Freelance writer Winters engagingly narrates her trek along most of the Appalachian Trail, from its start in Georgia to its end in Maine.
The Appalachian Trail, or AT, served as a rite of passage for the author, who left a series of dead-end jobs and ended a disastrous relationship before beginning her journey at the summit of Springer Mountain, Georgia. (The eight-mile path leading to the trailhead is so steep that some hikers have given up before reaching the actual AT.) The author—trail name Amazin’ Grace—spent six months hiking the AT’s 2,000 miles, along which she became part of a community of travelers with monikers like Dances With Mice, Bearbait, Maine Event, and G.R. Dia. Braced for a grueling pilgrimage, Winters was unprepared for the social side of trail life. Although she usually walked alone during the day, her nights were spent with assorted hikers at mice- and skunk-infested shelters. The majesty of nature and the easygoing support of other “thruhikers” helped ease Winters’s initial loneliness and enabled her to forge a new relationship, this time with someone she met on the trail. The author includes myriad observations of AT culture and etiquette. Some hikers are purists walking only on the “official” white-blazed AT. Others occasionally hike trails marked with blue blazes; these are older sections of the AT, or trails that intersect with roads leading toward much-needed supplies. “Yellow-blazing” is hitchhiking, “green-blazing” is not following a trail at all, and “ghost-blazing” is daring to venture where original white AT markers have been painted out or faded. The Trail itself? As one short-timer put it: “Let’s see . . . up and down, up and down, up and down. Followed by down and up.”
A breath of fresh air. (8-page photo insert, not seen)