Yes folks, we’ve traveled these 2,189 miles before: we’ve vicariously slogged through mud, clambered over boulders, blessed trail angels and enjoyed trail characters, endured torrential rain and suffocating heat, laughed with Bill Bryson and cried with Jennifer Pharr Davis – so why read yet another memoir of hiking the Appalachian Trail?
Well, goodness knows I love a good trail memoir, AT or otherwise, but Scott Jurek’s North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail really is worthwhile. For one thing, Jurek is a celebrated ultrarunner, famous for his endurance and speed, so for him the Appalachian Trail was no walk in the woods. Challenging himself to break the AT speed record, Jurek began running northbound from Springer Mountain in May 2015. To beat the record Jurek would need to average 50 miles a day for almost seven weeks to reach Mount Katahdin in July.
Of course Jurek didn’t make his attempt alone and another reason this memoir is so appealing are the insights from his fetchingly-nicknamed wife and main crew person JLu. While “Jurker” ran the AT, JLu drove Castle Black – their tricked-out support van – through many a back road with all his supplies. Jurek might have had the mud, the injuries, and the soul-searching, but poor JLu had the stinky laundry, crazed superfans, and the challenge of keeping Jurek on his vegan diet.
Unique and engaging, Jurek’s narrative is an interesting peek at the world of ultra-running as well as an always welcome (to me, anyway!) Appalachian Trail memoir.