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Married To The Trail Review:
A Hiker Tackles

By Diane Spicer

Married To The Trail Review:

This Married To The Trail review was written at the request of the book's publishing company, Big Earth.

The author is Mary Moynihan.

The book was provided by Big Earth Publishers, but the opinions are entirely my own.

Another thing you should know about this review: It's written by a hiker who is NOT a long trail connoisseur.

In fact, the opposite.

I do not have it in my DNA to hike quickly through fantastic terrain devoid of other humans. I'm a "savor what's on my plate" kind of hiker.

This is the biased lens through which I review any book about hiking trails measured in the thousands of miles.

And it definitely colored my thoughts expressed in this Married To The Trail review.

Married To The Trail Review:
The Shoulds and the Shouldn'ts

There are people who should read this book about hiking the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), and those who shouldn't.

The Shoulds:

  • Women who wonder what it's like to make decision after decision for themselves, without guidance from anything other than your own intuition and a few maps.
  • Hikers who are contemplating the mental and emotional costs of doing the CDT.
  • Anyone with 100% faith in the United States Postal Service, who delivered all of her care packages exactly where they needed to be, at exactly the right time.
  • Readers who would like the definitions of hiking terms such as long trail, thru hiking, zero and nero days.
  • Anyone with a hankering to go it alone day after day, mile after mile, without regard to weather or terrain.
  • Young hikers who dream of doing something Really Big.

If you match any of these descriptions, the book will satisfy your longings.

And the shouldn't s

  • Any hiker who is looking for specific trail pearls of wisdom such as which type of stove to carry, which sleeping bag to use, or how to set up a tent in adverse conditions.
  • Readers who have no patience with giddy descriptions of sunlight on the trail or the euphoria of wind carved rock formations.
  • Hikers who think spending an entire summer, mostly alone, walking from Mexico to Canada is crazy.
  • Mothers with young daughters who worry about thru hiking safety issues like hitch hiking and encountering solo men on lonely mountain passes.

Recognize yourself in any of these vignettes? You will be disgruntled with this book, so skip it.

Or read it and find the golden nuggets wherever they may be.

What I loved
about the book

First and foremost, I loved this young hiker's spirit.

There was no such word as "can't" in her vocabulary.

She never quit, even when the weather was against her and her internal struggles with relationships and family consumed her thoughts.

What a marvelous role model for up and coming hikers!

I also loved her honesty. She was the first to admit to being unprepared, or unthinking, along the trail.

It takes a generous spirit to be honest about your own failings.

She freely shared her melt downs, with vivid descriptions of her tears and doubts.

And by the end of the book, she had gained so much trail wisdom and self knowledge that I felt deeply connected to her because of this honesty.

She never showed fear, even in facing grizzly bears or strangers. Thinking back to my 27 year old self (her age when she did the CDT), I remember being fearless, too.

But with fear comes caution, and I don't think that's a bad thing for a hiker.

She also doesn't mention running into any other female hikers who were northbound during the year she tackled the CDT.

So that puts her into an elite category, one she mentions at various points in the narrative with more than a little pride.

  • Give it to her - she deserves it!

What I didn't love
about the book

To remain fair and balanced, this Married To The Trail review needs to point out a few disconcerting facts.

These revolve around:

  • the photos,
  • some gear decisions,
  • and lack of preparedness.

I'm guessing the somewhat grainy black and white photos in the book were chosen to keep the price of the book down.

However, after reading the descriptions of the fantastic places Mary Moynihan hiked through, I was left mourning the loss of visual confirmation.

I found myself scratching my head at some of her gear decisions.

Case in point: Her disinterest in carrying, and deploying, snowshoes in the 300% snow pack Colorado mountains.

Her reasons for not wanting snowshoes: too heavy and too expensive.

Yet she described in great detail the agony and calorie-burning wretchedness of post holing in an unanticipated deep snowpack, mile after mile.

The matter of safety was always in my mind as I read this section of the book.

  • A snapped bone would have been lethal on the sections where she hiked solo.
  • Some of the dicey trail sections she described would have been handled easily on snowshoes.

Thank goodness she carried an ice axe in Colorado! She put it to good use.

Which leads me to the largest issue for me with this hiking tale: her utter lack of navigational skills when she first set boots on the CDT in southern New Mexico, an area not known for its well marked trails.

I'm not sure if I admire her pluck, or regard her as a scary risk taker, but she clearly did not know how to use a map & compass combo.

It was sheer luck (or cosmic alignment) that landed her in the laps of experienced navigational hikers when she was at the beginning of her months long journey.

She also wasn't conditioned to begin a long trail, but that didn't hold her back. Her previous hiking experiences on the AT and PCT were assets.

I was completely amazed that she had no foot issues along the way, even when she hiked through icy cold water without removing her footwear.

Alas, no hints were given as to how she managed this miracle.

All of these were frustrations while reading the book, and that's why I include them in this Married To The Trail review.

Married To The Trail Review:
A few final words

Don't use this book as a "how to" for doing the Continental Divide Trail.

Use it, instead, as a fine example of one woman's struggle with herself and the realities of hiking day after grimy, tiring day until an arbitrary line called a national border was achieved.

And here's fair warning:

Her descriptions of town days (diverting off the trail to resupply and get clean) will leave you craving all the goodies she consumed due to her ravenous hiker's appetite.

I think Mary would agree with me that every learning experience is worth the cost. This one cost her plenty, yet she persevered.

I'll leave you with her own words about thru trail hiking (page 11):

"Each day I have a purpose."

"I wake up and carry everything I need on my back."

"Along the way I become rooted to nature, fine-dialling my senses to the elements. Artificial noise, societal constraints, pressures, materialism, and a false sense of self can become a distant memory."

"If I let it."

-Mary Moynihan, Married To The Trail, 2016

Female hiker standing on snow wearing a green backpack

Thanks to Julie Heins at Big Earth Publishing for suggesting that I write a Married To The Trail review.

And thanks to Mary Moynihan, trail blazer and evolving hiker, for inviting us into her thoughts and her heart. Happy Trails!

Also, thank YOU for reading this Married To The Trail review!

Use this CONTACT link to send your comments and questions about this review, or hiking in general.

I read and respond to every email!

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