Please Note That This Review Is Based On the Anniversary Edition of A Walk for Sunshine. Other Editions May Not Include The Same Information.
I was given the opportunity to read Jeff Alt’s book A Walk For Sunshine that documents Jeff’s fundraising thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. It is one that I had previously passed up reading prior to my 2015 – 2016 hike of the of the AT. I had come across this book several times during my research prior to my hike, even picking it up and reading the back of it but put it back for one reason or another. Now, wanting to experience the trail again, I gave it a go and found my expectations were in the wrong place.
It should be first noted that Jeff’s book is based on his thru-hike that took place in 1998 almost twenty years ago so I found some of his trail experience clearly dated. Jeff openly admits this in a brief last blurb in the book entitled “The Appalachian Trail (AT) Then and Now”. Although I found this dated info somewhat distracting, it’s not the main point of the book.
Jeff initially decides to thru-hike while on a small backpacking trip. A few years later he finds himself in a transitional stage of life and with some reflection on the current state of the world, Jeff puts his decision into action and starts planning his hike. Here is where his story varies from others I have read.
Jeff discusses that he often compares his life to his brother Aaron’s. Aaron was born with cerebral palsy and a cognitive disability and since a young age has lived full-time at an organization named Sunshine. As Aaron is unable to walk or to care for himself in any way, Jeff dedicates his thru-hike to Aaron and decides to use his hike as a fund-raiser for Sunshine; giving back to them as they had given so much to his brother and to other men, women, and children with developmental disabilities.
Jeff’s book documents his personal experiences during his thru-hike not unlike those of any thru-hiker’s extreme weather, hiker hunger, wildlife encounters, emotions, etc. although I never feel I am a full participant in the story. He discusses his fundraiser from start to finish and weaves aspects of it and his thru-hike together but I often forgot he was hiking for something not just to something. He himself seems to forget that he fundraising.
At the end of his hike, Jeff raises more funds for Sunshine then he initially expected and inspires an event “Sunshine’s Walk, Run & Roll” which is still currently being hosted. In the last chapter and in a few extra sections included in the anniversary edition, Jeff discusses the further impact his fundraising hike has had on his life so many years later, along with general information on how to plan a fundraiser. It is only in these last breif sections that I feel included in the full aspects of Jeff’s venture.
Although it is honestly not my favorite narrative on hiking the Appalachian Trail and I would be a total jerk to say I didn’t like it, I do wish Jeff would have included more detail of the fundraising aspects of the hike (before, during and after), more details on how this aided and or took away from his thru-hike, and more about his relationship with his brother and family. I never felt I was actually part of Jeff’s experience but simply reading a summary of his hike. One cannot argue the fact that Jeff has left an impact when it comes to turning a personal endeavor into a fundraiser. It is now incredibly common to hear about a hiker that is raising money for charity on a thru-hike. I personally saw two thru-hikers doing the same during my own thru-hike and constantly see new hiker’s following in the same boot marks.
I think the reason I passed up this book so many times before is because I knew it would not focus on the nitty-gritty of a thru-hike which proved to be true. Honestly the nitty gritty was not the purpose of the book which you can easily tell just by reading its description. Jeff, however, did something I was not willing to do, share his thru-hike with a noble cause. I was selfish in the fact that I wanted my hike for myself, not willing to commit to anything else but the trail. With sharing his hike, Jeff raised a ton of money for Sunshine and is still continuing to do so with speaking engagements, the continuous sales of his book and with the Walk, Run, and Roll Fundraiser that his hike inspired. This annual event now in its 20th year, has raised more than $500,000 for people with disabilities receiving services from Sunshine.
With that being said, I feel I have a skewed view of Jeff’s book from that of a selfish hiker who wants only the gory details that I know exist with the planning, living, and the aftermath of a thru-hike. Would I recommend this for a potential thru-hiker right away? No. I do however recommend you give it some consideration before you just pass it up.
If your interested to find your own thoughts on A Walk For Sunshine or want a perspective from someone who has hiked for a noble cause, you can find Jeff’s book Here via Amazon or check out your local library!
Things To Expect In Up Coming Blog Posts/Website Posts And Other Doings:
I Totally Just Discovered That Appalachian Trail Tales, (Chica & Sunsets) Another Hiker Couple I Followed During Their Recent Thru Hike Of The AT Have A Blog! How I Missed This I Have No Idea But It’s Good Stuff! Check It Out Here!
A Retry Of A Lady Backpacking Trip Is In The Works! – Stay Tuned!
Other Book Discussions/Reviews I’ve Done: