April 2021 Book Club - "On Trails" by Robert Moor

This book was my pick. I first read it a couple of years ago and was struck by a number of things.

First, there was the great story of trails from the beginning of life to the Appalachian Trail and beyond. I thought this was great and I loved the different branches of science that were brought in to the history of trails.

Second, the personal stories that he told felt really poignant and that he was using trails to explore both his own and our greater philosophical approach to life in general and life outdoors in particular.

Finally was the AT story woven through the narrative. I’ve never set foot on the AT, but since Bill Bryson’s book (but there’s a review there for another time) it has fascinated me - especially when Scott Jurek and Karl Meltzer exchanged FKTs. The international AT concept from the end of the book struck a chord, especially as the Irish branch puts a slice closer to home.

I’m looking forward to everyone else’s thoughts!


I really enjoyed the book as well. When I first picked it up I thought it was going to be dedicated to our life on trails - trail running and hiking. I was more than pleasantly surprised to learn that he was taking us back…way back to really start the story of trails.

I became consumed with the story of ants and how trails are used by them. As clever as we think we are, it’s amazing how we follow the same types of trails laid out by our community. Think about how stuff goes viral in our modern world. That’s not very different that a single ant finding a hot dog at a picnic. That ant finds it, lays out a “food” trail on the way back to the colony…then every ant there follows that food trail laying down more powerful trails back to the colony each time. Eventually, the food is gone and the trail disappears, never to be traveled on again.

So similar to how things go viral in our world…someone finds something of interest (the hot dog) and tells everyone else they need to check it out (the food trail back to the colony)…this continues, with each person telling others until, eventually, the moment is gone and the trail disappears.

I may be overthinking that part of it, but it really resonated with me.

I have already recommended the book to a handful of people and bored more than a few with discussions about ants.


Ha! @davidc “hot dog at a picnic” love that. And it’s very interesting bc we essentially do the same thing the ants do – it’s allllmost democratic. If the trail leads to something beneficial/valuable, then more individuals will travel it, thereby voting with their feet.

and @AdamML this was a great recommendation, definitely one I wouldnt have found on my own, which is the real value of a book club.

I especially enjoyed the discussions and stories about Native Americans bc that was all information I was totally ignorant of – Cherokee have multiple names through their lives? Awesome.

The notion of having an International AT made me think back to my geology days – Pangea, Continental Drift and Alfred Wegener.

The book did a great job of being very multi/interdisciplinary.

Good choice!


Thanks for the book suggestion. As one commenter noted, I certainly wouldn’t have found that on my own. That said, I didn’t love the book. I liked the beginning and thought the book would discuss more about how different species used trails. It touched on this at the beginning and then got onto human trails. The misanthrope that I am, I didn’t love the anthropocentric nature of the book. It was somewhat interesting, but ultimately left me wanting more.


I have dual feelings regarding this book.
I expected something like a Scott Jurek type of book, with a storyline like “ooooh, I can run 25 hours a day”.
When - after reading only a few pages - it turned out that this is not the type of book I expected, I was a little disappointed. On the other side, I really liked the personal stories, and all the stories of those interesting people the author met.

Good: I have to recognize the huge amount of effort that the author put into this book. It is a well edited book with good storyline. The personal stories are great. (quoting @Joseph3619 here “I didn’t love the anthropocentric nature of the book” - which I fully agree with)

Not so good: Hey, call me crazy, but I love to read about running. This book is not about running, not even trail running, even the word “running” has only one appearance in this book. :slight_smile: As trail running gets more and more popular nowadays, I think the last few chapters could have a few pages about trail running as well. Hiking is still the most popular activity to spend days out there, but trail running is coming up. :wink:

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