Shawn Taylor

"Short Stories From A Long Walk"

Home | Store | EPK/Press/Bio | Contact | Media/Music | Wandering Roots Band | Shows | Songs

Short Stories From A Long Walk


Short Stories From a Long Walk

‘Thru’-Hiking Through Life

I reached Baxter Peak in Maine for the sunrise on Oct 18th, 1996, at the end of a six-month Appalachian Trail hike, with a good friend who I’d met along the way. The peak was a proud granite island in a vast sea of clouds that stretched to the sun. I was twenty-one years old and ready to take on the world. Fifteen years later and married with children, “Short Stories From A Long Walk” will tap that journey once again, and the trips I’ve taken since, to learn from them, enjoy them, continue them & share them with you.

A ‘thru’-hike is an unbroken continuous end-to-end hike of a trail of significant length. The Appalachian Trail was 2159.2 miles in ’96. I skipped about a hundred miles between NY, MA, & CT (we’ll get to that later).  But these stories aren’t about miles, and neither is ‘thru’ hiking, not to me anyway. Though before I shoot down my credentials; I have thru-hiked VT’s Long Trail and California’s John Muir trail in their entirety, and it was only a hundred miles of the AT that I skipped. What I’d like to focus on here though, is how ‘thru’-hiking, and long distance trips in general, relate to ‘regular’ life. I’m not writing for ‘thru’-hikers. I’m writing for people (Yes… ‘thru’-hikers are people too).

To me, a ‘Thru-hike’ doesn’t begin at Springer Mt, or the MA border or wherever. It begins in ones mind the moment it’s conceived. My own AT ‘Thru’-hike (to use the term loosely) began when I was about ten years old, on a hike up Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts with my folks. We met a married ‘Thru’-hiking couple with their dog. “You walked from where!?!? You mean if I keep following this trail I’ll end up in Maine or Georgia?” I had to run back down the mountain to the car to look at the Atlas, only to have to wait for my parents to catch up to get in, while I daydreamed about hiking off into the wild. And while I got away from that fantasy as a teenager a bit as other things began to take priority, I was already unconsciously hooked. But really, I suppose, it started long before that. We’re all on our own ‘thru’-hikes through life the moment we’re born.

And ‘thru’-hikes don’t end at Baxter Peak, or MT Whitney, or any of the other long trail termini out there either. Instead, they weave themselves through everyday life like invisible threads, connecting one with different times in their life, to different people and places, even different versions of themselves. Like the memories and premonitions of any truly great experience, they live on to help shape our futures and define our pasts. They mature like wine. And as layers of insignificant detail fade, deeper truths of experience, different flavors come to light and those journeys live on with a finer taste. Though I suppose like wine in a cask, those memories and connections in my head have an expiration date, so what better time to write than now.

I started this project years ago as an undergraduate creative writing major at Southern Connecticut State University. For my thesis, I wrote a small collection of short fiction and non-fiction stories based on my experiences. I published several of them in the University Literary Magazine “Folio” and was lucky enough to have the first story I ever sent out, “Reliance,” published as a first place entry in Gulf Stream Magazine’s literary contest (Which is where this blog will begin). But the project promptly stalled upon graduation, as I caved to the enormity of it. It would have been much easier to just walk the whole thing again, and again…  It was all still too close to write. So I took to writing songs, which I still do, feverishly, and I put away the pen for a while, at least when it came to this collection.

But now, with the perspective of fifteen years, a marriage, fatherhood, homeownership and everything else that comes with being a ‘mature responsible’ adult, I believe this re-exploration will be most fruitful and fun.

The trail encompasses a wide range of experiences and people. (Even two ‘me’s; the youthful me of then, and the … not quite as youthful me of now re-experiencing it in my mind.) As an exploration of this diversity, I’ll use a wide range of medium. Posts will be fiction and non-fiction; though in the cases of fiction, I can assure you that the stories, the places, and even the characters are very real. In many ways ‘fiction’ is a more efficient vehicle for truth. There will be journal entries, letters, song lyrics, essays and rants, all with the aim of building characters and telling stories individually, and as a collective whole. ‘Thru’ hiking is one of those things that you have to do to truly understand, and yet it relates a lot more to everyday life than I’ve found to be written about yet. I’ll do my best to take you there and entertain you along the way.

I encourage you to post your feedback; to ask questions or comment on the writing, the characters, the ideas, the facts, voice a complaint or … whatever you feel compelled to contribute.

As my life has grown very busy with family and a developing music career, I can’t foresee the pace with which I’ll be able to deliver, but please be patient; even the longest journeys happen one step at a time.

I hope you will join me for the trip!

"Short Stories From A Long Walk"
(click to visit the Blog)