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Monday, February 19, 2018

Review: Balancing on Blue

Balancing on Blue will probably never make the best seller lists: you can't even find it at your local library. It'll never be made into a major motion picture, and that's a good thing. Unlike more dramatic accounts of through-hikes, it's made up of days after days of competent hiking:
The soles of my feet had formed the usual hard covering of skin, the body’s method of dealing with constant wear and tear. Two, small ridges ran along the underside of my little toes which always happened on thru-hikes and the pads below my big toes were hard and calloused. Now on full throttle and fighting fit, I slowly started making inroads into the mileage deficit. My mileage was hovering around twenty-five each day and I’d even thrown in a couple of thirties. (Pg. 144)
The author, Keith Foskett, has already hiked the El Camino de Santiago and the PCT, so long distance hiking is not new to him. He doesn't make a big deal out of camping, getting dirty (though there's several pages devoted to crotch rot, which I'd experienced in my youth as a recruit in a tropical army), and enjoys giving people trail names far too much.

The trail descriptions are fun, and also provide me insight that I didn't know, such as nobody seems to carry a trail map on the AT, but usually just a digital guidebook with elevation profiles (apparently it's hard to get really lost). There's also a little bit of history, as well as a story about a death on the trail of another hiker. There's plenty of great prose about the beauty of the scenery, and of course, the great gift of the American wilderness: solitude.

Foskett has plenty of attitude, and is at least honest about how rude he is (in one instance, he insists on his personal trail name for another hiker, despite her picking another one for herself). It's also quite clear from the book that the AT is such a long hike that days away from the trail are necessary in some cases to recover.

I'll probably never do a big through hike of the 3 major US trails, but Balancing on Blue is a fun short read without the whining, moaning, and groaning (and insanely stupid stunts) that mar other memoirs of such accounts. In short, it's not incompetence literature, and therefore recommended.

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