Books to Fuel Your PCT Appetite

Howdy folks! This is my first post, so by way of a super brief introduction: I’m Katherine, and I like to read. Before I start the trail in a few weeks, I wanted to share some of my favorite books that are either about the PCT itself or the spirit of the trail. I picked up most of these copies at my local independent bookstore, and I encourage you to do the same, but no judgment here if shopping local isn’t always an option (I also use Kindle and Audible, along with Libby and Happy trails, and happy reading.

AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller

For me, this is the book that started it all. I read it years ago before I knew about the PCT or thru-hiking in general, and it sparked a flame and opened the door into the wild world of long-distance trails and the people mad enough to trek them.

Thirst: 2600 Miles to Home by Heather ‘Anish’ Anderson

If AWOL is the spark, then Thirst is the gasoline. I suspect if you’re reading a Trek post then you already know about the extraordinary ‘Anish’ with her multiple FKTs and her triple Triple Crown. It’s a story of heartbreak, courage, adventure, and pushing yourself well past your presumed limits. I’d rather not meet a mountain lion on the trail, but if I do, I’m gonna roar, just like Anish.

Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Ideas by Alexi Pappas

This is a book about running, pain, and poetic womanhood by writer, filmmaker, Olympian, and badass Alexi Pappas. Pappas is the rare writer who validates your wild ideas (I’m going to hike from Mexico to Canada! For fun!) and then her lyrical writing guides you all the way. One nugget I’ll repeat (or grumble, or cheer) often along the trail: “many things behind, many things ahead, why feel afraid when you can be brave instead?”

Wild Girls: How the Outdoors Shaped the Women Who Challenged a Nation by Tiya Miles

In Wild Girls, Tiya Miles chronicles a few badass women and how they were forged in the wild. In short: women are amazing, and inspiration abounds. Enough said.

Out There: The Wildest Stories from Outside Magazine by The Editors of Outside Magazine

Listen, you have to be a little weird to thru-hike. Here, you can dive into a few stories of like-minded weirdos and find hilarity, inspiration, and camaraderie. Plus, it’ll look cool on your bookshelf.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed 

We’ve all read it, and no PCT book list is complete without Wild. Give your old, dog-eared copy to someone new and pass the torch.

The Old Ways: a Journey on Foot by Robert McFarland 

Robert McFarland is an exquisite writer. Exhibit A: chronicling a venture along the sea roads in Orkney Islands, McFarland describes his old boat as “a hull to hold the waves at bay and a sail to hold the wind for way.” Lucky for us, he mostly writes about walking. Take your time with this slow and gentle read, and revel in how McFarland captures a reverence for the land, the journey, and our adventurous spirit.

Ride of Her Life: the True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance Journey Across America by Elizabeth Letts

This is another book that has nothing to do with the PCT or thru-hiking, and is only tangentially related in that our heroine Annie Wilkins travels through hell and high water to make it to the Pacific Ocean. This biography is here because of Wilkins’ indomitable will and need for adventure, something I think we can all appreciate. Annie sets off with nothing but her pack, a horse, her dog, and an absurd desire for adventure before it’s too late. Dear reader, she’s one of us.

On Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moor

I first read On Trails when I was hiking the Wonderland Trail a few years back (I actually hauled the hardcover the whole way, like an idiot). Moor focuses not on the adventure, but on the actual beaten path. Moor looks at how we get our pathways and what makes us venture forth in the first place.  This book reminds us not to stop and smell the roses, but to stop and look at the dirt.

Shopping all the Way to the Woods: How the Outdoor Industry Sold Nature to America by Rachel S. Gross.

Bonus – my next read is Shopping all the Way to the Woods: How the Outdoor Industry Sold Nature to America by Rachel S. Gross. I’ve been grappling pretty heavily with my own consumerism as I prepare for the trail (why use an older sleeping bag/tent/trekking poles/fill-in-the-blank when you can just go to REI again?!) and I’m looking forward to taking a look in the mirror.


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Comments 5

  • Katie : Mar 27th

    Love these picks!

  • Matthew Carlstroem : Mar 28th

    I loved ‘On Trails’, which is in your banner photo (but not in the text). Have a great walk, and thanks for the recommendations!

    • Katherine Baals : Mar 29th

      Oh man, I’m so glad you caught that! In working between drafts I accidentally dropped both ‘On Trails’ and ‘Ride of her Life.’ Both books are now updated 🙂

  • Signe SCHILPEROORT : Apr 10th

    Can’t wait to read about your adventures here. I miss you already but anxious await new posts from you!

  • Gretchen Bassett : Apr 27th

    Wow such an exciting trek, you’re so tough! Love hearing of these adventures, thank you for writing so I can experience it with you! Gretch


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