Podcast #318: Exploring Life’s Trails, Literally and Metaphorically

One of my favorite things to do in life is to find and hike a trail out in the wilds. I love how a good trail gently leads you through nature. You don’t have to think much about where you’re going, so it gives you time to think about other things. It’s great for chewing on deep issues and getting new insights, but it also causes you to take the trail for granted. For example, I sometimes forget that a group of people blazed the trail I’m enjoying and that another group continues to maintain it without any fanfare.

My guest today decided to stop taking trails for granted and to explore them in-depth — both literally and metaphorically — after his own hike on the Appalachian Trail. His name is Robert Moor and he’s the author of the book On Trails: An ExplorationToday on the show, Robert shares why he decided to hike the entire Appalachian Trail after he graduated from college and why that experience led him to diving into the deeper meaning of trails.

We then discuss why following a trail is so existentially satisfying and how trails are embedded in human thought and communication and provide us with a sense of place and orientation in our lives.

We end our conversation talking about the idealistic origins of the Appalachian Trail, the movement to extend the Appalachian Trail to Morocco, yes Morocco, and what a perpetual hiker named Nimblewill Nomad can teach us about the limits of freedom.

If you’re a hiker, you’re going to love this show. If you’re not a hiker, it’s going to inspire you to find a trail this weekend and become one.

Show Highlights

  • Why Robert wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail (AT)
  • How Robert’s experience on the AT led him to exploring trails in-depth
  • How trail-making is a form of communication in the animal world
  • The ways that animals go about making and following trails
  • Why did humans start making trails?
  • How trails provide meaning and coherence
  • How trail-making (and road-making) has changed over generations
  • Why hiking on a trail is so soothing
  • The unsung heroes of the folks who blaze and maintain our hiking trails
  • What makes for a good trail?
  • Hiking in the US & Europe versus other parts of the world
  • How mountains, forests, and wilderness in general were seen in popular culture before the Romantic Era
  • The origin story of the Appalachian Trail, and long backpacking trails in general
  • The International Appalachian Trail project
  • Hiking (and the strenuous life) as the antidote to the problems of civilization and modernity
  • Masculinity’s tie to the wilderness
  • Nimblewill Nomad’s story — what we can learn from a man who has spent his entire life walking/hiking

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

On Trails was an absolute joy to read. Robert does a great job navigating readers through time and space to capture the power of trails in our lives. Ever since I’ve read the book, I’m much more thoughtful about the trails that I find myself on.

Connect With Robert Moor

Robert’s website

Robert on Twitter

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Coming soon!

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