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Into the Unknown

Guest Post by Anne Richter Arnold.

There is a bigger difference between taking a hike, which almost everyone can do, and thru hiking. Thru hiking, tackling an entire long-distance trail over a period of months, takes a special kind of hiker. Celia Ryker is just that, one with dedication, perseverance, curiosity, and a sense of humor. Walking Home is a memoir of her epic experience hiking the 279-mile Long Trail from the Massachusetts border through Vermont to Canada. Along the way she entertains us with childhood memories and reflections on her life off the trail, interspersed with poetic references to the transforming experience of being in the woods.

With her milestone 60th birthday approaching, Celia decides to hike the Long Trail in Vermont, one of the most challenging trails in the United States, along with her friend Sandy. While Celia has been on some ‘practice hikes’ back in her home state of Michigan, nothing can prepare her for the grueling weeks of hiking through the Green Mountains. From torrential rain, disastrous falls, sickness, and everything in between, she and her hiking partner Sandy are tested daily, yet never fail to meet the challenges head on.  Through all of this, she keeps us smiling with her can-do attitude and humorous anecdotes.

Walking Home is not just the story of Celia and Sandy’s multiyear section hiking of the Long Trail; it is a personal journey that the author shares with us as she looks back at her past and, literally and metaphorically, forward to the path of the unknown. We share in her reminiscences on how the woodlands brought her joy as a child and the self-knowledge they bring her as an adult. What lies ahead on the path, who she will meet and what she will discover, keeps the reader eagerly awaiting the next page.

While hiking the Long Trail may not be on everyone’s bucket list, Celia inspires us with her memoir to try something that will truly challenge ourselves, to take risks and to go forward into the unknown. She invites us to find our own way to leave the world behind and see what we can discover about ourselves, as she does, on our own challenging adventure.

Walking Home: Trail Stories by Celia Ryker. Rootstock Publishing, June 2021.

Reviewer bio: Anne Richter Arnold has been a journalist for various publications in New England for a decade, focusing on business and lifestyle topics, including wine and travel. She makes her home on the New Hampshire Seacoast, with her husband, two dogs, two cats, and a multitude of friendly chickens.

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