, they managed to put together a route and run the event for 2021.

As part of the celebration of the 2021 event they created a really good film and I’ve linked it below. I’d recommend it for anyone with even a passing interest in cycling or endurance sport of any kind. The standout for me was the camaraderie of the riders and how ordinary so many of them are while still being extraordinary.

The 2022 route has been released and as a nod to the fact that they couldn’t get to Ireland in 2021 it’s almost exclusively here this year. I’m especially glad to see that they are also visiting Donegal.

All images © Pan Celtic Race

micro adventures

Micro Adventures by Alastair Humphreys

From Audible:

Adventure something that’s new and exhilarating, outside your comfort zone. Adventures change you and how you see the world, and all you need is an open mind, bags of enthusiasm and boundless curiosity.

So whats a microadventure? Its close to home, cheap, simple, short and 100 percent guaranteed to refresh your life. A microadventure takes the spirit of a big adventure and squeezes it into a day or even a few hours.

The point of a microadventure is that you don’t need lots of time and money to meet a new challenge. This practical guide is filled with ideas for microadventures for you to experience on your own or with friends and family, plus tips and advice on safety and kit.

Whether its sleeping on a hilltop or going for a wild swim, cycling a lap of the Isle of Wight or walking home for Christmas, it’s time you discovered something new about yourself and the world outside your window. Adventure is everywhere, every day, and it is up to us to find it.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Interesting concept but more aimed at someone who has little or no experience of the outdoors. It’s well enough written and the author narrates it with passion and enthusiasm but I did find it a bit repetitive on the “bivvy after work” theme. It definitely has encouraged me to make plans for the summer and not to let excuses get in the way though.

Some of the final resource and ideas chapters are very useful and I did find some good hints and tips there. Worth reading or listening to but maybe better from a library rather than buying.

Header image source: fossbytes.com

the last englishman

The Last Englishman by Keith Foskett read by Adam Stubbs

From Audible:

Born traveller Keith Foskett had thousands of miles of thru-hiking experience when he prepared for his toughest challenge yet: a gruelling 2,640-mile hike from Mexico to Canada. In a six-month journey along America’s Pacific Crest Trail, he crossed the arid expanses of California’s deserts, the towering peaks of Oregon’s volcanic landscape, and the dense forests of Washington.
Battling phobias of bears, snakes, critters, and camping in the woods after dark, can Foskett find new ways to achieve his ultimate goal when the worst winter in years bears down on the trail?
Shortlisted for The Great Outdoors magazine Outdoor Personality of the Year and Book of the Year multiple times, veteran storyteller Keith Foskett lets you join him for a trek across the greatest long-distance hiking trail on Earth. With witty humor, astute observations, and a delightful cast of characters, you’ll discover a compelling narrative that turns the travelogue formula on its head.
The Last Englishman is an extraordinary travel memoir by an experienced long-distance hiker. If you believe there’s more to life than work, yearn for new horizons and challenges, and believe in overcoming adversity, then you’ll love Keith Foskett’s tale of exploration. 

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I was going to give this 3 stars but then the last two chapters tipped it into 4 star territory. I couldn’t help but compare it to Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods“. That is set on the Appalachian Trail (AT) and this is the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Along with the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) they form the Triple Crown of Hiking in the US.

Bryson’s story is about his personal challenge and his relationship with the trail and his walking partner Stephen Katz. This story also deals with the author’s personal challenge but also spends a lot of time on his interactions with the various other hikers on the trail. The PCT has an official launch party and there’s a specific window that most hikers walk during so there are a lot of people on the trail at the same time.

The author does a good job describing the challenges of the trail, both physical and mental, as well as the high points. He meets some interesting characters and makes friends with many of them. He does a good job giving us a good feel for their personalities.

I found the use of trail nicknames very childish and irritating. I get that it’s a tradition of the trail but I’d rather he would have mentioned the trail name and then used real names.

I think I would have enjoyed this more with a different narrator. I found his reading style and tone of voice quite pompous and it did grate at times. I understand audiobook narrators are expected to mimic voices from the story but it sounded odd in this reader’s voice.

Overall a good story well told that is saved by the last two chapters.

Header image source: fossbytes.com

the man who cycled the world

The Man Who Cycled The World by Mark Beaumont

From Audible:

The inspiring story of one young man’s record-breaking solo cycle journey around the world.

On 15 February 2008, Mark Beaumont pedalled through the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. 194 days and 17 hours previously, he had begun his attempt to circumnavigate the world in record time. Mark smashed the Guinness World Record by an astonishing 81 days. He had travelled more than 18,000 miles on his own through some of the harshest conditions one man and his bicycle can endure, camping wild at night and suffering from constant ailments.

The Man Who Cycled the World is the story not just of that amazing achievement but of the events that turned Mark Beaumont into the man he is today. From the early years of his free-spirited childhood in the Scottish countryside to present day, he has been equally determined not to settle for an average existence but to break free and follow his dreams.

Mark Beaumont grew up in the foothills of the Scottish Highlands. When he was 12, he cycled across Scotland, then a few years later, completed the 1,000 mile solo ride across Britain from John O’Groats to Land’s End. His next long-distance ride took him the length of Italy, a journey of 1,336 miles, helping to raise £50,000 for charity. After graduating from Glasgow University, and having also qualified as a professional ski instructor, he decided against a conventional career and devoted himself full-time to raising money for his endurance adventures. 

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was brilliant! Hands down the best audiobook so far. It’s an absolutely amazing story of endurance and perseverance written in a very humble and unassuming manner. This feels like a very honest story. He has no arrogance about his abilities and conveys his nerves and worries. He revels in his successes but also describes the many low points. Having the story written and read by the guy that actually completed the expedition gives it a sense of realism. He also eloquently conveys his feelings at the time. Listening to him you can almost feel him relieving the experiences all over again.

I was amazed by how little formal training he did (although I definitely think he was already a very fit guy) and how little preparation was completed in some ways. His journey in Australia and America seemed particularly haphazard and he admits himself that he hardly even considered the final leg through Portugal and Spain. Also how inexperienced his Mum was and in such a critical role.

I found the story quite emotional at times. I could feel his passionate dislike of the Pakistani police escorts and their treatment of him yet also his delight with the Madrid police and his final goodbye to the main contact. I also found the last couple of days very emotional, especially that last section into Paris and meeting his family again.

Another interesting aspect was his difficulty staying focused after a rest day and getting back in the zone. This was most evident on the American leg when he decided not to stay overnight with prearranged contacts when he had opportunities almost every night. He felt that it would hamper his focus and drive to have company every night. It really enforced for me the importance of mental strength for endurance athletes. It also explains the almost selfish and self-centred approach that they have to take.

The version I listened to had a chapter at the very end telling the story from his Mum, Una’s point of view. At first I didn’t like this. Mark is a much more accomplished reader and Una seemed nervous and hesitant. However, after a short while I found her perspective interesting and overall that it added to the story.

I obviously found this interesting from the aspect of a cyclist but definitely feel it’s worth reading or listening to for anyone interested in endurance sports, expedition or adventure.

Header image source: fossbytes.com