ON TRAILS by Robert Moor


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A sagacious walker and writer guides us on a new journey of discovery, a different kind of road trip about roads themselves and what they mean.

A thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail (one who traverses the entire trail), environmental journalist Moor considers how traces became footpaths, roads, and highways over countless millennia, from the tracks of Precambrian proto-animals to life today. He reports how ungulates, including deer, horses, and giraffes, know where they are going by using marked pathways. The author chronicles his visits with elephants and deer-hunting expeditions. A good place to eat, expectedly, is normally high on the list of reasons for vertebrate and insect travel. Moor also learned, by walking with them, how Native Americans navigated the land they once tended. His varied chronicle of the paths taken by those who went before us is consistently fascinating and entertaining as we learn how trails are made by roaches, bison, and trekkers on the AT. His wide-ranging report represents a nascent scientific discipline, drawing out the wisdom of the paths scouted by Darwin, Thoreau, and Camus. Moor celebrates the history and popularity of the rigors of the AT even when, after the introduction of a carriage path in the 1850s, it “became possible to travel from the back alleys of Boston to the top of Mount Washington without taking more than a few steps.” Now there is a movement to extend the AT through Canada. Walking with a fabled hiker called Nimblewill Nomad, Moor discovered that, “every morning, the hiker’s options are reduced to two: walk or quit. Once that decision is made, all the others (when to eat, where to sleep) begin to fall into place.” It’s a curious form of freedom from all the choices society requires.

With side trips to areas scarcely visited before, this is a fine guide to places with better views of the world.

Pub Date: July 12th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4767-3921-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2016


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