Jean Nikolas Clemente '23 is reading...

On Trails: An Exploration
By: Robert Moor

Flash floods hauling me out to a stormy sea, a treacherous cliffside waiting for a single misstep, or a wrong turn trapping me in a dense jungle— these are the horrors roaring through my mom’s head when she tells me, “Don’t. Go. Hiking!” 

Yet teenage rebellion, of course, meant I ignored these warnings entirely. Why shouldn’t I, after all? In an island as remote as Guam, the ineffable allure of the trail— its isolation, perhaps, or its beauty— is far greater than the uncertainty of any dangers it could bring.

In  On Trails, Moor first ponders that allure as he hikes the Appalachian Mountains from Georgia to Katahdin. The result: a book that weaves biology, anthropology, poetry, and history (among others) to explore the concept of the trail. How do trails form, and how do they connect with our relationship to wilderness? How does non-human life, from microscopic unicellular life to the macroscopic elephant, understand the concept of the trail? How do our cultural beliefs shape our trails— and how do trails shape us in return? Moor explores these questions as he backpacks across the globe, tracing the weaving networks of life, technology, and philosophy that built today’s world.

Ultimately, Moor asks, “What  is a trail?” His answer: the emergence of order from chaos, in life, in history, in thought, and in our individual understanding of the world.

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