Grueling Long-Distance Hike Becomes a Good Read

Step-by-step travel from Mexico to Canada

IIPromiseNotToSuffer-cover.jpm Promise Not to Suffer: A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail is three books in one. It’s an experiential travel book, a memoir and a love story. Author Gail D. Storey weaves these three threads into one immensely readable book.

Since this blog is about travel, bear with me if I don’t write about anything other than travel part. This epic hike on the demanding, commanding Pacific Crest Trail involves 2,663 often grueling miles from the border with Mexico to the border with Canada. Gail writes eloquently and often with humor about the ups and downs — literally and figuratively.

Gail hiked with her husband Porter, a multi-talented physician with much more outdoor experience than she had, who also made their trail gear, cooked meals on the trail, navigated and encouraged his wife whose skill and confidence grew en route. Gail’s tales of the trail (poetic, huh?) recount how challenging, frustrating and rewarding such an endeavor can be. Think of it like Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods but on the other side of the country and with estrogen.

The logistics for the hike are complicated — obtaining a permit; planning, purchasing, packing and shipping supplies; figuring out what will be needed when, given the distances, changing weather and varied terrain. There are deserts to cross, mountains to climb and descend, rivers to ford, snow to navigate and encounters with wildlife from annoying gnats to a mountain lion that turned out to not be as menacing as she had feared. Plus the temperatures ranged from well below freezing to baking. Their goal was to cover 20 or more miles a day. Did I mention that they were not youngsters?

The Storeys planned to be through-hikers, accomplishing the entire trail in one season. Gail hiked nearly 900 hundred miles before exhaustion and the need to be with her terminally ill mother took their toll. Porter completed the hike, but Gail managed much more mileage than many other hikers. Some are segment hikers, clicking off trail sections over the years. Others finally quit — in the case of one Austrian who managed just four days before deciding to take a sightseeing trip through the US instead.

In case a reader is inspired to tackle a long-distance trail or just learn what goes into the prepartion, Gail includes several resource appendices — not enough to get anyone through a hike, but a good start in learning what needs to be done. If Gail were not a friend, I might not have bought this book*, but she is and I did and I’m glad. And I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading narrative travel, memoirs or love stories.

*Signed for me by both Gail and Porter.

7 thoughts on “Grueling Long-Distance Hike Becomes a Good Read”

  1. Claire, wow, thank you for this fabulous review on your distinguished blog! I’d buy the book if I hadn’t written it, your review is so captivating and smart. I love all your blogs, and recommend that anyone landing here also check out your others from the list top left.

  2. Anyone who has read Gail’s fiction will see her wit and charm in this nonfiction tale. And it will humble any recreational hiker because this is not ordinary trail. It is long and grueling, with climate, altitude, and terrain changes. Oh, yes, and one inspiring encounter with a mountain lion. It’s a great book!

    Melanie

  3. Since hiking anywhere is the farthest thing from my mind, I was most pleasantly surprised at how fast and fun PROMISE proved to be. It was the voice. Gail would be pleasant company on any hike. She’s definitely pleasant company under the covers with my reading light on!!!! Love story, yes. Adventure, yes. Memoir, excels.

  4. Yeah, the Bill-Bryson-with-estrogen remark is brilliant! Can’t wait to read the book!

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