Book Review: ‘Appalachian Trials’ by Zach Davis

*Written in 2015.

Appalachian Trials: A Psychological and Emotional Guide to Successfully Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail is what I would consider a must-read before setting off on the long journey. Granted, I have never hiked the Appalachian Trail but it is something I consider doing more and more each year.

Zach felt the need to create a book dealing with the psychological and emotional aspects of hiking the Appalachian Trail, which has never been the subject of a book before. I agree with him that penning something like this was pretty vital, as every field guide in the world can’t prepare you for the real challenges. And sure, this may not fully prepare one either for something so tough and arduous but at least it gives good information on what one should expect and it also provides tales and lessons to help the reader better understand the trials ahead on an emotional and psychological level.

The book gets straight to the point and doesn’t waste much time. It is concise yet packed with essential information. It is also well-written and an enjoyable read.

If you are like me and have seriously considered hiking the Appalachian Trail, this most definitely should be read before you start your trek into the wild.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: A Walk In the Woods and Wild.

Book Review: ‘How to Hike the A.T.’ by Michelle Ray

*Written in 2015.

I’ve been wanting to hike the Appalachian Trail for a few years now. It is a tough and very long hike that covers over 2,200 miles and 14 states in the eastern U.S. So to prepare for what I hope to do in the future, circumstances permitting, I figured it would be best to read up on it from those who have done it.

How to Hike the A.T.: The Nitty-Gritty Details of a Long-Distance Trek by Michelle Ray was a pretty thorough book on the subject. She goes over the psychological side of things, planning, physical conditioning, gear, food, drink, making a proper itinerary, mail drops, bounce boxes, flora and fauna, weather, trail culture, trail traditions, hygiene, safety, injury, illness and everything else one needs to know before heading out on this journey.

Ray’s book is well written, well organized and straight to the point. Every chapter is necessary and each one covers the subject matter fully and precisely.

Now I cannot compare it to other books on the subject, as I haven’t read any others thus far but I can’t imagine needing to know much more than what was available here. Planning to do this trek however, I also know that it would be in my best interest not to take this as the bible of the Appalachian Trail, as there are other books with other perspectives out there for me to absorb.

As a starting point, this book gave me more than I expected and I’m thankful to Michelle Ray for that. Also, it happens to be the highest rated book that I saw in regards to the subject matter.

Moving forward, I’ll follow up with reviews of other books I pick up that are about hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Appalachian Trials by Zach Davis, Wild by Cheryl Strayed and A Walk In the Woods by Bill Bryson

Book Review: ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed

*Written in 2014.

Being someone that wants to do some long distance hiking in the future, primarily the Appalachian Trail, I really felt the need to read this book.

Granted, the author hikes the Pacific Crest Trail, which seems even more challenging and treacherous. Regardless, I wanted to really feel and read through an intimate account of someone else’s experience doing this for the first time.

Cheryl Strayed’s Wild is an insanely fantastic book. It is certainly an intimate and thorough account of her journey, not just on the Pacific Crest Trail, but in discovering herself.

Leading up to her journey, her life was wrecked by several events: the death of her mother, the failure of her marriage to a man she still loved, the loss of family members in her life, the loss of her favorite horse in a very violent manner, as well as a cocktail of drug abuse and infidelity. In the end, she needed an escape and a way to rediscover herself. The answer for her was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: a journey that she was underprepared for but went on to survive.

Cheryl’s tales are pretty amazing. She encounters bulls, rattlesnakes, bears, insane snow, dangerous icy mountains, starvation, dehydration, as well as severely sore and mangled feet. She also meets a lot of interesting characters and goes on to discuss her time with these people in great detail. The characters in this book really come to life, not because they are actually real but because their voices are each unique and different and well recreated.

This is one of the better books that I have read this year. In fact, I’ve found myself reading it a bit slower than usual, in order to really take it all in. I guess I can look forward to the fact that this is being adapted to film and should be released later this year.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: A Walk In the Woods and Appalachian Trials.

TV Review: Brew Masters (2010)

Original Run: November 21st, 2010 – December 16th, 2010
Directed by: Bengt Anderson
Music by: Sarah Schachner
Cast: Sam Calagione

Zero Point Zero Production Inc., String and Can, Discovery Channel, 6 Episodes, 42 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2014.

Brew Masters is a Discovery Channel reality show that follows Sam Calagione, the founder of Dogfish Head Brewery, as he and his staff search the world high and low for new inspirations to craft new beers.

The show is entertaining and it is interesting for anyone who wants to know more about the beer making process. With each episode focusing on a new project, there is a lot of variety and styles covered over just the few episodes that were made.

And I guess that’s the somewhat crappy part about the show, is that there are only five episodes that aired before it was cancelled. It would’ve been really interesting to see what they could have come up with in future episodes as some of the projects in its only season would be hard to top.

One thing I like about the show, is that it isn’t drama filled reality television bullshit. Everyone seemingly works well together, everyone is positive and people genuinely enjoy their jobs. Dogfish Head seems like an awesome company to work for and truthfully, I hope at some point I find something that exciting, rewarding and fun in my professional career.

Speaking of which, I come from the marketing and product development side of the cigar industry and have always wanted to venture into beer. I guess that is why I found this to be such an enjoyable show because it gave more transparency to the behind the scenes operations of a badass brewery. While the cigar industry is very similar, especially with creating new blends, the beer industry, at this level, is even more complex and there is just so much more they can do with ingredients. You can’t not respect the craft and Dogfish Head is one of the best, which is what made this show a pretty enriching experience.

You can currently watch it streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Brew DogsChug, Dark Horse Nation and Booze Traveler.

Book Review: ‘Survive!: Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere – Alive’ by Les Stroud

If you’ve ever watched the Discovery Channel show Survivorman, you should know who Les Stroud is. He is, in my opinion, the best survival expert in the world today. His show was always the most realistic, most practical and wasn’t full of staged bullshit for dramatic effect. What you saw with Stroud is what you got, which is the same with this book.

Survive! follows the tradition of Stroud being the best, as it is the best book on survival that I have read. Take my word for it, I’ve read quite a bit throughout the years.

Stroud covers pretty much everything you need to know. If you have watched his show, you should be familiar with most of what is discussed in this book. However, unlike his television series, the book is able to go into greater detail on every subject and skill that you should understand and master.

From a writing standpoint, Stroud puts a lot of himself into his words and his personality comes through in the book, which just adds to the awesomeness of the experience. He also comments on several misconceptions and some of the bullshit survival tactics put out there by other survival “experts” who are just trying to make shocking television while selling survival gear with their own name brand on it.

Les Stroud cuts through the crap and gets right down to business, which in a survival situation, is what one needs. So put down the elephant poop cocktail and delve into something far less gross and more realistic.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Other books by Les Stroud.

Book Review: ‘My First Summer In the Sierra’ by John Muir

If you don’t know who John Muir is, you might not be American.

Wikipedia describes Muir as a “naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States.” He was more than that however and in fact, he was instrumental in starting what became the National Parks system, which also led to state parks as well.

John Muir wrote a lot, especially about his experiences discovering new and uncharted wilderness. Being completely blown away, mesmerized and inspired by the Sierra Mountains and the Yosemite area, he wrote about that experience in this book.

The best way to describe his words is picturesque. It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words but Muir, having been immersed in the real wilderness of that region, gave us something more intimate than a simple picture and much more than a thousand words to describe the awe in his heart.

Referring to this book as “beautifully written” would be an understatement. Between his words and his sketches, Muir paints an epic landscape and gives us some of the most thoughtfully descriptive writing ever put to paper.

I haven’t read anywhere near enough of Muir’s work. This book has inspired me to delve deeper into his hefty catalog.

This book is a good place to start if you truly want to wrap yourself in Muir’s majestic words.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Other writings by John Muir

Book Review: ‘Asheville Beer: An Intoxicating History of Mountain Brewing’ by Anne Fitten Glenn

*Written in 2014.

I picked this book up in the Asheville airport on my way back home from my recent trip there. It made for great reading on the plane, especially after having just experienced Asheville and its robust brewing culture.

This book is fairly short but even so, it leaves no stone unturned and gives the reader the whole background on Asheville, as well as the city’s relationship with alcohol.

After the big history lesson, it delves into how brewing became a big thing in Asheville and the surrounding area. It gives detailed histories on all the breweries that existed at the time of this book’s publishing and even gives insight into the breweries on their way (some of which are already there now).

The book is very well-written and straight to the point. Anne Fitten Glenn has a great talent for being very exacting yet engaging with her writing, as well as being very thorough and organized. This book is a bit of a hidden gem for serious beer lovers out there. I didn’t know it existed until I saw it in the airport.

If you have any interest in craft beer or are a history buff or better yet, both of these things, than this is a great read. I’m actually glad that I read it at the end of my trip, as having gone to many of the breweries covered, I was able to visualize the beautiful locations and know what beers were being referenced.

Moral of the story, read the book. Bigger moral of the story, go to Asheville. Biggest moral of the story, drink good beer.