I caught up recently with Jeff Alt, author of the popular AT memoir A Walk for Sunshine: A 2,160 Mile Expedition for Charity on the Appalachian Trail to talk about the latest revised and expanded edition, which is also now available as a DVD.
If you're not familiar with Jeff's story, his brother Aaron, is a chronically ill patient at the Sunshine Home in Ohio, suffering from the brain and nervous disorder called Cerebral Palsy. Like many long distance hikers around the world, Jeff used his Appalachian Trail hike to raise charity for the Sunshine Home, which provides long term care for patients with developmental disabilities.
The Book and DVD
In order to prepare for my interview with Jeff, I read his book and watched the DVD with my wife. Both are excellent and accessible for young adults and adults. Of the two, the book contains a lot more detail about Jeff's preparation and experiences on the trail, many of which are hilariously funny. It also does a better job of explaining how family support and Jeff's friendships with other hikers help him endure the journey and overcome injuries he experienced during his hike to Maine.
The DVD contains a lot of the material in the book but provides a much faster introduction to the Appalachian Trail and Jeff's experience than reading the book. Jeff narrates his story and also provides a lot of historical information about the trail, that my wife, for example, had never known. If you are an aspiring AT thru-hiker or section hiker, and want a painless way to bring your family, spouse, or partner up to speed, this is a great introduction to help them understand why hiking the AT is a worthwhile dream.
Since publishing his memoir, Jeff continues to be a friend of the trail and is a much sought after public speaker on Conservation Issues and his thru-hiking adventures. He also got married and started a family.
Since both and his wife are backpackers, they've developed a wonderful set of tips, included in the latest edition of a Walk for Sunshine, about how to get your children interested in the outdoors and away from the TV.
Here a few of his tips to whet your appetite. I think they're rather ingenious, really.
- Bring the outdoors inside. Educate constantly to generate interest and enthusiasm. Take lots of pictures of the kids and places you go. Make posters for the family and living room and for Christmas cards. Get magazines, videos, and artwork that show places you want to go. Rent movies about faraway places. Use the Internet together to look at maps, and photographs of the wildlife, environments, and spectacular scenery you will be visiting someday.
- Involve the kids in planning out all trips and adventures. Older children can use the computer to research your destination or sport. (all national parks and most other destinations have websites chock full of facts & info., maps, wildlife).
- You’ve got mail! Send for maps and guidebooks of the area, and check with the local travel experts on hiking, rangers, guides, etc. Have the packages sent to your child or children.
- The driving priority with children is to make sure they have fun. Let them lead the way and tell you what they want to do. Whatever animal or rock your young child takes interest in, stop and explore with him or her. Talk to your child about what you’re seeing. Label the animals, rocks, trees, and flowers. Tone down your mileage goals to the comfort level of your child.
If you've never read A Walk for Sunshine, it's one of the best and easiest-to-read Appalachian Trail Memoirs available. Jeff's story is humorous and inspirational account of the physical and mental struggle of completing a thru-hike and is an excellent introduction to anyone interested in hiking on the Appalachian Trail.
Disclosure: Jeff Alt provided Sectionhiker.com with complementary copies of the paperback and DVD version of A Walk for Sunshine.