Disclaimer: In order to be honest with my blog readers, I am disclosing that I received a copy of A Walk for Sunshine, 20th Anniversary Edition, for free in exchange for a book review on this blog. As always, all opinions are my own.
Being that I'm a distance hiker, I'm asked all the time (and I mean ALL THE TIME) if I've read certain books. You guys know the ones. If you hike, you're probably asked all the time too, right? Well, as a distance hiker reading books by and about ACTUAL thru hikes are always much more interesting to me. That's why when I was contacted by Beaufort Books regarding the 20th Anniversary Printing of A Walk for Sunshine I was super excited to read it. While books written about hiking by writers are great for entertainment value, as someone who has taken a long walk on a distance hiking trail it's always a lot more fun for me to read about the experiences of others. Here are my thoughts on the book A Walk for Sunshine by Jeff Alt - a memoir of his 1998 Appalachian Trail thru hike.
The thing I really enjoyed about this book was the trail journal style it took on from the very beginning. The book follows Jeff starting in Georgia - making the mistakes all newbie thru hikers make, and documenting his way northward into Maine. Being that his book takes place 20 years ago you would think that hikers of recent years might not find common ground with Alt (who adopts the name Wrongfoot mere hours into his hike). This is where you would be wrong. Although the trail has changed quite a bit since his hike in 1998, so much of it remains the same. Hikers who have even stepped once on the Appalachian Trail will immediately find common ground with Wrongfoot - knowing the places or parts of the trail he mentions.
Being that the book adopts the trail journal style, it's easy to get sucked into reading this book and not wanting to put it down (Seriously, I read it in an afternoon). Wrongfoot captures the spirit of a thru hike - the difficult and long days, the insanity of the weather brought forth by Mother Nature, even the simple pleasures of making it to a restaraunt as iconic as The Homeplace in Catawba, Virginia are documented here. I found myself laughing and reminiscing while reading this book, remembering the emotions and experiences I had at the shelters named and the hostels visited along the way.
One thing that cannot be overlooked in this story is the fact that Wrongfoot is hiking for charity. When he set out on the trail in 1998, he was raising money for Sunshine Communities - where his brother, Aaron, lived with cerebral palsy and mental disabilities. During the course of his hike Jeff not only raised money for Sunshine, he even started a Walk, Run, and Roll event that still takes place 20 years later. His annual inspired event has raised more than $500,000 to date for the Sunshine Communities.
The great thing about this 20th Anniversary edition book is the fact that there is an Epilogue about life lessons learned, as well as a post script for wannabe thru hikers. Also something I loved was the recommended reading list in the back - it has many of my favorite hiking memoirs listed, as well as it lets hikers of today know that the gear Wrongfoot carried in 1998 is by no means the gear you'd carry today. It has practical advice on the fact that the trail is now longer, gear is lighter, and information on the trail is endless. This practical advice is definitely welcome!
I highly recommend reading this book if you love books about thru hiking, especially on the Appalachian Trail. You'll find yourself laughing and cringing just like you would if you were talking to a friend about the trail. You can get a copy of the book your favorite local store or online as not only a paper book, but also an ebook. You can visit http://www.beaufortbooks.com for more information.