Although winter may not be relenting enough to hike, the upside is that there’s no better time to put your feet up, sip some hot chocolate, and enjoy a good trail book. Here are two of our top picks to add to your trail anthology:
Dirt Work by Christina Byl
While normal hikers appreciate big views, wildflowers in bloom, or clouds drifting overhead, I must admit to spending a slightly inordinate amount of hiking time checking out the trail under my feet. A good trail can do much to enhance the hiking experience, but the worst are prone to erosion or just generally boring hiking. Each step of a well-built trail is carefully planned and constructed with a great deal of muscle and sweat.
Without being on a crew (and I highly recommend the experience), it’s hard to get a sense for the art, science and just plain dirty work that goes into building an excellent trail. In “Dirt Work”, Christina Byl recounts her journey from a rookie crew member building alpine trails in Glacier National Park to a crew leader calling the shots in the wilderness of Alaska.
Byl has vast experience working on trail crews and she accurately portrays the “work hard, play hard” experience of the traildog life. The book rolls the dirt and the glory of trail-building into a fascinating and insightful assessment into the proud blue-collar world behind your favorite trail and will leave you yearning to spend a summer cutting tread in the high country.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
With a life unraveling and out of control, Cheryl Strayed undertakes an ambitious hike to try to make sense of it all. And by rather ambitious I mean she merely sets out to hike the majority of the Pacific Crest Trail. Solo. Of course she has scant experience, a pack much too big, and boots painfully too small. Despite this prescription for epic failure she perseveres and chronicles the drudgery, pain, and elation of life on the long trail in wonderful detail.
In my experience, time in the woods alone brings a sense of perspective and clarity to life, and after months on the trail Strayed works through the crucible and comes out on the other side a truly different person.