Hikers have been walking the Appalachian Trail since 1948, when Earl Shaffer completed the first hike. Some hike just to enjoy the scenery, while others experience the trek as a spiritual journey. In American Camino: Walking as Spiritual Practice on the Appalachian Trail, Kip Redick engages in a phenomenological exploration of the relationship between long-distance hiking—in this case, hiking the Appalachian Trail—and spiritual pilgrimage. This book shows the way the Appalachian Trail concretizes existential connections between the hikers’ spiritual experiences and intersubjective relationships with various constituents on and around the trail: mountainous wilderness; its variation of flora, fauna, geology, and watershed; and social interactions with fellow hikers and with communities near the trail. Redick contrasts “spiritual rambling” with other approaches to hiking, such as scenic hikes where an experience of landscape is the focus, or a series of other aesthetic encounters that involve hikers’ connection with nature. This book interprets the Appalachian Trail as a site of spiritual journey and those who hike the wilderness trail as contemporary pilgrims.
Kip Redick is professor of philosophy and religion at Christopher Newport University.
Chapter 1: Getting to the Mountain
Chapter 2: Spiritual Journey Versus Aesthetic Tourism
Chapter 3: A Social/Spatial Journey
Chapter 4: Can Wildness Be Found on a Wilderness Trail?
Chapter 5: Wilderness as Sacred Space
Chapter 6: Spiritual Rambling
Chapter 7: Veterans, Healing, and Long-Distance Hiking
Chapter 8: Summiting Katahdin and Coming Home
Kip Redick takes us on a restorative endeavor and a journey of meaning making, in his exploration of the Appalachian Trail as a spiritual journey. The Appalachian Trail, a sacred space for those who seek fellowship with the wilderness, comes alive through his storytelling. With every turn of the page, Redick recounts a fascinating journey of spiritual awakening as he and others engage with all constituents of the trail - both human and non-human. The embodied experience of a long-distance hike on the Appalachian Trail is indeed a uniquely American contribution to pilgrimage. Wilderness ramblers, saunterers, wanderers, long-distance hikers and walkers, spiritual pilgrims, religious scholars, philosophers, social scientists, civilians, and veterans alike will find this volume most illuminating.
Most Appalachian Trail long-distance hikers are scruffy and dirty. But despite appearances, hikers are unusually thoughtful and literate. The serious A.T. literature now numbers thousands of books. Each hiker has an interesting story. The trail itself is a blank slate offering rich opportunities for examining endless topics and learning profound lessons. Among the tens of thousands of serious hikers, Kip Redick is unique: his trail name of Hippy Kippy, service in the Marines, experience hiking around the world, leadership roles in the hiking community, and professional search for meaning and spirituality delineates a small subset of hikers—perhaps one. All long-distance hikers are profoundly affected by their trip for the rest of their life. Searching for the commonality and the sublime in the banal experience of putting one foot in front of another requires the patience and insight of a unique scholar with much practical experience. Having been immersed in the hiking literature for half a century, I am glad to have enlisted Kip as my guide in this fun and profound quest for meaning on the trail. You will not find many better companions.
With its focus on the importance of spiritual rambling and finding fellowship with nature in sacred spaces, American Camino is a book whose time has come. While the author says that real Appalachian Trail cannot be described in words or images, his lifelong search for wilderness in wild places proves the very opposite. This is not a book about scenic tourism. Rather, Kip Reddick is inspired by the idea that we can give back to nature through both reverence and sustainable practices. And by so doing, we can find ourselves on a pathway to well-being and enlightenment. To experience the Appalachian Trail’s rich ‘green tunnel’ with its unique flora and fauna, vivid fragrances, and draw-dropping land-, sea- and soundscapes, and especially the camaraderie of those extraordinary individuals encountered along the trail—the ‘soul slusher’, ‘bother of the wind’, ‘lady sherpa’—is to be transported out of a mundane existence and thrust into an entirely separate reality. Long distance walkers, or ‘through hikers’, are a special breed of rambler. For the author, the evils perpetrated upon the natural world by human beings, especially over the past few centuries, come sharply into focus as he traverses the North American continent by foot. As a true pilgrimage or sacred journey, the Appalachian Trail is both personally transformative but in these pages we also come to understand how it also provides an avenue for thinking about, and acting upon, the most critical issues of our times, namely, the very survival of our planet.