On the Beaten Path – A Great A.T. story


I am a 2000-miler, having finished the Appalachian Trail in 1998.

In 1997, Robert Rubin, a burned out editor and happily-married man, decides to hike the Appalachian Trail. At the time, he was out of shape and just needed to quit his job. Rubin is a good story teller and doesn’t gloss over the difficulties of doing the trail – day after day.

He’s tired, he’s fed-up, he can’t keep up with his buddies and his wife feels abandoned. His story is captivating and I heartily recommend the book, even if I don’t agree with some of his thinking. He mixes his own experience with literary references and a little history. This is a well-written book by a guy who actually finished the trail.

According to Robert Rubin, all hikers are looking for something, even if they don’t admit it. Maybe thru-hikers, not section hikers. Section hikers, like me, have made hiking part of their life, not a physical pursuit that will end soon and they’ll go back to their normal life. I know many thru-hikers who have relegated hiking to their younger days but I keep hiking, it’s part of my week.

In the afterword written in 2008, Rubin strongly hints that his book came out the same time as A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. Bryson hiked about a third of the A.T. and annoyed all of us who finished. But Rubin had to compete with Bryson’s international best seller.

However one sentence in the afterword broke my heart.

Each year I’ve returned (to the A.T.) a little older and a little fatter. Now I weigh more than I did the day I started out in Amicalola Falls.

Rubin started out at 275 and lost 75 lbs. on the trail; it sounds like that was just right for him. But he obviously gained it all back and more. What makes people gain all that weight? Why don’t they notice a problem after they gain 5 extra pounds and do something about it? I found a current picture of him and he’s huge.

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