On the Beaten Path: An Appalachian Pilgrimage

On the Beaten Path: An Appalachian Pilgrimage

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by Robert Alden Rubin
     
 

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For anyone who enjoyed Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods or has a love of the outdoors in general or the Appalachian Trail in particular, here is an eloquent, wise, and witty account of how one man's six-month, end-to-end hike of the Appalachian Trail led him back home.

Every year, a couple thousand would-be "thruhikers" set out to walk the entire

Overview

For anyone who enjoyed Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods or has a love of the outdoors in general or the Appalachian Trail in particular, here is an eloquent, wise, and witty account of how one man's six-month, end-to-end hike of the Appalachian Trail led him back home.

Every year, a couple thousand would-be "thruhikers" set out to walk the entire 2,000-mile length of the Georgia-to-Maine Appalachian Trail. About one of every ten actually makes it.

Robert Rubin's chances did not look good. Thirty-eight years old, overweight, dispirited, and burned out by a job he'd once loved, he dreamed of leaving mortgage and wife and cul-de-sac life behind for a journey that could take half a year-or maybe never end. But what awaited him on the wooded ridges was not the solo trek he'd imagined. Rubin soon found himself part of a strange vagrant culture of pilgrims and dropouts, a world with its own rules and rituals. As the miles accumulate, Rubin must survive the path's physical and spiritual grind, and, even more daunting, confront what he's running from . . . and what he's searching for.

On the Beaten Path is not only a clear-eyed, loving look at the dwindling wilderness of the Appalachian Mountains, the history and landscape of the Appalachian Trail, and the remarkable hiker subculture that exists along it; it is also one man's captivating and beautifully written exploration of the wilderness within himself.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Depressed and tired of his dead-end life, 38-year-old Rubin (former editor of Carolina Quarterly) set out to walk the 2000-mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, thereby becoming one of the elite "thruhikers." Reminiscent of Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods (LJ 4/98), Rubin's account discloses the mystic aspects of the trail in even greater detail. Unlike Bryson's adventurous journey, during which he aimed to "rediscover" America, Rubin's is a six-month pilgrimage aimed at resolving personal issues and redirecting the author's life. The poignant tale of his predicament is well balanced with his descriptions of trail traditions, the thruhikers he meets on the trip, and various other experiences that only a thruhiker encounters. This engaging and enjoyable account is recommended for all travel collections.--Nancy J. Moeckel, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
School Library Journal
YA-Rubin recounts his 2000-mile journey from Springer Mountain, GA, to Mount Katahdin, ME. The journalist, whose trail name was Rhymin' Worm, began as an overweight, dispirited, burned-out urbanite, yet completed this feat in one season. This is not a "how to" book for thruhikers or a history of the AT, although bits of both can be found here, including maps of each section. It is really Rubin's reaction to the life and lore of the trail and his search for what is true and valuable about his life. He introduces readers to Rock Dancer, One Ramp, Loon, Bigfoot, Grizz, Java Joe, and a host of other muddy, sweaty, ragged but determined hikers. Through dialogue and description, he introduces the fellowship of the trail and throws in plenty of trivia without breaking stride. He talks about the fetish for fashionable hiking gear, quotes Henry David Thoreau, and explains "trail magic" and "slackpacking." With the finer but less esoteric details of life without baths, through days of rain and bugs, he helps readers understand why many thousands start the trail, but far fewer are true thruhikers. With finesse, Rubin succeeds as an informed journalist, a backpack-hoisting hiker, and a philosophical observer. Hikers, dreamers, and pilgrims of all sorts will find this an entertaining odyssey.-Cynthia J. Rieben, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
From the Publisher
“A beautiful story.”—Esquire “A book for the rest of us, who will never climb Annapurna but still need to do something to test our own physical and mental limits.”—National Geographic Adventure “Delightful. . . . [Rubin] writes humorously and honestly.”—Seattle Times “Engaging and enjoyable.”—Library Journal “Rubin opens his heart to hikers, people in the nearby towns and the reader, inviting everyone along to share both hardship and discovery. ... [He] tells a human tale of the search for meaning and the understandable need to reduce a complicated life to a simple passage from white blaze to white blaze, from town to town.”—News & Observer, Raleigh, North Carolina

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781599217437
Publisher:
Globe Pequot Press
Publication date:
03/03/2009
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
149,343
File size:
1 MB

What People are saying about this

Franklin Burroughs
There are two models for Robert Reuben's book. One is pilgrim's progress, the story of the spiritually isolated and burdened traveler whose difficult outward journey is compelled by inward affliction. The other is the Canterbury tales: an account of a pilgrimage whose lofty purposes are constantly undercut by the rich, destructing variety of the human comedy. Reuben's book belongs to our historical moment, but he understands how his unique circumstances and singular fellow travelers are new expressions of old compulsions. Thruhiking requires strenuous exertion and a nearly obsessive commitment, but it also evokes, in this writer and this book, an acute and unconventional wisdom.
—(Franklin Burroughs author of Billy Watson's Croker Sack and The River Home)
David Hays
Walk with this man! Start to finish, the whole trail, is beauty from hardship—and its value to the men and women who challenge themselves to succeed. This is a beautifully written story about a man who dares set out to change his life, packing along with his humor and all the bunions of foot and soul.
—(David Hays, coauthor of My Old Man and the Sea)

Meet the Author

Robert Alden Rubin is a wirter and editor who lives with his wife, Catherine, in Sykesville, Maryland.

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On the Beaten Path 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am about half way through the book and am loving it. I hope to one day make my own trek from South to North and this book sheds some wonderful insight to life on the trail.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have probably read 30 first person accounts from individuals who have hiked the AT and this is by far the best one I have found. The author goes beyond simply providing a day to day description of his hike. He helps to draw the reader into the deeper reasons for hiking and what motivates someone to undertake such an endeavor. If you are like me and dream of the day when you too can tread the white blazes, this is the book for you. I'll give you a warning though, it will really stoke the AT fires within you and make a thruhike permeate your thoughts even more!
Joe Mehal More than 1 year ago
I took a gamble on this relatively unknown author and dont regret it . Its hard to find books on this topic that aren't 'how to' or just maps and reference. The author immerses you in the thru-hike experience and gives a real flavor for life on the trail. Its hard to wrap your head around what a thru-hike really is: the distance, the time, the physical and mental aspects. This book shows you.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
More than any other book or article on thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, this one gives you an almost palpable sense of actually hiking besides the author. You can sense his fatigue at times and you share some of his frustrations with both trail life and interuptions to that life. Happily, this tale avoids the temptation to indulge in lofty trail-side philosophizing or woodsy sophistry. In many ways, it's just a story about a guy who took a very long walk in the woods. Perhaps the biggest message is that some things are just simply worth finishing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not a how to book. Doesn't bore with hiking tips but allows you to take what you want from his experience. Can easily relate to his need to search for more from life and wish I had the courage to take the same risk. Intelligent writing, love the flow, appreciate the honesty.