Ethan Gallogly (Author); Jeremy Ashcroft (Illustrator)
Sierra Nevada Press (2021)
Reviewed by Jen Oliver-Rigsby for Reader Views (12/2021)
This fantastic novel introduces readers to Gil, a young man in his twenties who is grieving over the loss of his father, his job, and his life in general. Gil is asked to go on a 200-mile hike on the John Muir Trail (JMT) with his late father’s best friend, Syd—a retired professor. Gil agrees, being that he has nothing better to do, but he truly hates hiking, camping, and is very unprepared for such an adventure. Syd is also going through his own struggles: he’s fighting cancer and feels that this might be the last big hurrah of his life. What follows is a story where both Gil and Syd find themselves and experience life-changing events as expected when taking on such a grandiose journey.
Written in a daily “journal” style, the reader is shown what part of the JMT Gil and Syd faced a particular day, including number of miles trekked. Each chapter started off with a well-illustrated map created by the book’s illustrator, Jeremy Ashcroft. Each day indicated who they met on the trail and their unique personalities. They also give a detailed look at John Muir and the history of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Some might think that it would be boring reading about Muir and all of the history behind this area, but Gallogly does it in an entertaining way. Not once did it feel like a boring college lecture.
“The Trail” will no doubt make readers want to go hiking in the great wilderness—maybe not tackling such a feat like the JMT or the Pacific Crest Trail (which is mentioned by some hikers Gil and Syd come across), but it will spark the desire to go outside and explore the beauty of Mother Nature. It also makes readers more aware of what to do when out hiking or camping, and how to do their best in keeping the wilderness wild. Gallogly does mention that was one of the reasons why he penned this novel; to inspire readers to go out and explore. He wants people to see what is available in this beautiful land of ours, particularly by introducing everyone to the majesty of the Sierra Nevada range.
I feel “The Trail” can easily inspire all readers in all stages of their lives. The ones who don’t know what to do with their days; the ones facing difficult challenges; those who are new to outdoor activities; and, finally, the true explorers at heart!