Books That Took Me on Adventures in 2016

The finished books

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste NG

This book took me off guard. It took my attention from the very beginning. The story of this multi-national family is both eye-opening and funny. I enjoyed reading in the perspectives of each of the main characters.

Based on the recommendation of a friend, I opened this book with absolutely no idea what it was about. Everything I Never Told You is the story of a teenage girl… and her brother… and her father… and her mother. As the reader, you’ll get the chance to delve into each character’s life – before, during, and after the mysterious disappearance of this teenage girl. You might think this story has been told before, but I guarantee it hasn’t been told in this way.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

First off, adventure-seekers of all kinds would most likely be fascinated by this true story of a man who sold all his possessions, left his traditional life behind, and chose to live a life off the grid and in the moment, taking each day as it came.

One of my greatest enjoyments and frustrations with this book is the amount of emotion it brought out of me. Unsurprisingly, the emotions were not always good ones, but I consider it a success when a story has the power to do that.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

You may be more familiar with the name The Golden Compass, as the controversial film (starring Nicole Kidman) was named. Unfortunately, the film trilogy was never completed, due to some supposed anti-Christian material.

This book series includes The Golden Compass (a.k.a. The Northern Lights), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. This story had such a powerful message. In my opinion, Philip Pullman didn’t send an anti-Christian message. More so, he suggested to the reader the idea of seeing a bigger picture that is not reliant on, or confined to, conventional religion.

The series, so full of adventure and action, reminds me that we are humans with the ability to act in the ways that we choose. We must use our own logic to decide how those small actions will affect the bigger picture.

The story follows loudmouthed, tomboy Lyra from adolescence to young adulthood, as she travels the world by foot, boat, balloon, and bear. She bounces from one world to the next, with an ever-changing mission, meeting friends of all ages and species. The twists and turns are endless. I would highly recommend losing yourself in this series for the next few weeks.

 

A Journey North by Adrienne Hall

Adrienne Hall wrote a well-researched book about thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail with her boyfriend. The reason I say “well-researched” is because there are a LOT of facts in this book – scientific facts about plants, wildlife, and the environment. I was disappointed by the imbalance of the facts compared to the author’s memories of actually being on the trail. I found myself craving more story, and less science. However, I learned quite a bit about these topics, and I would have been a lot more bored had I not been interested in them.

Here’s an important heads up before you go out and read this book: It is not so much a thru-hiker’s memoir, as it is a conservationist’s soap box.

Two Coots in a Canoe by David Morine

My library has absolutely no adventure books. I must be the only person in twenty miles who enjoys this kind of story, because I’ve searched for dozens of titles with no luck. The only outdoor, adventure books I could find were A Journey North by Adrienne Hall and Two Coots in a Canoe by David Morine.

I checked this book out of the local library, based solely on the title. Once I saw the name, I burst out laughing and showed my wife (who also thought it was pretty funny).

I wasn’t sure if I would actually read the book, but I ended up doing just that.

The one satisfying thing about this book is that the title is incredibly accurate. Two Coots in a Canoe is about two funny, old guys (or just two old guys who think they’re funny) looking for an adventure, so they decide to take a trip down the Connecticut River in a canoe. The hook is that they stay with a different generous stranger each night of the trip.

It’s been a few months since I read this book, so I jolted my memory by reading a few reviews. I had forgotten how bothered I was by David Morine’s judgment of anyone who doesn’t live the traditional life that he lived. Throughout the book, Morine made very questionable comments about women, sexuality, mental illness, and about the current (as of 2003) expressive fashion trends. I guess I struggle to identify with the author (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) but some of his judgmental comments made me cringe.

On a separate note, there was quite a bit about environmental conservation, as the author is a conservationist, himself . Morine brought to light a number of environmental issues that the reader might not be aware of, involving the pollution of our waterways and the state of the creatures living in them.

Overall, Morine entertained me with his tale. It was a different story than I had ever read before, although I’m hesitant to recommend it because of the reasons I mentioned earlier.

AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller

This is the best Appalachian Trail thru-hiker book I have read so far. If you have ever hiked the Appalachian Trail, or plan to, you may have heard of David “AWOL” Miller. He is the author of one of the trail’s most popular guidebooks entitled The A.T. Guide, which he updates every year.

Miller hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2003, and AWOL on the Appalachian Trail is his detailed and honest travelogue. I am so impressed by how Miller managed to keep such a consistent record of his hike, as if the hike itself wasn’t trying enough. I can’t say for sure, but I remember thinking that he didn’t skip a day of journaling.

I enjoyed this book so much, because Miller gave the reader what he promised: a day-by-day account of his Appalachian Trail thru-hike. He didn’t get too off topic at any point in the book, but he also didn’t write boring, monotonous details. For those reasons, he had my attention from beginning to end. I would highly recommend reading this book!

National Geographic: The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide by Andrew Skurka

I would not recommend reading this book, UNLESS you have a great interest in backpacking. It’s not frilly with stories, although Andrew Skurka does provide readers with a few bits from his adventures, as they pertain to certain gear items. For the most part Skurka sticks to the point of providing us with his gear picks, why he recommends them, and how they are useful in the field.

This guy has got tens of thousands of miles of backpacking under his belt. He has had such a variety of adventures, it’s almost silly to gloss over his advice. If you’re planning a thru-hike or an extended backpacking trip, pick up Skurka’s book at your local REI. You can also find some of his talks on YouTube.

Appalachian Trials: A Psychological and Emotional Guide to Thru-Hike the Appalachian Trail by Zach Davis

You have probably heard of this book if you are planning on thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, and you might have heard of this book even if you aren’t planning on thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. It has been fantastically marketed! The Appalachian Trials website (which is now called The Trek) pops up on the top Appalachian Trail page list of most search engines.

That totally useless information (unless you’re a nerd about hiking, like I am) said, this is not a memoir of Zach Davis’s thru-hike. It is a lighthearted, motivational book about how to obtain the psychological stamina required to hike the Appalachian Trail from end-to-end. Davis was smart enough to name his book accordingly. You’ll also find how-to-hike-the-Appalachian-Trail information, too. Davis gives his best advice on the more physical side of hiking.

The style of this book might throw you off, though, as it’s written more like a blog than a book. Luckily, I am a blogger so it didn’t bother me!

Overall, I enjoyed the book and read it from cover to cover very quickly. It’s an easy read, and it was refreshing to hear about Appalachian Trail thru-hiking from a different perspective.

The unfinished books (with explanation!)

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Okay, I’m a big fan of the television series. What a story! The books… I’d go either way on the books. I still love the story, but sometimes George R.R. Martin goes a little too far to the obscene side for my liking. That said, I probably would have continued with the books if it were a different time. I’ve just got my mind on the Appalachian Trail, and have been primarily craving hiking books.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

I do not have one bad word about this book. I’ve read more than half of it and I plan to finish it. I will probably read it again and again. It’s that kind of book.

Elizabeth Gilbert is such an interesting author, and I absolutely love the way she writes.

But here’s my warning: It is nothing like Eat, Pray, Love so don’t buy it thinking it will be.

This is the first of two motivational books I read this year, and I enjoyed this one thoroughly. Much of her writing, in this book, is about writing. Unsurprisingly, I (a lifelong writer) love it for that reason. But the book is also about creativity of all kinds.

Gilbert encourages the reader to grab hold of creative ideas, and to delve into them immediately. I absolutely love her theory on the relentless movement of these creative ideas. If we don’t own them and use them, they will move on to someone else.

Two Tents Down’s recommendation: Buy this book!

The current books

I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago by Hape Kerkeling

I finished this after the year ended, so I’ll call it a “2016 current book”. Anyway, I loved it! One of my coworkers recommended it to me, a few months ago. She read it in German and found that it was also published in English, so she suggested I read it.

I very much enjoyed this book about the famous German comedian, Hape Kerkeling, who decides to take a spiritual walk on the Camino De Santiago. He starts all alone, but gains various walking partners along the way.

The book is really funny! There’s no shock there. I like that Kerkeling doesn’t make jokes at anyone’s expense (unless he feels they deserve it). The greatest reason I liked this book, is because of Kerkeling’s clear transformation along his journey. His conscious and unconscious efforts to change himself physically, mentally, spiritually, and socially made this book very interesting to read!

The Harry Potter Series audiobooks by J.K. Rowling (voiced by Jim Dale)

No need for an introduction, here. I read them as a child, and then again as an adult (Check out the review I wrote last year!). Now I’m listening to them on audio. Talk about mixing it up! It’s such a refreshing way to explore this story!

I’m currently on book number five: The Order of the Phoenix. Of course, this is the part of the series where it gets really intense and serious. The narrator, Jim Dale, is fantastic! His voices will get you laughing, crying, or shaking with anger.

Two Tents Down’s recommendation: Please try this series on audio! I guarantee you’ll enjoy it!

The next book

The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit by Shirley Maclaine

On top of reading the stack of hiking books that just arrived from possibly every library in the state (other than my own), I plan to read about Shirley Maclaine’s spiritual pilgrimage on the famous Camino de Santiago. I found out about this European walking trail when I watched the movie The Way, and was intrigued by it, ever since. Now that I’ve finished I’m Off Then (the book by the German comedian), I’m hungry for more!

From the reviews I’ve read, this book is… different. A lot of people down-talk it, because of Shirley Maclaine’s non-traditional ideas about spirituality and extraterrestrial life. Well, I think it’s all the more reason for me to read it!

Hungry for more books?

Take a look at 19 Books That Took Me on Adventures in 2015.

What’s the best book you read in 2016??

Leave any comments or questions below, or feel free to email me! I promise I’ll respond! 🙂

Who am I?

My name is Lauren! I created and run Two Tents Down. I love all types of adventures, but mostly those of the outdoor nature (Get it?). Find out more about me, in my about page.

My next big adventure is going to be epic! I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail from end-to-end with my life on my back. My journey starts in March of 2017. Follow my thru-hike on social media by clicking one of the buttons to the right, or clicking on one of the links below.

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As always, thank you so, so much for reading!

If you need me, I’m just Two Tents Down!

 

 

Pre-Appalachian Trail Class of 2017 Thru-Hike: The First Step

So here it is: I’m thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2017. There, I said it. I’ve taken the first step. It’s real. And my departure date is less than five months away. This is happening so fast!img_9439

Wait, what IS the Appalachian Trail?

The Appalachian Trail is a long-distance hiking trail that runs through 14 states, from the top of Springer Mountain in Georgia to the top of Mount Katahdin in Maine. According to Time, Brenton MacKaye came up with the idea of the Appalachian Trail in 1921. Inspired volunteer groups built and completed the Trail by the year 1937.

The elevation of the Appalachian Trail spans from about 100 ft. to 6,500 ft., running as a roller coaster of ups and downs throughout. Famous places along the Trail include Massachusetts’ Mt. Greylock’s War Memorial Tower, Maine’s 100-Mile Wilderness, West Virginia’s Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters, Georgia’s Blood Mountain, North Carolina’s Hot Springs, and New Hampshire’s Mount Washington.

I’ll answer more questions throughout this entry, but if you are still curious, here are 10 Things You Should Know About the Appalachian Trail, according to History.com.

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How long is the Appalachian Trail?

I can’t give you an exact mileage count because the Trail is constantly changing! Each source seems to have a different number: Wikipedia estimates the Trail to be 2,200 miles long. The U.S. National Park Service says the trail is 2,180img_9079 miles long. Regardless of the mileage, it is a heck of a long trail!

Who hikes the Appalachian Trail?

An easy answer is that anyone can hike the Appalachian Trail, and many different types of people have done it. People of all ages and backgrounds, with varying levels of physical abilities, have hiked this trail. Here is an interesting article by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy that includes statistics, interesting facts, and a list of noteworthy A.T. hikers.

img_8496There are many different types of hikers on the Trail: Day hikers spend hours on the trail, section hikers spend days or weeks on the trail, and thru-hikers spend anywhere from 3 to 7 months on the trail.

Each hiker has a different technique. Some hike from the northernmost point of the Appalachian Trail to the southernmost point. Others hike from South to North. Some carry nothing, and hike with a team that will cart their supplies from point A to point B. Some carry small, light packs, and might stay in towns and resupply as needed. And then there are hikers (like I plan to be) who carry everything from a tent to a toothbrush on their backs.

Note: There is no one way to hike the Appalachian Trail, and a common mantra for hikers is to “hike your own hike”.

The idea

This idea of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail has been in the back of my mind for a few years now. My wife and I put it on our adventure bucket list a while back. Between then and now, we’ve had many adventures, including:

  • Surviving record-breaking rains and flooding on a camping trip to the Lake District in England
  • Living in the United Kingdom and visiting cities like Manchester, Liverpool, and Edinburgh
  • Spending a year teaching English in China traveling to cities like Hong Kong, Beijing, and Xiamen
  • Walking and eating our way through Manhattan upon our return to the U.S., from China
  • A cross-country train ride, from New York City to Chicago
  • Honeymooning on a camping and hiking trip in Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks
  • Camping and hiking all over Wisconsin
  • Vacationing in Northern England, eating mounds of Indian food, trying new beers in Manchester, and hiking the rolling hills of the countryside

Ever since we got into camping and hiking, my wife and I have dreamed of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. In our heads, it was like the epitome of adventures! The dream was fuzzy, though. It never seemed close enough to grab hold of. It’s funny, really. I couldn’t grab hold of it, but the dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail sure grabbed hold of me. 20140719_111232

The reality

It has been a whirlwind of events over the last few years, while living in Wisconsin. When Rhesia and I returned home from traveling, we never imagined we would still be here three years later. We had plans to go off traveling again; plans to maybe spend another year teaching English abroad, or to work on an organic coffee farm. But of course, things don’t always go as planned.

Instead of going off to travel, we stayed home in Wisconsin. In that time, some amazing things happened. Most notably, I got married! What’s even more perfect than marrying the person I love, is the fact that my wife is my travel partner and my hiking companion. So together, we decided that we will embark on the epitome of adventures!

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The inspiration came to us last winter. Let me tell you, one winter in Wisconsin is enough to give anyone itchy feet, and I’ve been itching for years. In fact, when I went off to college my dad called me a “rolling stone”. I think he knew I wasn’t the type to stay in one place for too long. Anyway, Rhesia and I have now been in Wisconsin for two consecutive winters, and we are hesitantly heading into the third. We have certainly tried to make the best of the winters here, but after last winter, I think we both knew it was time to go. So that’s how the idea snowballed (You see what I did there?).

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A pleasant Surprise

The idea snowballed so much that two of our friends decided to drop everything and come with us. I think it started as a twinkle in their eyes. They casually brought up the idea of joining us, in conversation. They started asking us questions about the Appalachian Trail. Then they did their own research, and the dream grabbed hold of them, too.

Here is where they will be documenting their adventure: A Journey of Two Thousand Miles

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What have we been up to since making the plan to hike the Appalachian Trail?

Since then, we have been… training. In my mind, training includes hiking, camping, exercising, researching, planning, and buying gear. It pretty much means that we have been obsessing over the Appalachian Trail for at least nine dscn3424months.

I can imagine my friends, family, and coworkers have pretty much had it with me talking about this. But you know what? Zach Davis of Appalachian Trials gave me some great advice, in his book. He said to tell everyone I know that I’m planning a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail. He said that in doing that, the idea is real and I’m held accountable for my goal. His advice actually worked. The more people I told, the more real it felt, and the more inspired I became.

Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail wasn’t just a dream anymore. That fuzzy image had become perfectly focused, and strikingly spectacular! I’m ready. This is going to happen. I will thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in 2017.

Further Reading

11 Things I Wish I’d Known before Hiking the Appalachian Trail by Maggie Wallace of the Matador Network

 

Five Myths about hiking the Appalachian Trail By Everett Potter of USA Today

 

Hike the 2000-mile trail that most people never finish by Dina Spector of Business Insider

 

7 Reasons Why Hiking the Appalachian Trail is for Lazy People Too by Megan Maxwell of Appalachian Trials

Until next time…

As always, thank you so much for reading! I look forward to hearing your feedback! If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to send me an email: twotentsdown@yahoo.com. Come find me on social media. There, I post my latest blog entries, and articles I find interesting or helpful to fellow campers, hikers, and travelers. Add me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and Bloglovin’.

If you need me, I’m Two Tents Down!dscn3180-copy