I could tell you like so many other authors that I never set out to write a book.
But I’d be lying.
I’ve been yearning to write a second book since age 7, when I wrote and illustrated “The True Story of Dogs in the Army”, which was of huge significance to me. I couldn’t wait until my mother weighed in with her review. It left such an impression that she kept it for more than 50 years. (She recently gave it back to me, which was a great moment.)
Over the succeeding decades, I had several false starts in writing my second book. There was plenty of raw material to work with. I spent six months on the Pacific Crest Trail in 1983. I climbed Maine’s highest 50 mountains in less than a year. I hiked the length of Vermont’s Long Trail between 1986 and 1991. And while those thousands of miles yielded dozens of spiral bound notepads filled with observations and reminiscences, they didn’t give me the one thing I needed to shape them into something meaningful — perspective.
By the time Wayne Cyr and I completed our 28-year Appalachian Odyssey, I was thinking about how best to tell the tale. I didn’t want it to be the typical “we ate oatmeal and walked 12 miles” story that’s been experienced and told many times over. What I wanted to share with my readers is that this journey was different right down to its DNA. It is a story of perseverance, commitment and friendship, all of which strengthened as the years went by. It is also a story of how we began our journey without even knowing we were on one — that by simply following a shared passion for hiking, we were setting out on the adventure of a lifetime.
And so, like our journey itself, my quest to write a book became a different adventure than the one that started when I wrote my first words. I thought I was sitting down to write a book about hiking. But it became something bigger. Something I could only create with the benefit of many years and many miles behind me. The trail was simply the stage. The scenery changed between acts and the actors got older and better as the performance went on. And the play wasn’t so much about the hike per se, but the things that comprise a life filled with purpose and meaning.
As I wrote in my preface, what I came to realize was that,
If we head in the direction of our dreams and accept the winds and rains that will test our resolve, we can experience the deep satisfaction of looking back upon the path of a life well lived.
Little did I know that following the path would also lead to a second book as well.by