The Ordinary Adventurer:

From the American Hiker's Association Blog


Truth be told, I'm not particularly fond of reading most hiker journals. You know the type I'm referring to. "I woke up, cooked breakfast, started hiking at 8 AM, saw a bear at 11 AM, my feet hurt, it's cold and raining, I have a blister, I'm running low on Snicker bars, I reached camp at 7 PM, I cooked dinner and fell asleep." (yawn) That gets old pretty fast. Then there is the rare hiker who has the skill and insight to capture the essence of the hiking experience, and distill that experience into words that makes the reader crave for more. Such is the case with Jan "Liteshoe" Leitschuh.

Jan is well known in long distance hiking circles for her excellent journal from her 2003 Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Her journal remains one of the most popular on, and for good reason. She is a gifted and talented writer. Recently, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Jan had written a new book about a trail that I have been thinking about hiking for a number of years - Vermont's Long Trail.

Let me start by saying that The Ordinary Adventurer Hiking Vermont's Long Trail; A Primer for Baby Adventurers and Other Musings on the Nature of Journey, is no ordinary book. It is a gem! What makes this book such a fun read is Jan's ability to capture the subtleties of the hiking experience. As an experienced backpacker, I could totally relate to the mental aspect of Jan's hike. The frustration that can arise from poor weather, a stiff climb, or from a recalcitrant hiking partner (sorry Clyde). The splendor of being alone in the woods, lost in your thoughts, or listening to the ethereal song of the Hermit Thrush. The joy felt when the sun emerges from behind a cloud, or when a stranger offers you a cold beverage or a much needed ride to town. The satisfaction from realizing that you have accomplished a goal, such as climbing Mt. Mansfield, even though that goal seemed insurmountable only hours earlier.

Beyond the mental aspect, Jan's description of the Vermont woods brought me right back to the Green Mountain State; a place that I truly love to hike. The paper birch, the mushrooms and the rushing streams along with the fragrant smell of Balsam Fir. I also thoroughly enjoyed Jan's treatment of the unique fellowship that forms out on the trail. It's all there! Both the outer journey, and the all important inner journey.

When I finished the book last night, I was saddened to put it down. That's what happens when you become engrossed in a good read. Thankfully, like a gift that keeps on giving, this book has lit a fire that only a backpacking trip can extinguish. I am already thinking about an end to end hike of the Long Trail in 2009, and I have The Ordinary Adventurer to thank for that.

The Ordinary Adventurer is the perfect read for those who have dreamed the dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. Whether you ever set out to actually hike the whole Appalachian Trail is immaterial. This book will entertain you, educate you, and perhaps best of all, let you know that you can accomplish your goals - one step at a time.

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