Book Review: “Divided: A Walk on the Continental Divide Trail”

Divided: A Walk on the Continental Divide Trail
Paperback – November 17, 2019
MSRP: $14.99

Once a person hikes a long trail, they catch the bug, but does it get any easier the second time around? Four years after starting the Appalachian Trail with his brother, Brian takes to the Continental Divide Trail for his second thru-hike in familiar company. However, trail life is not always as rewarding and romantic as the pictures you see or secondhand stories you hear. Divided provides an accurate account of life on trail: what hikers ponder, eat, love, loathe, and the questions they tire of answering. Some moments are too short, some are painfully, long while others are whisked away unceremoniously with the wind. Follow along on the journey as Brian navigates difficulties, successes, and everything between while attempting to walk from Mexico to Canada.

The beginning of Brian’s story begins as a relatable story as a former thru-hiker—the urge and natural pull to attempt another thru-hike. The long trail Brian is heading out on is deemed the toughest and most remote of the long trails. It’s a 3,100-mile trail from Mexico and Canada, traverses five states, and connects countless communities along its spine. Throughout this book you feel connected to Brian and become his biggest fan, rooting for him within each page turn as he hikes, scrambles, fords, and snowshoes along the Continental Divide Trail.

Photo provided by Brian Cornell

As a former thru-hiker myself, I loved being transported from Indiana to Mexico, through the mountains, in a hailstorm, and through the snow. This book accurately illustrates through words what an actual day in the life of a thru-hiker is like. He  describes the fearfulness of incoming bad weather, the misfortune of injury, the kindness of strangers, the necessity of water and food, the thru-hiker routine, and the appreciation for solitude. Brian continually speaks the the truth while painting a picture for the reader.

Brian is content with his adventurous, inconsistent life. Parts of the book that really resonated and intrigued me were when he ran into other section hikers or horse riders. The attitude they seem to have toward a thru-hiker is off-putting and negative. They who aspire to be like him and congratulate him on his current success but also have a misplaced negativity and an “I can’t, I couldn’t” mentality. Brian continues to speak the truth throughout his story, encouraging an adverse attitude.

Photo Provided by Brian Cornell

A paragraph that really spoke to me and I think that will resonate with other hikers and the enthusiast is the following:

“If you go through life telling yourself ‘I can’t’ to everything that seems odd or out of the ordinary, you’re right. Saying “I can’t walk five miles” is an insult to your body and mental capacity. It is weak. Those who can walk thirty miles a day or run a hundred miles in a day didn’t do so on their first try. Like with anything in life, it takes time and patience.”

Throughout the book he continues to bring a different outlook to their misplaced negativity.

Another excerpt that really resonated with me and that I think will with other thru-hikers was the relatability of being in social situations after a long trail. It’s uncomfortable and frustrating and Brian describes it well. He talks in detail about the difference of experiences in the past five months between him and his friends and how difficult it is to describe your hike through words and conversation.

This book is for the aspiring thru-hiker, the family member who wants to understand a thru-hike, the former thru-hiker, or a person looking for an adventurous, free-spirited, mind-awakening read. It encourages you to think outside your routine and into a 3,100 mile-journey away from convenience and familiar faces.

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