The Gentle Art of Wandering – Book Review

Book - gentleartofwanderingI love Facebook. I love it not because I can keep up with my friends but because of the people I meet that may become future friends.

As you know, I’ve been working on the ATC Biennial 2013 for years. It seems like it’s ATC Biennial 24/7 at our house. Recently Leanna Joyner set up a FB page just for the ATC Biennial conference.

And this is where I met David Ryan, author of The Gentle Art of Wandering. I would have just glazed over the FB entry but David, who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is giving a workshop at the biennial. So I had to look at his book. This may be a long introduction to a small book.

David is an A.T. 2000-miler, not afraid of “real” backpacking but he’s been exploring new areas at a slower speed and really looking. Wandering, he says, is the ability to “see” with your entire body and experience what’s around you.

I think of the last hike I took with Carolina Mountain Club – 33 people all catching up on news with each other. I love these hikes for their social aspect and for showing me areas that I haven’t seen before. I am present and connected to others that may point out something that I haven’t noticed.

But wandering, David says, is not a station-to-station journey; you have permission to change course. This is what you do when you first arrive in a new city. David discovered public staircases in Los Angeles.

Walking in LA? It turns out that LA has over 260 staircases that were built to help riders reach trolley lines located in the hilly parts of the city. The trolleys are long gone but the staircases are there for you to explore. The book mentions other cities with staircases, including Cincinnati. Trying to check out a new city by car is not easy, David says. Where do you park? How are you going to get back and what if there’s a one-way street?

Of course, New York is almost built for wandering. But what about here in North Carolina? The Mountains-to-Sea Trail is perfect for David’s wandering. About half of the trail is on footpath and the other half is on back roads. If David is looking for new places to wander, he could check out the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, followed by the Florida Trail and the Palmetto Trail.

But as the author says, anytime you get out of your car, it’s a wonderful experience.

You can buy The Gentle Art of Wandering at and meet the author at the ATC Biennial Conference 2013.

 The Gentle Art of Wandering by David Ryan New Mountain Books  112 pages, $12

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