book review

A Walk For Sunshine - a hiking memoir and book review

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. 

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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 for more information.  

A Walk for Sunshine

Wild, by Cheryl Strayed: Part two of my book review

In Part One of my review of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, I got into the things I really despised about the book.  Now, in part two, I’ll let you know the things Cheryl did right on her hike and whether or not I recommend the book.  

The first thing that really impressed me was the fact that Strayed learned how to use and practiced using her water pump at home before leaving for her hike.  Why she didn’t do this with all her gear is baffling, but the fact that she read enough to know that water is a premium on the southern part of the PCT and planned accordingly was impressive to me.   Also when it comes to water, she does another thing right by sleeping with her water bottles at night.  Despite being incredibly hot during the day, it can definitely drop into freezing temperatures at night in the desert!  Sleeping with your bottles will keep them from freezing because of the transfer of your body heat.  

Cheryl also does an incredibly smart thing by bringing not only a compass, but a book that tells her how to actually use the thing.  Not everyone thinks of that when attempting to use one.  Yes, it will show you which way north is, but there is a lot more to reading the compass with a map than just looking towards north!  She taught herself how to do this while hiking on the trail and then puts her skills to use in the book when doing a bypass due to high snowpack.  She does so successfully.  

Another great thing the author mentions in her book is the fact that she leaves her backpack outside when going into a business.  This is a really great thing to mention in a book which may trigger hundreds of hopefuls out to the trails.  By leaving your pack outside a business you are being respectful of not only the business owners, but also the other patrons inside the business.  You smell bad enough, but the pack adds to that smell tenfold!  Leave it outside and help keep hikers in a positive light!

Despite her heavy pack weight and her gross lack of experience hiking, she is actually trying to hike.  She mentions one day criticizing herself for only hiking 8.5 miles, yet also mentions how thankful she is to be out and on the Pacific Crest Trail.  The mentality it takes to get yourself through a day as a long-distance hiker is often more powerful that your physical strength and Cheryl really has the mental toughness to get herself through the 1100 miles with her own toughness.  This tone is seen very few times throughout the book, but when it is seen, it’s refreshing.

In closing, I would not recommend this book at all.  On a scale of 1 to 5 I’d rate it 1.5 stars.  The major gripe I had about the book is the subtitle “From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” mostly because I don’t feel like this book even began to delve into Strayed finding herself at all.  The book read more like a story to me and not like a memoir.  I feel like she barely even began to say how she was healing from the loss of her mother, finding herself as a young adult, and coming into her own after her divorce.  While all these things were mentioned throughout the book, only in the closing pages does she even really mention her hike being over and her feeling like a stronger or healthier person from her hike.  The title alone is misleading.  

If you’re looking for a story about hiking on the PCT and enjoyed Bill Bryson’s book “A Walk in the Woods” this book is probably for you.  I’m very glad that the book is getting attention to the PCT and hopefully will help people become more active in trail maintenance clubs and fundraising.  I, however, will not be seeing the film or recommending it to anyone looking for a good memoir of hiking.  


Wild, by Cheryl Strayed: A 2-part book review

After being asked countless times how I feel about the book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, I took the time to finally read it in hopes of doing a review for my readers.  I’ve got so much to say about this book that I’ve decided to do a two part review on my blog in hopes to finally answer all the questions I’ve been asked about the book.  In part one, I’m going to list all my gripes and complaints of the book.  Part two will be my positive thoughts because, hey, we should end on a good note, right?!  Let’s dive right in: 

During the book I did a lot of eye rolling.  I’m not going to lie that it struck me immediately that Strayed is a writer and I feel that the entire book was written in such a way to dramatize certain events to, well, sell books.  The major eye rolling points for me came every time she meets and mentions a man in her book.  Any man to Cheryl is either incredibly good looking or incredibly creepy.  As a long-distance hiker myself, I can tell you I’ve never felt this was the case.  Every time a man isn’t sexy, the situation turns dramatic with the author having fleeting thoughts of being raped and murdered on the side of a remote highway or at a campsite.  Every time a man is remotely good looking, we have to hear how she thinks of laying next to them or touching them or being close to them in some way, shape or form.  As a woman, reading a book that so many people find empowering this is really disheartening to me.  In a way, it seems to perpetuate a stereotype that women are damsels who are in constant need of help or protection and need a man to hike with them.  

Along the same lines of being a damsel, Strayed is afraid of SO MANY THINGS along her hike.  In the first pages of her books, she describes carrying “the world’s loudest whistle” in lieu of a gun (which really doesn’t need to ever be carried on a trail, so the mention of this is irritating in itself).  She talks of spending her teenage years living “in the north woods of Minnesota” yet is afraid of animals when she encounters them - the most memorable being in her first days on the trail when she is terrified of a creature she continuously calls a “moose”.  She on one page describes being afraid of hearing coyotes calling out and on another mentions it to be a comforting thought of home in those north woods.  

Cheryl, with the exception of her water filter, has done no testing of her gear.  She has no idea how to fit things into her pack and actually breaks her stove due to not even bothering to see what kind of fuel it needs.  Granted, if she would have hydrated her food in water all day while she hiked she wouldn’t have been in such dire straits as she risks running out of food until her stove gets fixed.  Her backpack is lovingly named “Monster” due to the fact that it is half her weight and she carries nearly 25 pounds worth of water every day.  It’s not a wonder she finds herself beating up her feet (losing six toenails during her 1100-mile hike) and getting chafed and calloused due to ill-fitting gear!  Even her resupplies seem ill-planned.  While she does mail herself all the food she plans to need at her resupply points, she severely limits herself by carrying on $20 at a time, most of which she immediately spends at the small store or restaurant she’s in.  At one place, she can barely tip a dime due to this lack of money.  This not only is risky, it gives hikers a bad name in trail towns due to poor tipping, especially when trail towns tend to be incredibly small stops where businesses are small and family-owned.  

Be sure to read part two of my review posting soon.  I’ll go over the positive things I read in the book, as well as give my conclusions and recommendations about reading the book!