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Book Reviews

Milt Gross Book Review: "Awol on the Appalachian Trail" by David Miller
By Milton M. Gross
Nov 9, 2014 - 3:37:18 AM

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Awol on the Appalachian Trail is kind of a dream book for me. I won't live long enough to hike the entire AT, but I remember parts of it in Maine and N.H. about which the author writes as part of the whole. Milt Gross photo.
I'm old enough and using a walking stick because I need a hip replaced, that I am fairly sure I won't be doing any long distance hiking as did David Miller in 2003.

Miller's thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail led to his writing Awol on the Appalachian Trail. He gave the book the title "Awol," because he vacated his computer-programming position in mid-life, wife and kids, to hike the Trail.

He felt a bit out of place, because most thru-hikers on the AT are either retired with enough time and money or just starting out in life after college or high school. Initially his supervisor gave him a week's vacation to decide if he really wanted to leave his job for the Trail.

He continued his hike, supported by his wife Juli, who visited him several times during his trek, and he was glad he did.

On the very last page he wrote, "The payoff, though difficult to quantify, is much greater than I expected. I have no regrets about having gone; it was the right thing to do. I think about it every day. Sometimes I can hardly believe it happened. I just quit and was on this huge trip. I didn't suffer financial ruin, my wife didn't leave me, the world didn't stop spinning. I do think of how regretful it would have been had I dismissed the pull that I felt to hike the trail. A wealth of memories could have been lost before they had even occurred if I had dismissed, as a whim, my inkling to hike. It is disturbing how tenuous our potential is due to our fervent defense of the comfortable norm.

"As a result of my hike, I am much more inclined to do things. I will have fewer 'should have done's,' even if it means incurring some 'wish I hadn'ts.' I have changed in smaller ways, too. I am friendlier and more patient. I worry less about money. I can get by with less. It is as pleasing to get rid of old stuff as it is to get new stuff. Excess is a burden, even when you are not carrying it on your back."

Most of my AT hiking has been in Maine, and with Miller's vivid descriptions of those parts of the Trail on which I've hiked, I relived my own experiences. I'm not feeling "down" because my long-distance hiking is probably behind me. I'm feeling a certain togetherness with Miller for writing about "our places" on the AT. And I can "feel" his experiences with him.*

His book was well written, lots of personal experiences as well as the descriptions of the Trail, and it made me feel as if I were with him.

The last thing Miller wrote was, "Now I am more comfortable talking with people about my experience. When they say, 'I would love to do something like that,' I know how to respond.

"You can."

This 2006 hiking memory was published by WingSpan Press, Livermore, CA with their website at

Once you read this book, priced at $15.95 on the cover and from at $13.46 for the new paperback and $6.59 new or used, Miller and the publisher have made your comments to the author at possible. I would guess it's also available at bookstores.

If you love the outdoors as do I, this is one book you won't want to miss.

* I had hiked some of the AT in Maine during youthful vacations with my family, and in 1980 I joined the Maine Appalachian Trail Club. I've been a trail maintainer, keeping a part of the AT over on Moody Mountain in passable condition, a corridor monitor that involved checking on the 1,000-foot AT right of way as well as the AT itself, and now on my computer keeping track of camps and colleges that send groups out onto the AT in Maine. While my wife has been my first love, the AT has been my second.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2014

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