Tuesday 9 October 2012

Book review - Grizzly Bears and Razor Clams by Chris Townsend

What an odd title! Also, an unusual format, landscape rather than portrait. The book is paperback and provides an excellent taster of the quite new Pacific Northwest Trail in the USA. This is trail that was long in the making, the result of many years pioneering work by Ron Strickland, who wrote his own account in Pathfinder: Blazing a New Wilderness Trail in Modern America, but they are very different books. The PNT starts in Glacier National Park in Montana just south of the Canadian border and ends on the Pacific coast near Seattle, some 1200 miles.

Townsend's book is an account of his solo hike along the PNT. Each of the seven chapters covers a section of the trail. There is a heading comprising a chapter name, the start and finish points of the section, the dates and mileage and also a very helpful map showing the section with his route and the PNT guidebook route. He didn't follow the guidebook route all the time for various reasons. Whilst reading, I often found myself referring back to the maps.

He writes well and manages to make this far more than the "I got up early ..." type of account and my interest was sustained throughout. I wanted to be there doing it as well. It wasn't an easy walk though, far from it. There was a navigable trail along some of the route but in some parts he was bushwacking and struggling to discern a path. It was a tough walk and to complete it, as he did, was quite an achievement. At other times, though, there were road sections that were tedious and an e-reader came in useful!

The book is generously illustrated with colour photographs taken by the author as he went and complement the text very well.

At the back of the book following the account of the walk are appendices setting out some statistics, navigation, food (as resupply was something that had to be well planned in advance), equipment and clothing, finishing with a short section on photography. He took 1,868 photographs in the course of the walk.

I enjoyed this book. It is well written and an engrossing read. It made me want to be on the next flight across the Atlantic!

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