One hiker’s exploration of the Appalachian Trail

Richardson-BreakfastOver the course of 11 years, Alan Richardson, a professor of English at Boston College, hiked the entire Appalachian Trail (AT), a nearly 2,200-mile journey that extends from Georgia to Maine. His approach was unique. Rather than hike from one end to the other, Richardson “jumped and danced around,” backpacking the AT in sections and out of order. From 2004 to 2015, he explored the AT via 47 different trips. He captured his experiences in the new book, Breakfast with Salamanders: Seasons on the Appalachian Trail (2021). “Hiking the AT in sections, rather than thru-hiking it from end to end allowed me to experience the trail in every season and in all weathers…seeing an unusual variety of mosses and wildflowers, birds and mammals, and nearly every atmospheric condition you can imagine,” he writes in the book’s preface. Breakfast with Salamanders is also informed by Richardson’s practice of Zen Buddhism. He notes: “I have tried to give a sense of what mountains and rivers and the footpaths that wander through them can still mean to us at a time when the concept of nature is being challenged and the natural environment itself has come under unprecedented stress.” An expert in British Romantic literature, Richardson has taught at BC for more than 30 years. He grew up in Washington State where he would backpack and mountain climb in the North Cascade and Olympic ranges.

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