I enjoy tales about characters. It’s because I grew up among story tellers and characters. My mother Sylvia Bright has quite a following on several Facebook groups where she tells the tales of the place I grew up Greeneville, Tennessee. Thus I enjoy books that center on every day interesting people met in travels or while doing business. This book is just one of those. Winton Porter owned a backpacking shop and hostel. It is the only one that actually straddles the Appalachian Trail. So if you desire to walk the trail from one end to the other you will walk through that breezeway.
We all have times we just want to walk away from it all. Times we want to get away to think thing out or maybe find our way through a situation. Some of us do that in our journals, pen to paper. Others do it by physically being active. I’ve talked to runners who do it to clear their head. Bikers who do it to have time alone to think. Now through Winton I’ve met people who do it by hiking miles and miles.
I learned that hikers earn trail names. Some give the name to themselves. Others have their name bestowed upon them by other hikers. These are like street names in the crime shows I watch you might not know Jane but Sorefoot yeah you know her, slept in a shelter with her back on the trail. That kind of thing.
Porter meets many hikers through his store’s service of helping hikers maxium their packs. They go through a hiker’s pack and help them make one best suited to that hiker. It’s there I learned of the hiker’s need to balance weight with supply. It appears Porter took the middle of the road approach helping hikers thin down, most tend to overpack, and he tried to get packs designed best for their trip.
It was through that service he met Lorax. She was a wonderful caring woman whose gentleness comes through in his writing. Winton learns her reason for hiking isn’t like most. Then there’s the twins that show up and won’t go on, Winton does some research on them and finds that maybe their hiking is therapy. We meet people who disappear. People who are later found – some alive, some not. He responds to emergencies that make your heart pound. Through it all you get the sense of distance and togetherness that makes up the hiker community.
I walked away from this book with a smile. I like knowing there are still places of wild woods out there. I like knowing there are still interesting people finding their own way in life. I like seeing people help people. I like knowing that some find their answers to life, and even death. I like seeing that those answers are different for each of us. I like seeing how others seek theirs, hiking isn’t for me but I appreciate the power of ‘me time.’ Porter gives us a glimpse of all of that, a reassuring glimpse.