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Book Reviews

Milton Gross Book review: "a journey north" by Adrienne Hall
By Milt Gross
May 11, 2014 - 12:05:20 AM

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This Appalachian Mountain Club book published in 2000, a journey north, is one of the best books I've read about the Appalachian Trail because it includes other interesting information about the Trail and its surroundings than the hike itself. Milt Gross photo.
From the epilogue, "The Appalachian Trail ought to be a model for trail projects across the country. It is a success story of a place that meant so much to people they built their lives around it, they lobbied Congress for decades for its protection, they bought entire parks and donated the land to preserve wild places, they spend their vacations building trail, they sit on their tailgates waiting for thirsty hikers. It is a success story about American people who work to protect a national treasure when the government won't, and about people who work with the government when government officials are doing the best they can. The Appalachian Trail is a success story about dreamers in our society. It is about the people who dream of hiking it. Every year the trail makes it possible for thousands of people to have their dreams come true."

This type of descriptive essay makes this story of a woman's story of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail unique.

"Hiking 2,159 miles from Georgie to Maine was not my idea. In fact, when my boyfriend, Craig, asked me to hike the Appalachian Trail, I had to admit that I didn't know such a corridor of wilderness existed," Hall begins her book.

They both put their careers on hold to complete their hike, which is part of what many of the hikes along the AT are about. Hall shares the details, the bright spots, the discouragements, the ailments they experienced, and finally the victory of their reaching the summit of mile-high Katahdin which is the northern terminus of the AT.

About the only criticism I found was Hall's calling Katahdin, Mt. Katahdin, which is not necessary since the name Katahdin means "highest mountain." But this is a common error, which doesn't take away the quality of the book.

In addition to the couple's hike, a journey north discusses in detail the late former Governor Percival Baxter's love affair with what eventually became Baxter State Park. The book outlines the history of Baxter's acquiring the approximately 200,000 acres and giving it to the State of Maine as a state park. Hall's book also treats in detail such issues as the history of the Cherokees, who were driven from the Great Smokies by the U.S. government, black bears, the questions concerning the Southern Balds or places on mountaintops that somehow became bare of forest, the wild boars that frequent the Southern Appalachians, red wolves, air pollution, cell phones, women and the AT, and more.

A journey north is more than a true story; its a study, a history of issues related to the AT.

Problems included sore feet, weary bodies, exhaustion of the spirit, a very few instances of poor treatment by a few others who were hikers and some who were not. It also talks about the "trail angels," those who spend their time helping people in a variety of ways such as sitting in the back of a pickup truck with refreshments for hikers who happen along and provide off-trail places for hikers to rest and eat something besides macaroni and cheese or other trail food.

She describes the various mountain ranges along the way as well as the places where the AT traverses crowded areas in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York State.

Hall even discusses the many volunteers who keep the AT passable, whom many who hike the AT seem to forget.

Most of all, I would say, Hall's book provides a dream for the millions who cannot for some reason hike the AT.

If you've hiked the AT or other long trails, have dreamed of doing so, are planning the long hike, or are just fascinated with a great book about the AT, find a copy of a journey north and start your literary hike along the wild areas of the Eastern Seaboard.

Priced on the book at $14.95, sells a new hardcopy for $4.52 and new paperback for $5.92 or old, classic hardcopy for $9 and $33 for a collectible paperback.

If your an outdoors lover or armchair dreamer of the outdoors, I'd suggest this book.

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

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2013

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