In the past year I have been reading quite the collection of long distance hiking books. However the two part series of 'Stumbling Thru' is the first time I have been compelled to write a review or talk about them, outside of complaining about Bill Bryson quitting the trail twice in 'A Walk in the Woods'.
Stumbling Thru is fiction, though undoubtedly many of the situations and scenarios were somewhat based off reality due to the fact that the author completed an AT thru hike in 1999. The stories main character, a man named Walter, was bused to Amicola falls and kicked out onto the trail by his wife Angie, who was hoping the outdoor adventure of a thru hike would bring him back to reality after his business failed and he shut down as a husband.
Walter reluctantly takes to the trail and meets a wealth of characters including some that quit after just one or two days of hiking, weak sauce. However this is where 'Stumbling Thru' begins to shine, the book doesn't focus on Walter finding himself (despite it being the overarching plot of the series) it tackles trail stories and hi-jinks in a broken memory format, reminiscent of how you would tell a story to friends around a bar.
Often times trail books find themselves hanging their laurels on vivid descriptions of the landscape and deep thoughts. Personally as a reader who enjoys a good laugh (basically the saving grace of Bill Bryson's work) all of this ink based self reflection often times can feel like pretentious narcissism (says the guy with a blog where he writes about whatever he feels like).
Stolz however cuts out the majority of this, or limits it to a point where it truly supports the story and isn't the whole story. It is partially due to the fact his story is fictitious. But taking the focus off this type of content and onto the good times of hanging bear bags, fart jokes, and drumming up the most exhaustive list of stand-ins for the word 'fuck' ever, the books were real page turners.
Now I'm not an English major, but I was able to catch a few editing errors in the book and they were truly my only complaint, but it was in no way shape of form a deal breaker.
With both 'Wild' and 'A Walk in the Woods' getting movies this year...and my personal feelings on both see them as less than acceptable to represent hiking in film. I think that 'Stumbling Thru' should be adapted to the screen. With all of the intertwining stories it could easily be cut into a film in the style of 'Love Actually' with all of the characters stories winding in and out of each other until they finally summit. Hollywood are you listening!?
The epilogue was a great touch and a way to give us some insight to how Walter's story ended, however the other characters didn't receive the same treatment. We know how they left Katadhin, but I'm interested in knowing what happened to the other characters (specifically Skunkers and Flutterby, I have to know). Huge thanks to A. Digger Stolz for putting together such a great set of books that is now my go to recommendation for a hiking book to friends and family.