As 2020 is ushered out the door, author David Smart wins my applause for writing the best book out of the 50 or so I read this year.
As a distance trekker, I am in awe that he walked more than 2,600 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican border to Canada. He earns his trail name, Stayin’ Alive, many times over. As a fellow writer, I admire his honesty and entertaining narrative. He earns my hope that this is not his last book (nor distance trek).
If circumstances again keep me from a distance trail in 2021, I will pick up The Trail Provides: A Boy’s Memoir of Thru-Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, for an adventure that will not feel as vicarious as it is.
Michael Tyler and his wife walked more than 40 times as far as Dan Karmi, but distance is not necessarily the defining measure of their accomplishments.
In Walking Thru, Tyler recreates his journey of more than 2,000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. I am pulled to the PCT because of its incredible challenges in the desert of Southern California, over peaks more than 13,000 feet high in the Sierra Nevada, and through two more states, Oregon and Washington. Sue and I have walked five European distance treks, but none compare to the length and difficulty of the PCT.
Karmi, from Israel, walked 60 miles of the 110-mile Tour du Mont Blanc, but I have to give him credit for attempting something unlike anything he had ever done. Sue and I had done two other treks by the time we walked around Mont Blanc, something we could not have done without experience. Karmi’s story, My Journey Around Mont Blanc, is an honest sharing of his unusual experience.
Neither book was a gripping account, but I was drawn to their stories. Their adventures were so unalike, but distance walkers will find value in their words.
At 24, David was dissatisfied with his digital marketing job. He had plenty of money, parties, and women, but he felt that his life lacked purpose. His 26-year-old college buddy Bradley had an answer: Walk the Pacific Crest Trail with me.
Bradley, who brings intensity to life and to the trail, influences his younger friend right from their start on the USA-Mexico border. He walks barefoot, and David follows, despite great pain and suffering. But David, who eventually gets an apt trail name, Stayin’ Alive, develops confidence and his own trail identity.
David Smart lets readers into his experience with honesty and entertaining, easy-to-read narrative. He begins as an ordinary 20-something and grows immeasurably. As someone who has walked five long-distance trails in Europe, I admire people like David who trek 2,600 miles over six months, all the way to Canada.
Pilgrims who walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain like to say, “The Camino will provide” when the going gets tough. For David Smart, the Pacific Crest Trail will provide for the rest of his life.