On Trails: An Exploration, Robert Moor, 2016
This is a strange book in which the author, a 30 year old journalist from British Columbia searches for the meaning of trails. Inspired by a through walk of the Appalachian Trail, he goes back to pre-history to explore the origins of these paths drawing heavily on animal studies including ants, elephants, and perhaps most fascinating, the oldest trails known to man, the 565 million year old trails in Newfoundland of the Ediacarans, the first creatures known to have moved. Moor begins with this movement and follows the history of man’s use of trails to move through the chaos and endless choices of where to go, finally equating knowledge to movement, the trails of the past to the Internet. Traveling widely including working as a goat shepherd in Peru and hiking the International AT in Iceland, the book wanders too much for me, making it hard to keep the thread in mind. My favorite section was the Epilogue in which Moor finds and walks with M.J. Eberhart, the Nimble Nomad who at 75 walks endlessly among the long trails in the US. Eberhart’s experience raises for Moor the ultimate question of “Why do we hike?” He acknowledges the exercise, bonding with friends, submerging self into the wild, and the emotional highs of conquering, reflecting, repenting, etc, but feels that the real reason is to seek simplicity—an ‘escape from civilization’s garden of forking paths in the rigidly bounded experience of the trail—-freedom from choices!” Not a bad reason and a good summary of this book.