Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Southbound – A Tale of Two Sisters…Backpacking on the Appalachian Trail

“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.”
- - J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

A review of the book Southbound by Susan & Lucy Letcher

This book is a bit different than the typical Appalachian Trail journal. Obviously our heroes are walking south – Maine to George; whereas the vast majority of hikers go North. Of course the primary reason for the migration north is the weather. Most thru-hikers walk with (or into summer) spring, avoiding the dangers of winter. Our sisters are starting in Maine in black fly season and hiking directly into winter. They’re doing this with the added challenge of attempting to hike the trail barefoot – at least for “as long as it’s fun”. For me it would be comfortable for about two minutes and I’d have my boots back on. But I don’t think the sisters are crazy, they actually enjoy being close to the earth and are willing to patiently train their feet and minds to handle it. This process slows down there progress considerably, including an injury (that could have happened with or without boots) and puts them in the Smoky’s in mid February.

Walking south, fighting winter and trail stories is not what sets this book apart. The book is written by two sisters alternating writing a few pages at a time. The reader gets both of their points of view. We get a genuine understanding of the thoughts and emotions of each of the hikers. They’re not holding anything back. They’re not sugar coating reality. From ranting about the AMC to Jackrabbit (Susan) struggling on an off with what appears to be mild depression. Jackrabbit is younger (just out of college), very athletic with a black belt in Taekwondo and a passion for playing the piano. Iris (Lucy) is a few year older. She feels responsible for her little sister but starts out on the trail feeling inferior – not in the same physical condition as Jackrabbit, she’s afraid she will be left behind. Their adventures bring them to the depths of despair. Struggling with real life and death situations, learning to cope with loneliness as well as being engrossed in the beauty of nature and the solitude it allows. You can see them grow in mastery over their own minds and bodies as they approach Georgia. This book is honest and straight forward, filled with tenderness and love; it touches the depth of human emotions.

This book also has a sequel…I look forward to reading it soon.


Related Articles about AT Adventures….

White Blaze Fever

Ten Million Steps

Halfway to the Sky


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