At recent readings and signings of their memoir Appalachian Odyssey; Walking the Trail from Georgia to Maine
, Steve Sherman and Julia Older compared experiences with other thru-hikers they met at bookstores, libraries and the Appalachian Mountain Club Conference Center in the White Mountains.
"Here's what we didn't have," the authors pointed out. Today, end-to-enders of the 2,000-mile long trail through 14 states on the eastern seaboard can talk live on cell phones to relatives, friends, other thru-hikers, hospitals, food markets, post offices and others. They can verify locations on GPS devices, listen-and-walk with iPods in their pockets and ears, send and receive emails, post their daily blogs, make archives with digital audio recorders, snap (click!)
hundreds of photos with digital cameras, turn on their electronic fish finders, take 7-minute portable shower bags hung from tree limbs, sit around campfires on lightweight collapsible chairs plus a long list of many other updated trail and camp gear that didn’t exist in the 70s.
On the other hand, Older was the 19th woman (Sherman the 181st man) to have hiked the A.T. in a single outing since the Appalachian Trail was completed in 1936 as the premier, continuously blazed "footpath through the wilderness."
Now thru-hikers total between 500-600 each year. This means that the thousands of others who begin the long trek but for one reason or another can't finish are so numerous that rangers of the already popular national and state parks and forests must be gatekeepers to the trails. Rangers have to stagger the entry of some of those walking the crowded sections of the A.T. Sherman and Older write in their memoir that at the outset of their hike they saw no one for the first three days in Georgia. Today "wilderness" has a different meaning.
In a way, Sherman and Older's memoir becomes a firsthand record of thru-hiking The Great Hike during a different era. This is one reason that their Appalachian Odyssey was awarded the only Honorable Mention in the Classic Category of the 2009 National Outdoor Book Awards (NOBA).
Ron Watters, chairman of the awards program, points out that the Outdoor Classic Award is given annually to a book that "over time has proven to be a significant work in the field."
The National Retail Federation and BIGresearch surveyed the buying interests of people on "Black Friday Weekend" after Thanksgiving, which each year is the most active for shoppers. A conclusion was that "the most popular purchases were of clothing and books (40.3 percent), which remained nearly unchanged over last year."
• One-fourth of Americans shopping during the weekend after Thanksgiving were shopping online.
• Random House continues its successful Books = Gifts program from last year. One theme is to remind people that books are gifts that you open again and again.