A Sign of Madness: Re-Hiking the 2,185 Mile Appalachian Trail- By Mark R. Heying
Book Review by Charles Chandler
Usually, when I hear the phrase “a sign of madness”, I recall some experience I have had or that someone I know had that was so dangerous or arduous that no one would ever want to repeat the experience again, ever. A Sign of Madness is a story written about Mark Heying’s joys and challenges of...
... hiking the entire 2,185 miles of the famous Appalachian Trail (AT), not once but twice.
He made his first trip up the AT before settling down to college, the next trip was 34 years later. He wrote this book for his kids so they would know a little more about him as a man and what it is like along the daunting AT.
According to the guide books “the A.T. is a grueling and demanding endeavor. It requires great physical and mental stamina and determination. The terrain is mountainous for its entire length, with an elevation gain and loss equivalent to hiking Mt. Everest from sea level and back 16 times. The treadway in many places is rocky or filled with roots or mud. Maine, and sometimes other states, requires fording of streams that can be hazardous after heavy rains. It takes six to eight months to complete the hike and only one in four finishes.”
Mark has written this book in an engaging journal format that is perfectly matched to the day to day challenges of hiking the AT. His conversational and descriptive writing style quickly brings you in and lets you walk along side him as he experiences the AT. He keeps you there by trusting you to not be judgmental as you see the trail strip away the trapping of the last 34 years and expose the essence of the man that is toiling up the trail from southern Georgia to Maine determined to make it to the end knowing every step of the way that it gets harder as he goes and that his goal lies atop the cold windblown mile high granite grinder call Mt. Mount Katahdin.
Mark is not a complainer and also points out the beauty of the vistas and landmarks of the states that he hikes through. You get his honest thoughts and feelings about the shelters, towns, various hikers and trail angels that he meets along the way. You share his sense of his exasperation with fellow hikers or joy of reaching the next 100 miles, or the next shelter, or enjoying a meal in town or some home baked goods that the trail angles bring to the hikers.
He also shares his wit and humor as well as that of other hikers in his “heard on the trail” quotes, which is a balm to the spirit and as important as food and water and the mole skin for the long suffering feet.
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