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Rutgers University Press

Walking on the Wild Side: Long-Distance Hiking on the Appalachian Trail

Walking on the Wild Side: Long-Distance Hiking on the Appalachian Trail

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Received the 2016 Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Award for Excellence in Recreation and Park Research from the National Recreation and Park Association

The most famous long-distance hiking trail in North America, the 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail-the longest hiking-only footpath in the world-runs along the Appalachian mountain range from Georgia to Maine. Every year about 2,000 individuals attempt to "thru-hike" the entire trail, a feat equivalent to hiking Mount Everest sixteen times. In Walking on the Wild Side, sociologist Kristi M. Fondren traces the stories of forty-six men and women who, for their own personal reasons, set out to conquer America's most well known, and arguably most social, long-distance hiking trail.

In this fascinating in-depth study, Fondren shows how, once out on the trail, this unique subculture of hikers lives mostly in isolation, with their own way of acting, talking, and thinking; their own vocabulary; their own activities and interests; and their own conception of what is significant in life. They tend to be self-disciplined, have an unwavering trust in complete strangers, embrace a life of poverty, and reject modern-day institutions. The volume illuminates the intense social intimacy and bonding that forms among long-distance hikers as they collectively construct a long-distance hiker identity. Fondren describes how long-distance hikers develop a trail persona, underscoring how important a sense of place can be to our identity, and to our sense of who we are. Indeed, the author adds a new dimension to our understanding of the nature of identity in general.

Anyone who has hiked-or has ever dreamed of hiking-the Appalachian Trail will find this volume fascinating. Walking on the Wild Side captures a community for whom the trail is a sacred place, a place to which they have become attached, socially, emotionally, and spiritually.

Author: Kristi M. Fondren
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Published: 12/11/2015
Pages: 176
Binding Type: Paperback
Weight: 0.55lbs
Size: 9.00h x 6.00w x 0.38d
ISBN: 9780813571881

Review Citation(s):
Library Journal 11/15/2015 pg. 89

About the Author
KRISTI M. FONDREN is an associate professor of sociology at Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia.

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