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.

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