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AWOL on the Appalachian Trail – Book Review

AWOL on the Appalachian Trail

A new updated edition of David Miller’s classic Appalachian Trail memoir, AWOL on the Appalachian Trail will be available on October 18th, 2010. Published by Amazon Encore, it will be available in paperback and as a Kindle edition.

I’ve just finished reading an advanced reviewer’s copy and AWOL is still my favorite AT thru-hiker autobiography. I read the previous edition a few years ago, but it seemed even more relevant to me this time around, now that I have more invested in going my own way.

“When the decision finally came it was an epiphany. No way was I going to allow myself to settle into an ordinary life because it was the easy thing to do. I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed, defined by my career, grow soft and specialized behind a desk. I would continue to resist specialization and stretch myself by undertaking new endeavors.”

Like all AT hiker memoirs, David’s book is full of thru-hiker lore, shelter stories, bear and mouse tales, and food orgies. If you’re thinking about thru-hiking or section hiking the Appalachian Trail, it provides an excellent state-by-state account of what you can expect along the way. This is David Miller after all, author of the The A.T. Guide, the definitive AT handbook, so he really knows what he’s talking about.

However, what sets David’s book apart from others thru-hiker memoirs are his descriptions of the kindness of the people along the trail who aren’t hikers, his friendships, and his internal struggle to stay on the trail despite physical and emotional hardship.

That’s a lot of ground to cover, but David’s narrative moves at such a steady clip, you won’t want to put AWOL on the AT down until you’ve finished it.

Sectionhiker received a complementary reviewer’s copy of this book.


  1. I just finished reading this! I agree that it is an amazing book and I highly recommend it to anyone with AT aspirations.

  2. I love this book. It was the first one I read about the AT, and it has me hooked.

    What is updated about this new version?

  3. As far as I can tell the intro has been expanded, Amazon has taken over as the publisher, and there's a kindle edition. I'm just glad that the book is in circulation still. It's a great read, even if you're not thru-hiker material.

  4. I've read 20 or so books written by hikers of their accounts on the trail and this is my favorite. Highly recommended.

  5. Enjoying this read (on my iPhone) but I'm kind of puzzled about how much you get away from civilization on the AT. I don't like trails and shelters that are overused and dirty, and as a loner-type I'd rather pitch my own tent than hang out in a shelter. Now I have to go back and read your entries about the AT and stealth camping. Can you use your own shelter? Is the AT overrun/overused?

  6. Same for me too. I think thru-hikers bond so tightly because they share an intimate and highly social experience like that described in David Miller's AT memoir. Personally, I only sleep in a shelter on the AT if I have it to myself or if it is raining so hard that it's the only way to stay dry.

    For the most part, I don't hike the AT when there are going to be a lot of thru-hikers in the area and go mainly in the off-season before or after the pack has passed by. Like you, I far prefer the privacy and quiet of a stealth site over a mob experience. I've even started camping dry more this year, frequently carrying extra water in the evening, to get to more remote or scenic campsites.

    There's also the issue that many AT shelters are old and questionable and I'd rather camp elsewhere under a tarp than spend a night in them.

    But depending on where and when you go, you can get far far away from the crowds on the AT.

  7. You should hike the Ozark Highlands Trail. I hiked it last April, and didn’t see a single person the first two days, and only four other people during the rest of my hike. You can camp anywhere you can pitch a tent. I am currently 3/4 of the way through AWOL’s book on a kindle. It is hard to put down.

  8. I have read it a few times now and it is still my favorite AT memoir.

  9. Sounds like a ‘Novel” thing to do. When do yo think I should do it? Spring 2013?

  10. Cheryl Coldsmith

    Loved loved this book. I was so sad when I was done with it I started it over again. Well done David Miller. Thank you.

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