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On Trails: An Exploration

On Trails: An Exploration

Written by Robert Moor

Narrated by Jason Grasl


On Trails: An Exploration

Written by Robert Moor

Narrated by Jason Grasl

ratings:
3.5/5 (20 ratings)
Length:
10 hours
Released:
Aug 29, 2016
ISBN:
9781518933387
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

From a brilliant new literary voice comes a groundbreaking exploration of how trails help us understand the world—from tiny ant trails to hiking paths that span continents, from interstate highways to the Internet.





In 2009, while thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Robert Moor began to wonder about the paths that lie beneath our feet: How do they form? Why do some improve over time while others fade? What makes us follow or strike off on our own? Over the course of the next seven years, Moor traveled the globe, exploring trails of all kinds, from the miniscule to the massive. He learned the tricks of master trail-builders, hunted down long-lost Cherokee trails, and traced the origins of our road networks and the Internet. In each chapter, Moor interweaves his adventures with findings from science, history, philosophy, and nature writing—combining the nomadic joys of Peter Matthiessen with the eclectic wisdom of Lewis Hyde’s The Gift.





Throughout, Moor reveals how this single topic—the oft-overlooked trail—sheds new light on a wealth of age-old questions: How does order emerge out of chaos? How did animals first crawl forth from the seas and spread across continents? How has humanity’s relationship with nature and technology shaped world around us? And, ultimately, how does each of us pick a path through life?





Moor has the essayist’s gift for making new connections, the adventurer’s love for paths untaken, and the philosopher’s knack for asking big questions. With a breathtaking arc that spans from the dawn of animal life to the digital era, On Trails is a book that makes us see our world, our history, our species, and our ways of life anew.





“The best outdoors book of the year” —Sierra Club


“Stunning…A wondrous nonfiction debut” —Departures


“Moor’s book is enchanting” —The Boston Globe


“A wanderer’s dream” —The Economist
Released:
Aug 29, 2016
ISBN:
9781518933387
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

About the author

Robert Moor is the New York Times bestselling author of On Trails and the creator of the podcast Joe Exotic: Tiger King. His writing has appeared in New York magazine, The New York Times, GQ, Harper’s, and n+1, among other publications. He is currently at work on a new book, entitled In Trees.


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Reviews

What people think about On Trails

3.6
20 ratings / 7 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    Robert Moor hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail one summer, which began a long study (exploration) of human and animal trails.
  • (4/5)
    Really appreciated how Moor includes the trails of ants, insects, wildlife, indigenous people, and current populations in his examination of modern trails and networks. I'd heard quiet rumblings about plants to greatly extend the Appalachian Trail from my fellow hikers, but I didn't realize the concept had progressed this far so those portions were particularly informative too.
  • (3/5)
    A good book that could have been better. Mr Moor, inspired by his experience of completing the long distance Appalachian Trail, writes about the nature of trails as a biologic and cultural phenomenon. He tells us of the first organisms to move and leave trails in the geological record. He writes of ants and elephants who both make and make use of trails. But most of all he writes of the Appalachian Trail, those who walk it and those who take care of it.
  • (4/5)
    An interesting read that, at times, drug along super slow. As an obsessive walker/hiker/backpacker, I have a certain difficulty in coming to the author’s conclusions. Too cut and dried, too obsessed with “startling observations” (these are not mutually exclusive), and a possible desire to see himself as a future polymath. The book was interesting, for sure, but I constantly felt that the author was trying to impress. Decidedly not into that. Am currently traveling thru Sri Lanka, reading from my depleted stash of paperbacks, but twill be nice to get back to my rare (and better) books....Finished 19.02.20.
  • (3/5)
    Moor is a long distance walker, he took five months completing the Appalachian Trail, but rather than just the exhilaration in completing this 2190 mile journey he realised that he now had questions about just why we create trails. In exploring this phenomena he is shown some of the oldest fossil trails, he learns how and why animals do the same thing, from ants that use pheromones to guide others from the nest to sources of food. He has a go a shepherding to see how sheep make trails, and manages to mislay a complete flock in his first attempt. He joins Native Americans to see the trails in their culture and perches in a tree with Larry Benoit to gain an insight into the mind of a hunter following deer trails in a forest.

    He finds out how a new trail is created when he joins a renowned trail builder in Tennessee making pathways with a quad-bike. He is asked to join the International Appalachian Trail, what will be the world’s longest footpath, spanning from Alabama to Morocco, and spends some time walking some of what could be the Moroccan section. In the final part of the book, he catches up with the Nimblewill Nomad, M.J. Eberhart. He is somewhat of a legend, as he has walked the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail; around 34,000 miles in total. He could be described as eccentric too, having had all his toenails removed and passed on most of his possessions bar a truck and a couple of boxes of sentimental stuff. Moor joins him for a few days and walks with him from Winnie along the roads of Texas.

    Walking creates trails. Trails, in turn, shape landscapes

    Moor has tremendous potential as an author but I am not entirely sure if this is a travel book, a walking book, a book on the natural world or book on the deeper philosophy on the process of placing one foot in front of another. That said, it is an eloquent set of essays and stories about the pleasures of walking along the great trails of the world. Liked the piece about technology too, it makes a change to have someone say that it can have its place, rather than being one of those who considers the mix of technology and nature to be abhorrent. It is quite American-centric, though he does venture overseas at times, but its wide-ranging scope means that it is not quite as focused as it could be hence I have only given it three stars. However, I really liked this, as he has been bold enough to take a step off the well-trodden path for the wider view. For those with and interest in walking, this should be on your to-read list.
  • (2/5)
    On Trails started with the promise of a metaphysical journey, but it never ascended beyond the plateau it reached in the first 2 or 3 chapters. After that is was an aimless, albeit pleasant meander.
  • (3/5)
    Recently there seems to be a spate of ‘back to nature’ books on the market. Non-fiction looks at how being in nature benefits us, or the mere existence of nature preserves improves communities and similar things. As a nature girl and an outdoorswoman, I appreciate this kind of thing and had my eye on this book for a while. I thought it would be a bit less philosophical in bent than it turned out to be, and I bogged down in those parts, but for the most part it scratched the itch about why trails are so fascinating and irresistible.The narrative hinges on the author’s through-hike on the Appalachian Trail. From this he branches onto side trails about paths made by bacteria, insects, animals and finally humans. One of the things that fascinated me was how people (and animals) will find the shortest, most efficient way to get from A to B by instinct alone. In many parks, paved paths exist, but people inevitably find shortcuts across “forbidden” areas no matter what things the parks departments might put in their way. Same with nature trails; designers often find themselves thwarted by hikers taking shortcuts. I try not to do this myself because I understand that most trails are designed to keep erosion to a minimum and switchbacks and the ways they cut through the terrain are optimized to preserve the area being passed through; not to get there fastest.Another thing that intrigued me was how clueless the European settlers were about how the Indian population moved around. You often hear North America described as a “trackless wilderness” when nothing was further from the truth. They just couldn’t see the tracks because they weren’t roads and often went in directions that didn’t makes sense for wheeled vehicles or large animals. But the people here went on foot and had different routes that served different purposes; whether that being the destination or the reason for the trip. Wonderful that some of those ancient trails are preserved still, even if they are part of the national highway system.Moor’s writing is engaging and thoughtful. He makes some really unusual and appropriate word choices throughout -“I awoke to a glassine dawn.” p 45“The mule driver blew onto his hands, his curly hair collecting little nerds of ice.” p 283“We can travel at the speed of sound and transmit information at the speed of light, but deep human connection still cannot move faster than the (comparatively, lichenous) rate at which trust can grow.” p 293And while I have no desire to do any overnight or long distance hiking, I appreciated the wisdom of this -“Shaving one’s pack weight, he said, was a process of sloughing off one’s fears. Each object a person carries represents a particular fear; of injury, of discomfort, of boredom, of attack. The “last vestige” of fear that even the most minimalist hikers have trouble shedding, he said, was starvation. As a result, most people ended up carrying “way the hell too much food”. He did not even carry so much as an emergency candy bar.” p 325 (imparted in a conversation with Meredith J. Eberhard aka Nimblewill Nomad)