Some people are happy with routine in their lives and have found a balance between working and relaxing that suits them. Kathryn Barnes and her husband, Conrad, weren’t those people though. Something didn’t feel right. They had travelled in the past for fairly big chunks of time, and the call to see more of the world was beckoning again. A germ of an idea grew larger and before they knew it they had quit their jobs and booked a flight to the West Coast of America to walk 1000 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail or PCT as it is normally known
There was one tiny issue though, they hadn’t got any experience of hiking. Or camping. Inexperienced would be an understatement, they are city birds and have barely walked anywhere unless they could help it. This wouldn’t be the whole route though, they were just going to walk the section from northern California, through Oregon and Washington, and just over the Canadian border. Not only would they have to carry everything on their backs, but the route they were walking was known for mountain lions and bears.
Even though they were departing in June they knew as soon as they got to the higher altitudes there would be snow, it was going to be a steep learning curve in more ways that one. Starting off with small daily mileages as their stamina and experience grew they were able to build the distance they could travel over the course of the trek. The views were spectacular, and so were the midges… They encountered all sorts of characters on their walk, from the warm and generous people that helped them out when they needed it with spare kit and lifts to the very occasional sinister individual. One person though who pops up most days is Dan as they seem to roughly keep pace with him.
I did like this book, as it had a certain charm to it. Barnes is quite honest in her writing and is prepared to tell it how it is, from the highs of standing at the top of the passes, drinking in the views and letting the peace of the woods soak into their psyche to the very low points when they squabbled over the most trivial of things. Even though they didn’t walk the entire trail, it has made her reconsider all her priorities. Some of what they learnt as a couple she shares at the end of the book, especially the essential tip to appreciate it as you pass through. There are practical details and links for those wanting to undertake a similar experience. It has made them think about their relationship with the wider world, and seriously think about leaving London. I did feel that the book was missing photos of their walk, they obviously took lots as it is mentioned fairly often in the text. There are some on her website though: https://alifetowander.com/
Paul Cheney 3/3
The Unlikeliest Backpacker by Kathryn Barnes
Hornet Books Ltd 9780995765849 pbk Mar 2019