Gone from my coffee table are the stacks of newspapers, magazines and paperbacks, and even the cribbage board. After a long overdue wipe down, on the table’s wood surface now lies only a weighty large format hardbound copy of “Great Hiking Trails of the World,” an early Christmas present from my lovely and thoughtful wife.
Authored by Karen Berger, a Triple Crown hiker and world traveler, this big, beautiful book describes 80 of the most iconic, popular and diverse hiking trails on the planet, each accompanied by dozens of stunning photographs. The hikes range from a half-day to six months in an astounding collection that totals 75,000 miles across 38 countries on six continents.
While many of the paths described in Berger’s book are well trodden, a goodly number range from the lesser known to the downright obscure. Organized into six chapters, there are pilgrimages, historic hikes, mountain treks, wilderness sojourns, environmentally diverse pathways and long-distance trails.
“Great Hiking Trails of the World” is a must-have for intrepid explorers and armchair adventurers alike, a mind-boggling journey of discovery that’ll have you savoring each and every dreamy page, as well as taking copious notes for your burgeoning hiking and travel to-do list.
From the Appalachian Trail, the Wonderland Trail and the John Muir Trail in the U.S. to the GR20 in Corsica, the Coast to Coast Walk across England and Switzerland’s Haute, this hiker has ticked off 15 of the book’s trails and sampled portions of a half-dozen more. A good effort, maybe, but not nearly enough, if you know what I mean.
The Pacific Crest Trail is my next objective, all 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington; I leave for that hike April 2.
Walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain has always intrigued me with its good food and wine, simple accommodations and worldly camaraderie. Then there’s the Nepal Himalaya, because everybody should see Everest before they die, I figure. A month on the Annapurna Circuit would be amazing too.
The GR5 (GR is the French abbreviation for “grand randonnee” or long-distance path) connects the North Sea to the Mediterranean Sea through the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and France, crossing the Alps on its 375-mile route. Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is a must, as is England’s Pennine Way, the Alta Via 1 in Italy’s Dolomites and the Laugavegurinn Trail in Iceland.
Anything in New Zealand, like the Abel Tasman Track or Milford Track, would probably be bearable, as would a walk in Patagonia, perhaps the Torres del Paine Circuit or the Mt. Fitzroy Trail. Alas, there are too many trails and not enough time.
Written in just a year’s time, Berger has, in a larger sense, been researching and compiling this latest book for much of her 30-year career in the outdoors, during which she has logged more than 18,000 trail miles worldwide.
Berger has always been attracted to books like these, she noted in a recent phone interview. Of the many books she’s authored, this one is her favorite because it really showcases the amazing variety of walking opportunities that exist.
“Walking is part of what makes us human. We settled the world by walking,” said Berger. “When we walk, we experience places differently, see things more intensely, interact more with people.”
Berger’s favorite places to hike?
“New Zealand has a great system, it’s very hiker friendly and the people are wonderful, while France has thousands of miles of grand randonnees, an amazing variety of landscapes and great food,” Berger said.
So, where will your imagination and boots take you next?