這條山徑，赫赫有名，單是長度已經叫人咋舌 —— 3,500公里，橫跨美國14個州。平常人打算徒步把它走完，得花上約半年時間。據統計，只有約兩成左右的人有毅力由頭到尾走完。若然用跑的形式，目前最快的紀錄，是一位比利時好手花了41天多走畢全程。
由於此山徑聞名於世，西方世界以此山徑為題著書的人也不少。例如作家Bill Bryson就將挑戰步道失敗的經歷寫成「Walk in the Woods」；超馬跑手Scott Jurek的新作「North」，就是他用46天跑完此徑的實錄。今次介紹的《我在阿帕拉契山徑》則比較特別，是一位台灣學者自述親赴當地保育山徑的經歷，也是華文世界中難得一本專談阿帕拉契山徑的書作。
I am at the Appalachian Trail
Author: Hsu Ming-chien
Cross-country sports enthusiasts have surely heard of the ‘Appalachian Trail’ in the United States.
This famous mountain trail has a daunting distance of 3,500 km crossing 14 states. It takes around half a year for people to walk the entire trail, and statistics show that the average completion rate is only around 20 percent. The fastest running record is currently held by a Belgian who finished running the trail in about 41 days.
In the Western world, more than a few books have been written about the Appalachian Trail because of its popularity. For example, writer Bill Bryson recounted his failed trail challenge in Walk in the Woods. North is a new memoir written by ultra-marathon runner Scott Jurek about his 46-day run along this trail. As for the book being introduced in this issue – I am at the Appalachian Trail – it is special because it is a rare Chinese monograph written by a Taiwanese scholar featuring the Appalachian Trail with her own trail conservation experience in the US.
The book’s author Hsu Ming-chien, now a marine policy scholar at National Taiwan University, joined a project in 2006 in which she was selected to travel to the Appalachian Trail and study trail conservation and pathway construction. This book was first issued in 2008 and named The Most Beautiful Question Mark on the Map. After many years out-of-print, Hsu published a new edition in 2015 and re-titled it – I am at the Appalachian Trail.
This book provides background information about the Appalachian Trail, and shares stories from many people she met during the journey as well as the author’s inspirations and thoughts about mountains. In Hsu’s eyes, her visit to the Appalachian Trail was a social movement. With new-found enlightened knowledge, she hopes to protect the mountains of Taiwan from unnecessary ‘concretization’. Cross-country sports enthusiasts, without exception, are emotionally attached to mountains, and they will surely empathize with the author’s invaluable determination while reading this book.