Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Adventures of the Barefoot Sisters

"The Adventures of the Barefoot Sisters: Book 1. Southbounders; Book 2. Walking Home"
by Lucy and Susan Letcher, Flower Press, 2006.

“Once upon a time, in a kingdom not so far away, two charming and talented sisters yo-yo’d the Appalachian Trail--barefoot.” Sounds like a fairy tale, but it’s a true story. Or maybe a true story with fairy-tale elements. Most definitely a story full of adventure, true grit, true wit, friendship and even a little romance. There’s something for everyone in these A.T. memoirs, beautifully written by “The Barefoot Sisters.”

Lucy (trailnamed “Isis” for her amazing ‘reincarnation’ on day two, after her ‘death’ from exhaustion on day one of hiking the Incan Trail) and Susan (named “jackrabbit” for her Tae Kwon Do jumping kicks) grew up on the coast of Maine and went barefoot much of their childhood. They wanted to continue this experience on their 2000-2001 thruhikes. “We had decided to try hiking barefoot because it was the way we had always walked, since we were kids, in the mountains near our home...We loved the sense of connection to the ground...You can feel the trail with all your senses.” They would go barefoot on their hike, they decided, as long as it was comfortable and fun--which turned out to be most of the time. Before long, their feet became such celebrities that Lucy named hers Dusty and Lefty, while Susan’s were named Lethal Weapon I and II.

They became well-known to many not only for their barefoot backpacking, but also for their composition of the Trail Days award-winning ditty “Dig a Hole.” But their talents didn’t begin and end there. They were the inventors of Extreme Hiking Maneuvers such as the Slugundy Slide and the Piscataquis Pirouette. They were accomplished story-tellers, singers of sea chanties, and reciters-and-writers of poetry--especially of the Anglo-Saxon variety: “Stormward we strode, strong sisters / barefoot in the brook’s bright flowage, / on forest floor, light leaf-filtered; / barefoot on the broad granite backs / of mickle mountains, mist-manacled...” They were welcomed as gifted contributors to the entertainment around evening campfires at shelters up and down the Trail. When Susan completes her doctorate in ecology and Lucy her masters in printmaking, I’m sure they’ll become gifted contributors to the off-trail world as well.

These memoirs are honest, realistic and spell-binding accounts of the “pleasures and perils” of a thru-hike--from the pleasures of nature and kindness of trail angels to the perils of being lost, with blazes hidden deep below the snowdrifts of a blinding mountain blizzard.

Reading these books is, as it says on the back cover of one volume, “as close as you can get to hiking the Appalachian Trail without strapping on a pack.” Highly recommended.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Mark P. Sadler over at his "Bollocks" blog has posted this review of one of the best Appalachian Trail memoirs to come out in a long time. Mark gave me permission to repeat his review here. I hope to get back to this site eventually and do more reviewing. Right now I'm in the process of getting my other site, Books for Hikers, perfected to the point I can turn my attention back here. Meanwhile, here's the borrowed review:

My review of Awol on the Appalachian Trail
by Mark P. Sadler
Saturday, March 10, 2007

I never had the pleasure of meeting David “Awol” Miller out on the Appalachian Trail. He thru-hiked it the year after I made my first attempt (the second has yet to commence). However after reading Miller’s recent book “Awol on the Appalachian Trail” I certainly wished I had. I have had the opportunity to speak with him and exchange e-mails recently. I am so impressed with his written style and the energetic flow of his book that I asked him for assistance and information as I too attempt my first book, which will also incorporate the Appalachian Trail.

Miller's book kept me entranced from the first chapter and I read non-stop for a couple of hours. Not only was the description of the sometimes colorful characters he ran into on his sojourns amusing and poignant but his thought process appealed to mine as it bought to mind my own memories of while I was out there. The first three chapters were particularly appealing to me as I had been out there in the same region and it seemed, like just yesterday that I too had walked this way. When he says “Alone, cruising serenely through the woods, is a situation that nurtures emotional liberation. In the bustle of everyday life there is no time for frivolous thoughts”, I recalled the stressful time that I was going through with my divorce prior to my hike. Indeed the AT was my head clearing mission.

As his journey along the trail continues Miller wrote a column for his local newspaper back in Florida and so shared with his home town his travails and hopes and glories, all in a very humble fashion, in the way he tends to live his life everyday. We feel the distance he has put between him and the distant outside world, and how satisfying it is to sometimes put all our worries aside, and just live for today when he confides “In suburbia the din of traffic, machines, and the voices of other people were the norm. I didn’t feel harassed by noise. In the forest I appreciate the quiet and the clarity of thought that it induces. It is a welcome unanticipated benefit. I feel unstressed, fit, alert and invigorated …” He goes on to reiterate these thoughts a little later when he adds “…I have come to recognize that most of what is memorable and pleasing about my time on the trail are ordinary moments in the outdoors……It is fulfilling to be saturated with the sights, sounds and smells…”

For those uninitiated in the AT, and for those that have hiked on it ourselves, the book captivates and enthralls, and we are as excited as Miller is when he reaches his goal at Mt. Katahdin and completes his 2170 mile thru-hike from Georgia to Maine.