52 Books: Books 28/29

This set of books both happen to be by Colin Fletcher, a pioneering backpacker and writer in the 1960s. Through his experiences and writings he became a “spiritual godfather” of the wilderness backpacking movement.

I started out reading The Thousand-Mile Summer. Published in 1964, the book follows Fletcher’s hike traversing the state of California from Mexico to the Oregon border. The first part of the book focuses on his experience in the desert. Following the topography, the end of the book finishes with the mountains. I thought there was more of a focus on the desert and he kind of petered out at the end with the mountains, which was a bit disappointing since mountains are my favorite. Overall, this was a great read, though his writing style takes some getting used to.
Excerpts from the The Thousand-Mile Summer:
Ideas that burst on you at three o’clock in the morning, looking as if they will change your life, have a despicable habit of losing their luster in the daylight. But very occasionally once or twice in a lifetime – they fulfill their promise, right to the end.

You cannot walk alone through virgin desert, day after day, without responding to the solitude. You do not grow lonely; you pass over instead into an aloneness that leave you free and content.

Now the danger had passed, I felt thankful that the desert had reminded me in time how fine a line divides safety from tragedy  – and how easily a moment of carelessness can send you stumbling across it.

One of the deeply satisfying things about a mountain – almost any mountain – is the way it can at the same time belong exclusively to so many people.

And suddenly I wanted the comforts of everyday life… for more than a thousand miles I traveled alone and it had never occurred to me to feel lonely; but now, above all, I wanted to companionship. I was ready at last for The Walk to end.

The second book by Fletcher was The Man Who Walked Through Time. Published in 1968, this book details his experience as the first man to walk the full length of the Grand Canyon. What he did was intriguing, but I didn’t like this book nearly as much as The Thousand-Mile Summer, I think it was because he spent so much time contemplating the evolution of the world. I wanted to read about his hiking experience and not just dreamy thoughts one man had about the past.

Excerpts from the The Man Who Walked Through Time:
…you always mean to start a long walking trip in good physical condition. Your plans wisely include a series of lengthening workouts with full pack. But the pressure of last-minute preparation always seems to crown them out, and you arrive at the starting point not only mentally exhausted but equipped with flacid muscles and slipper-soft feet.

Cross-country on foot, miles are always misleading. The hours are what count. In the Canyon, miles became virtually meaningless.

You cannot escape the age you live in: you are a product of it.

The world is not, unfortunately, all beauty or all grandeur. And what I needed now, as a corrective, was some ugliness and some pettiness. {At the end of his walk through the Grand Canyon, Fletcher contemplated driving through Las Vegas on his way home}.

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