by Michael R. Martin Paperback
Review by Kathy Kelly-Borowski
Michael Martin wrote a feature article Hills, Hollows, and Beyond that appeared in the May/June issue of AMC Outdoors. Did you happen to see or read it? Michael wrote about the Susquehannock Trail located in North Central PA. This is just one of the trails included in his Best Backpacking book.
Best Backpacking includes just about everything a beginner to experienced backpacker would need for planning one of the trips listed in the book. A map shows the location of each trip and a planner contains location, difficulty, distance, elevation, estimated time, type of trip, if a fee is required, if dogs are permitted, ample water supply available, trips by theme (i.e. waterfalls, big views), and listing by State. Michael gave each trip what he calls “a fun and fanciful title.” These titles actually had me looking ahead to see what he named trails I had hiked. Some of my favorites: I Like Big Ridges and I Cannot Lie, (Don’t) Get Lost!, Carrying Water, and Hitting the High Notes.
Michael includes a section on where you should go hiking based on certain attributes about the areas, what you will see, what season it is or spending time with limited crowds. He also gives tips for staying safe and getting equipped for your trip. Leave No Trace guidelines are also included.
Each trail’s header includes the following: title, whether you may bring man’s best friend on the trip, water availability, are there usage fees, is camping permitted, location, trip highlights, distance, total elevation gain/loss, length of trip, difficulty, recommended maps and other resources. The description includes: over- view of hike, options for overnight, getting to the trailhead, hike description, other hike options, amenities nearby, and additional information about the trail. The author does include latitude and longitude coordinates in the hike description for reference, plus a trail map
The book is broken into trips by state: Virginia (7), West Virginia (5), Pennsylvania (6), New York (5), Maryland (4), New Jersey and Delaware (3). The author includes backpacks for all levels including a difficulty level: Easy, Moderate, Challenging, Strenuous, and Epic. Epic is defined as “Extended adventures with considerable and constant elevation gain and loss, often in remote regions on challenging trails.”
After reading this definition, I immediately turned to “Devil’s Path”, Trip #20. I’ve never hiked this trail, but I was always told it was extremely challenging. I was surprised that the trip was only rated “strenuous.” Curious, I had to find one of the “epic” trails that I had backpacked. The Susquehannock Trail was the only one that I completed. Re-reading the authors explanation of the difficulty of the Susquehannock Trail, I have to agree. We did not come across one view point, but we did walk countless ups and downs with considerable and constant elevation gain and loss. We had a stop in Cross Fork that we will never forget.
When we arrived in the small town we found they were preparing for their annual Rattlesnake Roundup. People were camped near the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources office.
The ranger on duty said we could find a spot and set up our tents. While at the small store buying ice cream a nasty storm blew into the area. The storm was so bad; we were actually holding our tent down. When the storm blew through, we got out of the tent to find a tree had come down on one of the campers, cutting it and a vehicle parked near it in half. Thank goodness no one was hurt. We spent most of the evening watching as the tree was removed. The owner of the camper came over to us and said at one point during the storm he was feeling really sorry for us being out in the weather in our small tent.
This book is a nice addition to my backpacking reference books. I have been backpacking for many years, but I still picked up tips from Michael in his gear section. After reading this guide there are trails that I have added to my list of those I would like to hike someday. Thank You, Michael.