DiscoverBiographies & Memoirs

Waking Up on the Appalachian Trail

By

Loved it! 😍

Backpacking 2180 miles through the wilderness, a war veteran opens his eyes to see his country and himself like never before.

Waking up on the Appalachian Trail by N. B. Hankes is a true personal account of a veteran who returns home questioning the meaning of his time serving in Iraq. Along with his brother, he embarks on one of the classic backpacking treks in the United States: the Appalachian Trail. The two of them spend five months traversing rugged mountainous terrain across fourteen states. The reader gets an intimate portrait of the calamities of a standard thru-hike: sore joints, blistered feet, terrible weather, hunger, body odor. They meet a cast of unforgettable quirky characters and get into heaps of ridiculous situations. Through it all they persevere and keep hiking, sometimes with the assistance of copious amounts of drugs and alcohol. 


The author came to the trail looking for a place where he could sort out his feelings about his military experience. What he soon realizes is that his patriotic pride for his country and the freedom he believed it stood for is not as black and white as he thought. A fellow hiker, Dylan, serves as his guru and the catalyst for changing the way he thinks. I enjoyed Dylan's endless diatribes on government corruption and corporate greed. While whittling his possessions down to the bare basics, Hankes starts to recognize the connection between the American Dream, materialistic consumption, and the oil war that he was sent to fight in. His memories often take him back to Baghdad, where he describes in grim detail life where enemy mortar attacks are a fact of life and not everyone is guaranteed to return home alive. While backpacking, including the AT, is familiar and relatable to me, these scenes at the military compound were very outside of my experience and I found them enlightening.


This book is well-written, sometimes thought provoking and other times hilarious, and a worthy addition to the cannon of long-distance backpacking literature. It joins the ranks of Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods and Cheryl Strayed's Wild while bringing an entirely different perspective than either. It’s a timely story that may get some readers to question their world views while also enjoyable as an adventure travel story. As an avid backpacker that also likes to question the status quo, I enjoyed reading it and recommend it.

Reviewed by

I spend my free time outside, exploring nature any way I can. My bookshelf is filled with nonfiction adventure travel, historical exploration, local history, and the environment.

Chapter 1

About the author

N. B. Hankes is a combat veteran, scientist, writer, and modern Renaissance man, of sorts. He lives in the Pacific Northwest. view profile

Published on April 11, 2020

Published by

90000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

Reviewed by