Walking Distance: Extraordinary Hikes for Ordinary People

“The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose”. – Charles Dickens

There are people who like to go for a walk and then there are…walkers. Famously, John Muir, Henry Thoreau, Charles Dickens and Ralph Waldo Emerson, among many others, were known for their love of long-distance walking. Add to that list Robert and Martha Manning, who have written Walking Distance: Extraordinary Hikes for Ordinary People.

This book highlights 30 hikes on every continent which can be taken by “ordinary people”. They range from the 11 mile Cinque Terre trail in Italy, to the Camino de Santiago at 480 miles (which does not sound ordinary to me). Most qualify as only low to moderately challenging and the average length is more like 100 miles. The many color pictures attest to the fact that they are all beautiful, taking the intrepid walker through some of the most lovely terrain imaginable.

The Mannings tell you everything you need to know about each walk, including over-night accommodation possibilities along the way, where to hang out when you are not walking, what to bring, what the food is like, where the pubs are, a little bit of the history of the trail and, briefly, some of their own experiences on each trail, for they have walked them all. Partly a how-to guide but, more importantly, a why-to guide, they place long walks in the “must do” and "can do" categories of lifetime adventures.

So, where to begin? I have no immediate plans to take a long, long walk in Europe, but one can dream. That is what this book is really good for: inspiring the latent long-distance walker to imagine the possibilities. In the meantime, there are lovely walks all over Ann Arbor and we have books to guide you in that adventure, much closer to home.

July is National Parks and Recreation Month

Have you been enjoying visiting Ann Arbor's many parks to get the Park Explorer badges offered in our Summer Reading Game? I sure hope so, and this is a great time to do it - July is National Parks and Recreation Month!

Even if you're not playing along with the SRG, you can still have lots of fun at the parks around the town, county, and state. If you like taking long walks or hikes, don't miss Five-Star Trails: Ann Arbor and Detroit, which gives you some good trails to try like the Gallup Park Loop and several in the Pinckney State Park. More into cycling? Try Washtenaw County Bike Rides or Best Bike Rides Detroit and Ann Arbor, the latter of which includes road, bike path, and trail routes. Can't get enough of the outdoors? Want to spend DAYS and DAYS out in nature and never have to look at a computer screen or the back bumper of the guy in front of you in a traffic jam? Check out Michigan's Best Campgrounds and REALLY get to know your state's parks!

Those of you who'd prefer to stay indoors, now would be a good time to give the hilarious NBC comedy Parks and Recreation a try!

Adventure + Spirituality = Steps Out of Time

Several months back, Kate Soper gave me her book with this note tucked inside: "...I'm not sure what you'll think about this book! But my experience on the Camino meant a lot to me and I'd like to share it with you so here goes!" Full disclosure: I am a friend of Kate. That said, I also very much admire her book, Steps Out of Time: One Woman's Journey on the Camino.

Her spirited memoir is an account of a month-long, 500-mile hike across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela. The narrative sparkles with natural beauty, camaraderie, memorable food, and the author’s personal determination to accomplish something magnificent. When she completed the hike, Kate was a changed woman.

Lots of research was done for this book, allowing Kate to offer practical advice including "12 Essential Tips for Santiago Pilgrims:" 1) Pack only lightweight, quick-drying clothing that you can layer. 2) Take well-fitting, well-used, and well-loved footwear, including good-quality, high-performance socks. 3) Your fully-loaded pack should weigh the lesser of 8 kg (17.6 lbs) or 10 percent of your body weight. (This includes a liter of water and the weight of the pack.). 4) Leave your phone at home. Ditto all other nonessentials. 5) Never leave in the morning without filling your water bottle and always carry food in your pack. 6) Wear a hat; keep your legs and arms covered or use sunscreen. 7) Bring a mechanical pencil and a lightweight journal (tearing off the cover will save a few ounces); write in it every day. 8) Unless you can sleep through noise equivalent to a freight train, bring ear plugs (snorers abound). 9) Be prepared to be humbled. 10) Remain determined to be open-minded. 11) Stop often to look and listen. 12) Try to be present in every moment.

This book is a great read and would well in a book group. Kate is retired and lives in Ann Arbor with her husband. She has worked as a lawyer, language professor, and U-M administator, among other jobs.

Take a family adventure with Larry & Pete!

With summer fast approaching, the whole family can share in the fun of vacation planning with the help of the Larry Gets Lost Series!
These fantastic books have brightly colored, retro-like illustrations and great rhymes that take your family on a journey with Larry and Pete through the streets of Seattle, New York and Chicago, to name a few. In every book Larry the dog lets the tasty smell of local foods lure him away from his good pal Pete and spends the day exploring a new city in his quest to be reunited with his boy. The stories combine fun verse, geography and history to create a wonderful travel guide for children and adults alike!

Humorous Travel Audiobook

Fans of P. G. Wodehouse and other classic British humorists will want to know about Three Men in a Boat: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Jerome K. Jerome.

Published in 1889, this nonfiction account of Jerome’s ill-fated boating trip down the river Thames is a wonderful example of travel writing. Anyone who has ever gone on vacation will likely relate to Jerome’s packing woes and travel exhaustion. Jerome manages to tell the tale in typically dry British style that had me laughing out laugh more than once.

The audiobook is expertly narrated by Hugh Laurie, whom Wodehouse fans may also remember starred as Bertie Wooster in Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster miniseries.

New fiction: The Last Days of California is a unique road trip story

The Last Days of California, the highly anticipated debut novel by Mary Miller, puts a new twist on the classic American road trip story. Published just this month, the book tells the story of 15-year-old Jess, who is traveling with her parents and her rebellious (and pregnant) sister Elise to California in anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ. Along the way, the family evangelizes and passes out apocalyptic pamphlets to people at restaurants, motels, gas stations, malls and truck stops across the southern United States. As the novel progresses, Jess tries hard to share the same religious convictions that her parents do—and that she has been taught to follow her whole life—but finds herself questioning both the beliefs themselves and her life as a whole.

Miller does a fantastic job capturing the thought processes and angst of modern teenage life, while adding the unique storyline of the supposedly impending Rapture to this travel story. The descriptions of the beauty--and lack thereof--of the southern U.S. are also enchanting for readers. This coming-of-age novel, although shelved in the adult fiction section here at the AADL, will surely resonate with readers teenaged and up.

August is American Adventures Month!

Although summer vacation may soon be over for many of us, there’s still a little time for some impromptu getaways and plenty of time to plan future vacations. August is American Adventures Month, a time to celebrate and explore the vast and varied landscapes of North, Central, and South America.

You’ll find some great adventuresome vacation ideas in Ultimate Adventures: A Rough Guide to Adventure Travel, and if you’re looking for a state-by-state breakdown of adventures in the United States, check out National Geographic’s list of America’s 100 Best Adventures. We’ve also got some great books in our collection like Discover America: A Comprehensive Travel Guide to Our Country’s Greatest Destinations and The USA Book: A Journey through America.

Here are some suggestions from the National Geographic list: Hike the Appalachian Trail (and we even have Jennifer Pharr, 2012 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year and two-time thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail, coming August 16th to the Downtown Library!), paddle the Na Pali Coast in Hawaii (The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook has a good write-up about it), raft through the Grand Canyon in Arizona, camp in Glacier National Park in Montana, or dive for shipwrecks in the Great Lakes around Michigan!

Lessons From Tubingen, Germany

Thursday June 27, 2013: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

Last summer a delegation of architects, urban planners, and interested citizens visited Tubingen, Germany to learn about Architecture and Sustainable Urban Development.

Come see a presentation of trip highlights presented by some of the participants.

This event was originally scheduled for April, and had been postponed.

Samantha Brown's Asia

If you are like me and cannot get away to far away destinations but enjoy learning about them, you may enjoy watching travel shows. A few years ago I discovered Samantha Brown’s travel program on the Travel Channel and her show quickly became my favorite. She has a bubbly personality that wins people over no matter where she goes. This is proven every time she randomly approaches a stranger and makes a joke or asks them a question. She seems fearless, but she has the charm to make anyone feel at ease, including the viewer.

The library has recently added Samantha Brown’s Asia disc 1 and disc 2 to our collection. In these two DVDs Brown takes us on a tour of Thailand, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, and Bali. Meeting up with natives who then show her around their home, Brown provides viewers with practical advice and insight into the individually unique cultures of these different locations.

If you breeze through these two discs and want more, AADL does own quite a few Anthony Bourdain DVDs that will keep you occupied for a while.

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