Tag Archives: pacific crest trail

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

section hiking

I’ve read and listened to a lot of stories about long distance hikes over the last year or so. From Bill Bryson’s adventure on the Appalachian Trail (AT) to Cheryl Strayed on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and recently Reg Spittle’s second book about trekking in the UK and Europe. I’ve just started yet another PCT themed audiobook, by Barney Scout Mann, entitled Journeys North.

In the opening chapters Mann mentions how some hikers walk long distance trails in sections rather than thru-hiking the entire trail in one go. This has been mentioned in every story so far but yesterday it seemed to have found more fertile soil in my brain and I started considering my own options for section hiking.

© toughsoles.ie

Close to home I have a number of waymarked walks. Of Ireland’s 42 National Waymarked Trails there are 5 in Donegal. Of these the only one I’ve walked is The Bluestack Way. I walked the Glenties – Lough Eske section of this almost 10 years ago as a charity walk for the Bluestack Foundation, approx 30km in 9 hours was, and still is, my longest day’s walking.

Three long distance walks also pass near my home. The Irish leg of the International Appalachian Trail (IAT) approx 450km from the Slieve League cliffs in Donegal to Larne in Co. Antrim, The Ulster Way, a looped trail just over 1,000km that circles Northern Ireland and The Ireland Way that is also 1,000km from Castletownbere in West Cork to The Giant’s Causeway in Co. Antrim.

the international appalachian trail – ireland

the ulster way

the ireland way

All three routes meet and overlap at the border between Donegal and Tyrone and follow the same route until The Giant’s Causeway where The Ireland Way stops. The IAT carries on with the Ulster Way until Larne where it stops before skipping across The Irish Sea to Scotland.

Many years ago I read one of the few books on The Ulster Way by Alan Parker and first published in 1989. Alan was the first ever person to walk the entire Ulster Way in 1979. It’s a really interesting read for more than just the walk itself. Alan was a real old school hiker and used B&B accommodation all the way. It’s a fascinating glimpse of a different pace of life in Northern Ireland at the end of the 70s and surprisingly unaffected by The Troubles.

I was familiar with the Ulster Way having seen the signs on many occasions throughout Northern Ireland and reading this book gave me my first real desire to do a long distance walk. However, 30 days is difficult to fit into any life when work and family also need attention so unfortunately it never happened.

The idea though has never left me so it’s unsurprising that it was The Ulster Way that I turned to today to investigate the possibility of section hiking. WalkNI have a very detailed section on their website that details a variety of different 1, 2 & 3 day and 1 week suggestions and there are 2 that really appeal.

Belcoo – Belleek: a 47km section including the optional Lough Navar loop. This is an area I’m very familiar with and Lough Navar has an amazing viewpoint looking out over Lough Erne. Possible as a day hike but more enjoyable over 2 days.

Lough Bradan – Gortin: 60km and recommended as a 2 day walk. Being close to home this is a very familiar area and although I’ve walked or cycled some of it, most of the route would be new to me.

In the middle of a very wet, cold and stormy February it’s nice to look at these routes and dream of long days walking and camping in warm sunshine (ideally!).

wild

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Read by Laurel Lefkow

From Audible:

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an 1100-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe and built her back up again. At 22, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. After her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State – alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than an idea: vague, outlandish, and full of promise. But it was a promise of piecing together a life that had come undone. Strayed faces rattlesnakes and bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and intense loneliness of the trail.

Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is an excellent story! The summary above tells you enough about Cheryl’s life that she self-destructed after her Mother’s death but she writes a very eloquent and honest story about the details and what walking the PCT meant for her. I loved how she mixed in her past life story with the PCT story, it gave so much more depth to it all. This isn’t really a story about the PCT. It does provide a lot of details of the walk itself but it’s more a personal journey set on the PCT.

The narrator is also excellent. I still struggle a little with the convention of imitating voices and accents for characters but it doesn’t take away from the fact that she tells this story with warmth and passion as much as if it was her own story.

Stop reading this review and go listen to the book!

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