Sunday 9 April 2023

Book review: The Trail by Ethan Gallogly

The Trail a novel

by Ethan Gallogly with illustrations by Jeremy Ashcroft

Published by Sierra Nevada Press

This unusual novel is the story of a hike by two men along the John Muir Trail in the High Sierra in California. What happens to them along the way, who they meet, and how the hike changes them make up the fictional story. Alongside this is a description of the trail and its history and what a hike along it is like. The author skilfully weaves this factual material in with the adventures of the two hikers and the two fit together comfortably.

Gallogly knows the trail and the High Sierra intimately and puts across his knowledge well.  This information is backed up by excellent maps and illustrations by Jeremy Ashcroft, whose work will be familiar to many. This isn’t a guidebook but you’ll know a great deal about the trail and the Sierra Nevada when you finish it.

Gallogly also captures the experience of a through-hike perfectly.  I’ve walked the John Muir Trail and done other long walks in the area and I really enjoyed the descriptions of familiar places, including campsites and supply points I’ve used. If you’ve never been to the High Sierra this book might well make you want to go.

The Sierra Nevada has a benign climate – in summer it’s usually hot and dry – but even those more used to the rather wetter and windier British climate of the Pennine Way or the West Highland Way should be able to relate to the highs and lows of Gallogly’s hikers.

This isn’t just a story for long-distance hikers though. I think anyone who loves stories about outdoor adventures will find it enjoyable. The style is easy going and readable, the story flowing along just like the trail. Many interesting characters are met along the way and in places the book has a echoes of 1960s hippie culture and some of the 1950s novels of Jack Kerouac, as environmental, mystical, political subjects and more are discussed in camps and on the trail. There’s even a music festival. 

This review first appeared in the February 2023 issue of The Great Outdoors.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoying this book very much. Love the story and the history you have woven into the story. Learning a lot and you make it fun.