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North to Kathadin

Why do we like to hike? Why do we walk through tick-infested woods, risk getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and mooseflies, endure windburn and hypothermia on rugged mountain slopes until our feet ache and our knees throb and our 40-pound packs squeeze our spinal cords like an accordion? Why do we willingly lose brain cells in the headache-inducing thin air of Mount Everest, or go for weeks at a time without a shower along the Appalachian Trail? Why do we do these things, and then go back and do them again and again? North to Katahdin is author Eric Pinders nearly 200-page attempt to find an answer. This year, hundreds of thousands of people hikers, families, school groups, and urbanites alike will turn to New Englands mountains. In North to Katahdin, Pinder probes the allure of the wilderness experience. Using Maines Mount Katahdin with its ancient granitic and volcanic rocks as his laboratory, Pinder considers what draws people to the mountains and how the experience they find there is changing. Are the urbanites who are now trekking the trails with cell phones, high-tech synthetic fabrics, and GPS units having remotely the same experience that Henry David Thoreau did in 1846, when he ventured into the Maine frontier for the mere sake of seeing what was there? Are they even trying to? And if wilderness means an absence of humanity, what do we call it when its filled with people? For some, Maine the Alaska of the East Coast and its brooding Mount Katahdin are symbols of both wilderness and accomplishment. Katahdin is the end of the 2,160-mile long Appalachian Trail, stretching from Georgia to Maine. For others, Maines highest peak and the mountains surrounding it in Baxter State Park are the closest they can come to a remote wilderness in the east. Pinder tells stories at times hilarious, reflective, and terrifying of this place and the people who flock to it every summer. Stories of thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail, of conflicts between wilderness devotees and their detractors, and the story of a mountain itself its history, geology, mythology, and Henry David Thoreaus long obsession with its clouded slopes come together to shed light on the beginnings of the American wilderness obsession and its persistence today. Piner enjoys hiking and biking up the hills of New Hampshire, but has not yet qualified to join the Four Thousand Footer Club (for people who have climbed each of the states 48 peaks rising 4000+ feet). He has, however, climbed one of those peaks (Mount Washington) at least 48 times and thinks that ought to count.

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