Book Review

The New Appalachian Trail (Appalachian Hiker III)
Edward B. Garvey
Menasha Ridge Press,
Birmingham, Alabama 1997

 


The New Appalachian Trail is Ed Garvey's third and culminating addition to his Appalachian Hiker series. The book, and the achievement it describes, are a wonderfully fitting tribute to a life devoted to the enjoyment and preservation of the Appalachian Trail.

Mr. Garvey's efforts to maintain and protect the trail have been on-going for almost 50 years. A longtime member and leader of both the PATC and the Appalachian Trail Conference, he has tirelessly labored at nearly every level of involvement. He has built and maintained trails and shelters, planned and arranged corridor adjustments, and lobbied enthusiastically in the halls of government. His enduring legacy, however, will probably be his popularization of the trail through his Appalachian Hiker books.

Mr. Garvey's first continuous thru-hike of the trail was in 1970. On his return he published his trail notes along with a compendium of information and suggestions for potential AT hikers. This book (along with its 1978 revision) would inspire a generation of hikers to seek the "adventure of a lifetime" on the 2000 mile footpath. A 1987 National Geographic article on the AT described Mr. Garvey's book as the Appalachian Trail "bible".

The ensuing 20 years saw great success in the acquisition and protection of corridor lands. The trail was rerouted away from roadways, foot bridges were built at busy highway crossings and regional clubs redoubled their efforts to mark and maintain the footpath.

In 1989 friends from the National Park Service and the Wilderness Society approached Ed with the idea of another thru-hike to appraise the "new Appalachian Trail". On April 14, 1990, at 75 years of age, Mr. Garvey met friends and family on Springer Mt in Georgia and began the journey he chronicles in The New Appalachian Trail.

The daily trail log section of The New Appalachian Trail is a vividly rendered portrait of a thru-hiker's joys and disappointments. The reader shares Mr. Garvey's delight in almost every meal, his aching back at the end of a long day, and his enthusiastic glee at finding a cold can of beer left for him in a trail-side spring. Mr. Garvey chronicles his tumbles and his occasional bouts of intestinal distress with the same concise and slightly ironic prose that he uses to describe his sunny walk through flowering rhododendron in the high country of North Carolina.

The author is not afraid to criticize when conditions warrant. Trail sections that have been allowed to deteriorate are noted and the absence of informative signs is judged "deplorable". More often, however, Mr. Garvey heaps praise on the maintaining clubs and government partners who have helped to build and protect the "new Appalachian Trail".

Mr. Garvey's itinerary evolves as something more than a direct thru-hike. Ed visits many friends and will-wishers both on the trail and in the many small towns that adjoin the AT corridor. The reader joins him in Damascus, Virginia for the annual Trail Days celebration, at Rusty Nesbitt's Hard Times Hollow, at the "Denton Palace" and at many other popular stop-over points for AT hikers. Sensing autumn's approach, Ed leaves the trail at Duncannon, Pennsylvania and "flip-flops" to Mt. Katahdin, Maine to continue his journey in a southward direction. The hike through Maine is somewhat punishing and, after several injuries on the trail, Mr. Garvey decides to terminate his hike in Gorham, New Hampshire on September 8.

Despite his attenuated thru-hike, Mr. Garvey's journey, and his telling of it, are an inspiration and an encouraging depiction of an Appalachian Trail much improved in the past two decades. As in his previous books, Mr. Garvey has included several chapters detailing the planning, methods and equipment needed for an extended backpacking trip. His advice and suggestions will prove invaluable to the neophyte backpacker and will offer a new perspective or two to those with experience on the trail. Also included are three informative appendices that list the maintaining clubs, the honorary members of the ATC and the names of thru-hikers through 1970.

Mr. Garvey's contribution to the Appalachian Trail has been a lifetime of heartfelt commitment. His latest book is a testimonial to that commitment and will make a valuable addition to any hiker's bookshelf, particulary for those who hike and treasure the Appalachian Trail.

Kerry Snow
SNP Central District Trails Manager