Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail
by Suzanne Roberts
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Pub Date 01 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 22 Aug 2023
University of Nebraska Press, Bison Books
It was 1993, Suzanne Roberts had just finished college, and when her friend suggested they hike California’s John Muir Trail, the adventure sounded like the perfect distraction from a difficult home life and thoughts about the future. But she never imagined that the twenty-eight-day hike would change her life. Part memoir, part nature writing, part travelogue, Almost Somewhere is Roberts’s account of that hike.
John Muir wrote of the Sierra Nevada as a “vast range of light,” and that was exactly what Roberts was looking for. But traveling with two girlfriends, one experienced and unflappable and the other inexperienced and bulimic, she quickly discovered that she needed a new frame of reference. Her story of a month in the backcountry—confronting bears, snowy passes, broken equipment, injuries, and strange men—is as much about finding a woman’s way into outdoor experience as it is about the natural world Roberts so eloquently describes. Candid and funny, and finally, wise, Almost Somewhere not only tells the whimsical coming-of-age story of a young woman ill-prepared for a month in the mountains but also reflects a distinctly feminine view of nature.
This new edition includes an afterword by the author looking back on the ways both she and the John Muir Trail have changed over the past thirty years, as well as book club and classroom discussion questions and photographs from the trip.
“Roberts dares to combine a hiking adventure with a healthy dose of humor and female bonding in all its complicated and turbulent best. . . . An utterly refreshing outdoors memoir free of the seemingly manufactured drama so many similar titles contain. A delightful and quite literary diversion.”—Colleen Mondor, Booklist
“Almost Somewhere is, at all turns, a gratifying read. It is intimate and funny, sharp, and pensive, and its readers—if not inspired to undertake their own adventures—will certainly be sad to leave Roberts at the trail’s end.”—Michelle Schingler, Foreword Reviews
“Suzanne Roberts sets off on a remarkable Sierra journey that will test the limits of physical endurance, of friendship, and of faith in self. . . . This is not the usual wilderness story of independence, competition, and violence. Here, thankfully, is the more urgent story of intimacy, community, and compassion. A loving, and lovely, ode to life.”—John T. Price, author of All Is Leaf: Essays and Transformations
“In Almost Somewhere we get to travel both the physical John Muir Trail—its history, its flowers and trees and shadowy peaks—and the gritty emotional landscape of the three women who make the journey. Where are we in the world, anyway? Suzanne Roberts helps us know that the only place we can be is here, giving it all we have, day by day.”—Fleda Brown, author of Driving with Dvořák
“This is not a backpacking primer, but rather one on young women in search of themselves as they prepare for life after college. We read about insecurities, jealously, lust, self-esteem, tears, bingeing, self-realization, learning to appreciate oneself for oneself, and interpersonal relationships. And come away with the author’s realization that mountains in general, and the John Muir Trail specifically, provide a spectacular backdrop to work through these issues and absorb the associated lessons.”—Kurt Repanshek, National Parks Traveler
“[Almost Somewhere] will appeal to readers of travel and nature books, as well as those who enjoy reading about social interactions and group dynamics.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Readers who have walked sections of the John Muir Trail will appreciate Roberts’s accurate descriptions of lakes and passes, of trail-worn feet, and of the fleeting moments when you seem to float down the trail.”—Bradley John Monsma, ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies of Literature and Environment
“This book is one I didn’t want to end. I felt as if I were hiking with Roberts. When she finished, I would be finished, and like her, I would be sad to be done.”—Eve Quesnel, Moonshine Ink
“Almost Somewhere will not disappoint. It is a wonderful read for outdoor lovers and inspirational for anyone experiencing self-doubt. The message that resonates is, as Roberts says, ‘It’s not just in the having done but in the doing . . . being almost somewhere.’”—Gloria Sinibaldi, North Lake Tahoe Bonanza
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 4 members
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.
I am always impressed with people that long distance hike the various, amazing trails. This book was a bit different than others I've read since it involves 3 women in their 20s and takes place in the 1990s.
Overall, I enjoyed reading about her adventure and the people they met along the way. Some parts were a bit repetitive and slow. I feel like the author gained insight from her experience and the last chapter that is in this new addition was interesting as she looked back and hiked the JMT again as a woman in her 50s.
by Suzanne Roberts
Interesting and fun look into a women's journey into hiking the John Muir trail 30 years ago. Anyone who loves the outdoors or dreams of spending an extended amount of time on this or any other trail must read this book!
Almost Somewhere differentiated itself from other distance hiker memoirs first in that Roberts started on the trail with a group and then by using Muir's writings as a frequent touchpoint throughout the journey.
Between the ongoing antics of the group and the references to both Muir and the group's guidebooks, at times there seemed to be little space left for introspection by Roberts. This introspection is what draws me to memoirs. At times, a deeper dive into the feelings of Roberts would have been preferred to offering up another Muir quote.
One stand out passage: "I wanted access to my feelings without them flowing over me like a turbulent creek, drowning everything else."
As a whole this was well worth the read - but not necessarily a story that will linger in my mind.
The new edition's afterword did provide some additional context - including recognition of the limitations of Muir's world view as well as acknowledgment of the theft of Native American land. Acknowledgement of specific tribes of the region would have been a nice addition.