Thru Hiking Will Break Your Heart: A Book Review

Thru Hiking Will Break Your Heart: A Book Review

I first stumbled upon Carrot Quinn’s book while I was attempting my thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. I must’ve been in town, somewhere with internet, flipping through facebook. In one of the hiking groups I’m in, someone posted a link to a temporarily free kindle book about a Pacific Crest Trail thru hiker. Reading was something people did on thru hikes, right? I hadn’t read a book in ages. Downloaded pronto. I didn’t think I’d read it right away, but that night I had the worst time trying to sleep in that Hot Springs’ motel. Someone was snoring. So I turned the brightness all the way down on my phone, switched kindle into black screen mode, and opened up Thru Hiking Will Break Your Heart. Is that what thru hiking did to you? Break your heart? I wasn’t a thru hiker yet, I didn’t know.


And suddenly kindle told me I was 12% into the book and then 27%. Wait, I hadn’t sat down and read like this since I was a kid. I swore college had ruined me for reading, but maybe not. Carrot Quinn discussed every aspect of a thru hike on an intimate level, on a real level. She talked about what pushed her to thru hike, how she prepared, experiences leading up to the hike. I remembered pouring over internet articles, trying to decide on gear. Logically, how could I make my thru hike work? Wait, she was doing that too. Then suddenly she’s hiking the trail and in the desert. What would it be like, to have terrible desert blisters? To hike all day in heat and sand. To not be in the green tunnel of the AT? I had a hard time imagining it.

The next day I slackpacked a 20 mile section of trail, which ended with some impressive blisters (if you dunk your foot in a stream, that tends to happen). I laughed to myself, hadn’t I just read about Carrot and her blisters last night? Now I knew what that felt like. Except there wasn’t sand, I guess I could be thankful for that. Her book actually sort of became my therapy. I was still having trouble sleeping at night with the night time noises. In this time, I would read until I fell asleep. Carrot talked about “Stick Breakers” and I knew exactly what she meant. I hate Stick Breakers, those are the worst. Obviously all Stick Breakers are bears, right? Ugh. Eventually my hike was forced to an end due to injury and I found myself back at home. A week later I was up all night finishing the book, longing for the trail so badly. I guess thru hiking does break your heart.  

OK, cheesiness aside, that was my experience with Thru Hiking Will Break Your Heart. I can’t express how down to earth and thought provoking it is. Carrot is so raw and talks about her experience as honestly as possible. And the lessons you learn thru hiking, you can read them here. For instance, on a thru hike (and in life in general), we expect and picture things to be a certain way. Say, the next town you will come to on a long distance trail. You’ve read the name of it, you might know what’s there from the guide, but what is it really like? And then you actually walk there, and it’s absolutely nothing like you imagined. Maybe in a good way, maybe in a way that makes you wish you wouldn’t have hitched into town at all. But it’s something learned, something to file away for later.

And the point is that the whole of a thru hike is an experience. Thru Hiking Will Break Your Heart is always in the moment. The lessons she learned, that you can endure so much and then endure even more than that. That people are the most amazing creatures and nothing is ever how you expect it to be. And how you are capable of. Somehow Carrot managed to capture all of this in this daily account of her first thru hike. Now when people ask me for book recommendations in regards to the trail, Thru Hiking Will Break Your Heart is the first one I recommend. If you really want to know what a long distance thru hike is like, this is the book you should read. There isn’t a more honest account than this one. Carrot shows you exactly what the trail is, the good and the bad. It’s definitely not all sunshine and daisies, but I promise that there’s some of both.

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