Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Thru-Hiker's Heart by "No Way" Ray Echols - literature from a hiker

There's a little positive bias here, and a fleeting personal connection, just so you know that up front, but about the book.

I love reading hiker narratives, but I almost never read one that I would recommend to my non-hiking friends. This is one of those rare few. This is a collection of tales from the trail, more or less in time sequence, but not always. There is a large amount of what some may call digression from the topic, but I call philosophical insights, prompted by the trail. On these long, long walking days, the mind goes all sorts of places, and Ray has put his thoughts on paper.

His words bring Edward Abbey to mind, though he's not as angry. Maybe closer in the rhythm of his prose to John McPhee. I hesitate to use the word literature, fearing that word might kill some sales among the younger generation. Maybe it's sufficient to say that it is the best hiking book I ever read, that I hated to put it down, that I didn't want it to end?

I should add that there are inserted 16 pages of excellent color photographs on glossy paper. Ray took professional quality photographs, even lugging a large format camera around for years.

You can buy this book directly from Alice at Tuolumne Press. You can buy it from Amazon and I will get a small commission, or ask for it in your local bookstore: ISBN 9780981472201.

Now a diversion to slow down the blog thieves ©2009 and;

As to our fleeting connection with Ray and Alice.

I've been a reader and sometimes contributor on the PCT-L forum for about six years now. No Way Ray was a frequent contributor, and I gradually got sort of a third hand acquaintance with him. Don't think we ever discussed the same topic, and my mental image of him was fairly fuzzy. Around 2004 we decided to make a serious effort to section hike the PCT, and started doing northern California sections. By 2005 we were ready for the desert and knocked off the first two desert sections in March and April. In 2006, we were doing section C in May. Big Bear is coming up. We have enough food, but the idea of a motel room and dinner in a restaurant is compelling, so we go into town, get a room at one of the motels that tolerates hikers. Around dusk the word spreads, everyone is going to Thelma's for supper. A group of us walk up there and fill several tables. Susan and I are at a long table, a gray haired couple of similar vintage sitting next to us. Susan starts talking to the woman about books, printing, etc. and it turns out that she is Alice Tulloch of No Way Ray and Alice, and the bearded guy beside her is Ray. Over the next day, we pass each other on the trail a couple of times. Finally we setup camp on a ridgetop, and see them going by on the trail below us, for the last time.

The next day, as we continue on to Deep Creek, we meet other hiker friends from the dinner, and they tell us Ray has fallen to his death on the section of trail we had just crossed. He was out of sight of Alice, so no one really knows what happened.

Over the next couple of years Alice assembled Ray's manuscript and recently published it. We have corresponded a little bit on publishing, and we have seen Alice at some trail events, but I had no idea how good the book was until I just recently read it.

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