$25.00ISBN: 9781476739212Availability: On Our Shelves NowPublished: Simon & Schuster - July 12th, 2016
Robert Moor, in the forward of On Trails, takes us along when, as a young man, he tackles the behemoth of hikes, the Appalachian Trail, becoming what is called a thru hiker by persevering, step after step, through storms and heat and exhaustion and elation from Georgia to Maine. That hike changed his life. Already fascinated with trails, their history and also their importance to humanity, he began to study them, taking us from the earliest evidence of patterned travel in prehistoric times, known by the sinuous fossil traces of the earliest life forms, through paths left by insects which, when studied, show the complex connectivity evidenced by their collective intelligence. Moor then looks at the movement of the sheep he herded for a summer and at animals in the wild, watching them create trails, then watching indigenous people follow these trails, create trails of their own, leaving behind not just artifacts of their existence but of their culture since place was imbued with story in their world. It wasn’t until footprints changed to wheel prints that the purpose of trails changed and pathways became roads, routes from A to B. Fascinating in terms of history and prehistory, archeology, anthropology, and biology, complex enough to be intriguing, clear enough for the armchair fellow-travelers, On Trails makes vivid the ways extinct arthropods, insects, animals and humans alike sculpt our planet trace by trace, step by step. Back on the Appalachian Trail, Moor follows its expanded global pathway, examining in the process the connections that are integral to all trails, the astonishing networks they create, the network of trails we follow whether on foot, through language, into cyberspace. His hard science is detailed, his social science intriguing, his narration not overly ecstatic—a pitfall of some such writing—and his philosophical conclusions about humankind’s place in the natural world deeply thoughtful, carving a trail for the reader out of the chaos of the unknown.