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

Rutgers Univ. Dec. 2015. 176p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780813571898. $80; pap. ISBN 9780813571881. $24.95. SPORTS
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Stretching for more than 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine, the Appalachian Trail (AT) is one of the longest and most popular hiking trails in the world. Fondren (sociology, Marshall Univ.), an avid hiker, examines the culture of long-distance hiking from an ethnographic perspective, exploring the distinguishing characteristics of life on the trail as well as the factors that motivate hikers and reinforce their identity as members of a "subculture of place." Drawing on data collected through field notes and structured interviews conducted with 46 hikers between 2005 and 2007, the author discusses hiker language, diet, appearance, spirituality, and values. She engagingly describes AT traditions including the adoption of a trail name, the annual Trail Days festival, and the experience of "trail magic," or encouragement and gifts from strangers. Though the book's aims are primarily scholarly, its brevity and approachable colloquial style make it accessible for students and lay readers.
VERDICT For scholars interested in the development and adoption of leisure subcultures and professionals and students in the areas of public lands administration, recreation, or tourism.

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