Appalachian Trail Memoirs

8 June 2013 9:00 pm0 commentsViews: 119

The AT is a phenomenal place.

Hiking the entire AT can bring profound realizations about self. Many hikers find themselves compelled to share the story of their hike in a book. There are veritable libraries of Appalachian Trail memoirs and I have taken the time to lay out a list of some of the best for you.

Growing up on the East Coast myself, I am quite fond of this particular type of adventure book. They are the perfect companion to refresh you when you are away from the trail. I hope you get as much enjoyment from these books as I do.

The List:

Book Description
AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller
This is one of the most well known AT memoirs in the trail community for a reason. David Miller does an exceptional job expressing his eloquent thoughts on paper. This book is his story of leaving his job as a software engineer in 2003 to thru-hike the AT. As you follow David’s progress on the trail, you are introduced to thru-hiking and share in the insights he gains from walking. I recommend this to anyone looking for a first trail memoir to read.
Becoming Odyssa: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail by Jennifer Pharr Davis

Recent college graduates and recent retirees make up the largest portion of AT tru-hikers. Becoming Odyssa will resonate particularly well with the former of these groups because it is the account of the coming of age AT thru-hike Jennifer Pharr Davis had in 2005 following her graduation from college. Jennifer is a remarkable story teller and a remarkable hiker. Don’t miss out on this book or on her other AT book, Called Again (included farther down the list), which is about her third thru-hike of the AT.
Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian trail by Bill Walker
Bill Walker is another exceptional storyteller who thru-hiked the AT in 2005. “Skywalker” is the humorous and humbly-told account of this first-time backpacker learning his way. The name of the book comes from Bill’s trail name, which was bestowed for his distinguishing height of 6’11″ (2.10 meters). Bill Walker has gone on to hike the PCT, the Camino de Santiago, and the Annapurna Circuit, and has also written books about each of those journeys as well. Check out the full book review of Skywalker — Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail, here.
Walking with Spring by Earl Shaffer
In 1948, the 11-year-old Appalachian Trail was a world apart from what it is today. Despite being completed, the trail lacked proper maintenance and marking but that did not phase Earl Shaffer. Having just returned from war in the Pacific, Earl sought to journey the entire length of the AT, which was something that had never before been done. This 2004 trail memoir is an account of the first thru-hike of the AT and is well worth reading. Shaffer went on to hike the trail 3 times during his life, including once an astounding fifty years post his initial thru-hike.
The Trail Of My Life, The Gene Espy Story by Gene Espy
Gene Espy was the second thru-hiker to complete the AT doing so in 1951. I had the privilege of hearing him speak about his hike at 2013 Trail Days, and I was fascinated by the highlights of the account. The 1951 thru hike was equally rugged as Shaffer’s in ’48, and Espy finished his hike in a little under 4 months with a 50 lb pack. The Trail of My Life is an account not only of Espy’s thru-hike but also includes area of his life and career beyond the hike. You may be able to get a used copy from Amazon or you can pick up a new autographed copy directly from his website,
Hiking Through: One Man’s Journey to Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail by Paul Stutzman
Hiking Through is an emotional tale of Stutzman’s 2010 thru-hike that was completed following the loss of his wife to breast cancer. It the story of a search for meaning that will relate to all aspiring thru-hikers of all ages. The specific circumstances of the hike may make this book more appealing to the crowd of folks who hike later in life. After his hike, Stutzman also completed a cross country bike ride and published Biking Across America.

Called Again: A Story of Love and Triumph by Jennifer Pharr Davis

This book is a crossover from the High Intensity List. It’s the account of Jennifer Pharr Davis’s 2011 thru-hike of the AT in record time. This book exists at a very different pace than the remaining books on this list but it is a quite unique story. Check out the full review here.


Take 30 minutes of the next 24 hours and set it aside to read something adventurous,

“We spend and inordinate amount of time indoors, and the physical confinement limits the metaphorical bubble of our aspirations.” – David Miller, AWOL on the Appalachian Trail


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