On Oct. 2, 1968, Congress enacted the National Trails System Act, which spawned a whole series of national scenic, recreation, historic, geologic and water trails.
Celebrate the 50th anniversary of this landmark legislation with a good read or two about a few of these conservation gems that provide enjoyment for millions of Americans. Here are five favorites to investigate, four by Maine authors:
“In the Path of Young Bulls: An Odyssey on America’s Continental Divide Trail.” By Thomas Jamrog, Maine Authors Publishing, 2017, 263 pages.
At a time in life when most men are happily easing into retirement, Tom Jamrog of Lincolnville took up long-distance hiking, tackling the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. Satisfied but by no means sated, the then 63-year-old Jamrog sought the ultimate prize, the Continental Divide Trail. Jamrog’s story describes the desolate, brutal, expansive, majestic 3,000-mile journey, a monumental effort achieved in the company of hiking partners half his age. With palpable determination and commitment, Jamrog colorfully and honestly captures the highs and lows of thru-hiking through the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada.
“Appalachian Odyssey: A 28-Year Hike on America’s Trail.” By Jeffrey Ryan, DownEast Books, 2015, 321 pages
Jeff Ryan of Yarmouth, in the company of a good friend on Katahdin in September 1985, didn’t plan on hiking all of the Appalachian Trail. But after tackling short sections here and there over a few years, the duo realized that perhaps they should consider completing all 2,181 miles. In October 2013, after 28 years of devoting their vacation time and logging untold travel miles to and from the trail, Jeff and his buddy finished their amazing section hike of the AT. This pleasing story is truly about the journey and not the destination, about thoroughly enjoying each day of the adventure, from trip planning to time on the road to actual hiking, while letting the overall miles take care of themselves.
“Blazing Ahead: Benton MacKaye, Myron Avery, and the Rivalry That Built the Appalachian Trail.” By Jeffrey Ryan, AMC Books, 2017, 396 pages
Benton MacKaye first proposed the Appalachian Trail in 1921, but the idea foundered until 1928, when Lubec native Myron Avery got involved. Through Avery’s determined efforts, a continuously marked trail was completed from Georgia to Maine in 1937. Acerbic and self-righteous, often vindictive and mean-spirited, Avery was obsessed with the AT and wanted to get it done at any cost. Sadly, MacKaye, “the dreamer,” and Avery, “the doer,” had an irreparable falling out along the way, but Jeff Ryan is convinced that the AT could not have been realized without Avery. Ryan delved deep into Avery’s letters housed at the Maine State Library, and his research and brilliant story weaving paid off handsomely with this great book.
“Tamed: A City Girl Walks from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail.” By Anne O’Regan, self-published, 2010, 166 pages
After two decades of corporate life in Boston, Anne O’Regan broke free of her urban comfort zone to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650-mile solo trek. In California, O’Regan endured blazing sun in the waterless Mojave Desert and traversed the snowy Sierra Nevada, topping out at 13,000 feet on Forrester Pass. That high turned dangerously low when she nearly drowned while attempting to ford the raging snowmelt of Bear Creek. Battered but not beaten, she marched on through the Cascades of Oregon and Washington to reach the finish after five long months. O’Regan, now a Farmington resident, vividly describes the raw emotions, grueling climbs and incredible scenery of the PCT in this fine hiking journal.
“Hiking the Florida Trail: 1,100 Miles, 78 Days, Two Pairs of Boots, and One Heck of an Adventure.” By Johnny Malloy, University Press of Florida 2008, 208 pages
The Florida Trail is one of the most ecologically diverse but least traveled big trails in the U.S. Extending from Big Cypress National Preserve through the state’s rural and wild interior to Gulf Islands National Seashore, the 1,100-mile trail presents a surprisingly daunting test. Johnny Molloy’s determination “to see Florida up close and personal and in slow motion” resulted in this engaging account of his 78-day hike through cypress swamps, palm thickets, pine forests and sawgrass prairies, punctuated here and there by encounters with snakes, alligators, mosquitoes and wild boars. After meeting Molloy and reading his book (one of 44 he’s written), I was inspired to thru-hike the Florida Trail.