Monday 27 March 2017

Review: On Trails: From Anthills to the Alps, How Trails Make Sense of a Chaotic World

On Trails: From Anthills to the Alps, How Trails Make Sense of a Chaotic World On Trails: From Anthills to the Alps, How Trails Make Sense of a Chaotic World by Robert Moor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Moor is a long distance walker, he took five months completing the Appalachian Trail, but rather than just the exhilaration in completing this 2190 mile journey he realised that he now had questions about just why we create trails. In exploring this phenomena he is shown some of the oldest fossil trails, he learns how and why animals do the same thing, from ants that use pheromones to guide others from the nest to sources of food. He has a go a shepherding to see how sheep make trails, and manages to mislay a complete flock in his first attempt. He joins Native Americans to see the trails in their culture and perches in a tree with Larry Benoit to gain an insight into the mind of a hunter following deer trails in a forest.

He finds out how a new trail is created when he joins a renowned trail builder in Tennessee making pathways with a quad-bike. He is asked to join the International Appalachian Trail, what will be the world’s longest footpath, spanning from Alabama to Morocco, and spends some time walking some of what could be the Moroccan section. In the final part of the book, he catches up with the Nimblewill Nomad, M.J. Eberhart. He is somewhat of a legend, as he has walked the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail; around 34,000 miles in total. He could be described as eccentric too, having had all his toenails removed and passed on most of his possessions bar a truck and a couple of boxes of sentimental stuff. Moor joins him for a few days and walks with him from Winnie along the roads of Texas.

Walking creates trails. Trails, in turn, shape landscapes

Moor has tremendous potential as an author but I am not entirely sure if this is a travel book, a walking book, a book on the natural world or book on the deeper philosophy on the process of placing one foot in front of another. That said, it is an eloquent set of essays and stories about the pleasures of walking along the great trails of the world. Liked the piece about technology too, it makes a change to have someone say that it can have its place, rather than being one of those who considers the mix of technology and nature to be abhorrent. It is quite American-centric, though he does venture overseas at times, but its wide-ranging scope means that it is not quite as focused as it could be hence I have only given it three stars. However, I really liked this, as he has been bold enough to take a step off the well-trodden path for the wider view. For those with and interest in walking, this should be on your to-read list.

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