Book Report: Weird Hikes by Art Bernstein (2003)

Book coverThe 2023 Winter Reading Challenge has a category “Nature/Outdoors,” so I picked this book out of the Nogglestead stacks (which I’ve started to use instead of “to-read” shelves because hyphens are getting expensive these days). I got this book from my first order from ABC Books during the Great Springfield Timeout of 2020.

So: This book is by a naturalist/conservation agent? who has written a number of hiking guides for hikes, presumably in California and Oregon mostly, as that’s where he has lived for a long time. This book, though, captures 14 of his hikes where he has found something spooky to think about, or at least he let the imagination get the best of him. So we get things like his meeting someone who has been dead for a long time and spending time with her at her cabin which has been burned down for a while, or maybe hiking while Bigfoot is watching him, or encountering his first bear on a hike after thinking about encountering a bear while on a hike….

So the weird is kind of not really that weird, honestly, and some of the distances seem a bit short–he talks about hiking a couple of miles as though it’s a bunch, and maybe the trails out west are more rough than we have here, but I know I have hiked the Long Trail at the Nature Center with my boys since they were toddlers, and it’s not all paved. And my friend Chris, who was shot down in his back yard in St. Louis a couple of years ago, did an extreme hike as a fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and that was like 30 miles or more in a given day. So I wasn’t terribly impressed by the number of miles, but he did carry some camping gear sometimes and camped overnight, and maybe the country is that much rougher on the back side of the Rockies.

What really struck me about the book, though, was his life taking place outside the hikes. The first takes place when he’s in school; another, a couple later, talks about a dream he had about hiking with a woman whose face he doesn’t see, but he later hikes with a woman on a date, and he ends up marrying his dream woman and helping to raise her child. They have a pair of daughters, hike sometimes with the family, and then at some point he mentioned marital problems, and then they divorce.

That meta text made me rather sad, ultimately. And the book did not inspire me to want to go for hikes, although we’ve been known to hit a lightweight trail or two in our travels. I mean, it’s no Nature Noir, but then again, Nature Noir was no nature noir, so I guess it’s par for the course.

I did get to check the box on the Winter Reading Challenge though.

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