Praise for The Trail:
"The author shines in his descriptions of the natural world... A subtle and vivid tale of finding peace in the great outdoors."
"Exceptional, original, entertaining, informative, and an inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, 'The Trail' is especially and unreservedly recommended."
—Midwest Book Review
"It’s a fantastic book. Everything rings true. I already have several people I plan to give copies to."
—Elizabeth Wenk, author of John Muir Trail: The Essential Guide to Hiking America’s Most Famous Trail
"Ethan Gallogly has created a wonderful blend of High Sierra history, eloquent descriptions of the range's glorious scenery, and fascinating vignettes of the diverse characters who roam the John Muir Trail."
—Steve Roper, author of Sierra High Route: Traversing Timberline Country
"A Walk in the Woods meets Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance."
—Peter Snow Cao, Bike China Adventures
"The Trail leaves the reader with a poignant picture of how nature can heal and reconstruct us."
—Alyssa Matesic, ASM Editorial
★★★★★ 5.0 out of 5 stars
Like Being There
Reviewed in the United States on December 13, 2021
The Trail was magisterial. It was so descriptive of the beautiful Sierra that it reminded me of Ansel Adams stunning large-format photographs. I must depend on these representations having only been to Yosemite Valley, the Mariposa Grove of giant Sequoias and lower parts of Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. I came late in life to the Sierra but it was a renaissance - a true rebirth. The author truly illuminated the "Range of Light" in a way that can only compare with the writings of John Muir. But it was not a copy of Muir. Rather it was a fresh approach filled with wonderful character studies and history. My wife and I had to put our lives on hold and couldn't put the book down. I read the book on Kindle but will purchase the hardcover in order to place it on a bookshelf with my other all time favorite reads. Thomas Carlyle once said: "The tragedy in life is not what men suffer but what they miss." Please add this to the fine things you should not miss.
★★★★★ 5.0 out of 5 stars
Zen and the Art of Thru-Hiking
Reviewed in the United States on November 17, 2021
This is a fascinating story of a young man who reluctantly decides to accompany an older friend of his father's on a hike of the 200+ mile John Muir Trail in the California Sierra Mountain Range. Along the way the author and characters narrate with description of the trail and its history. It is clear that this level of rich detail could only be written by an author who has experienced this trail for himself. If you're planning to hike the JMT you absolutely must read this book!
But even if you aren't a thru-hiker, and you just enjoy the outdoors and thinking about humanity and our place in the universe, you will also be drawn into the discussions among the main characters and the people they meet along the way. It is very much in the vein of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," except that it is more accessible and includes more diverse voices and points of view. The lessons here are definitely more applicable to life in the early 21st century.
While this is a novel, and it packs an interesting story that pulls you forward, you may find yourself thinking over some of the philosophical discussions long after you close the book. The author has done his homework, not only on the trail itself, but also on the philosophy of life and how we might cope with the various pressures and distractions of the modern world. It takes a broad mind and a lot of talent to give equal voice to so many points of view. Don't look here for THE answer, but DO look here to broaden your thinking.
Glenn Alan Daley
★★★★★ 5.0 out of 5 stars
A Mountain of a Story
Reviewed in the United States on November 14, 2021
Gil sets out to hike 200 miles of the John Muir Trail with his late father's sick friend Syd. Guided by Syd's bubbling well of knowledge and Gil's sometimes self-focused but earnest narration, the story abounds with the lore and trailcraft of high-country backpacking as well as the history and ecology of the region. Along the way, they meet an entertaining assortment of trail characters and engage in a fascinating extended conversation winding among topics from food and water to Taoism and Zen.
Gil and Syd are oddly but compellingly matched as trail partners. Each can be annoying at times, as can the weather and wildlife. Both of them have to face the physical challenges of the trail and doubts about Syd's health and ability to finish the trip. Gil has to learn to deal with his own self-doubts, guilt about his father, and sometimes crude attitudes toward women on the trail, as well as how to practice mindfulness and attentiveness to his own surroundings.
Gallogly's visual depictions of the Sierra Nevada are breathtaking, accompanied by Ashcroft's detailed line drawings. But the story also artfully wields the less common languages of taste, smell, sound, and touch to immerse the reader in the experience of the mountains.
I expected a good story and got that, and more. I laughed, I cried, I decided to quit my day job and move to the mountains (just kidding, boss, for now at least). I recommend this story for anyone who likes a good adventure and a good conversation about life, whether you're into backpacking or not. In fact, while I suspect backpackers who already know the skills and thrills described here will thoroughly enjoy the story, I even more strongly recommend it for novices and armchair adventurers who will find it a wealth of learning and experience.