Book Review – Walking to Extremes by Howard McCord
One Man’s Journey Through Magical Places “Walking to Extremes” is one of those rare books that defies categorization. It is a magical book, for sure; one fashioned from a rich fabric that seems to be skillfully woven by a consortium of poets, raconteurs, philosophers, naturalists, outdoorsmen, and hikers; and so it is, except that the consortium exists only in the mind of one man; Howard McCord.
On the face of it, the intent of the book seems simple enough; namely, to share his experiences hiking the arctic deserts of Iceland; and the hot deserts of New Mexico. But “Walking to Extremes” is no more a hiking book than the New Testament is about life in the provinces during the times of the Roman Empire. For one thing, the trails he describes are not the kind of trails you would take your family for a day of fresh air and exercise. In many cases, there are not trails at all; just vast expanses of some of the most inhospitable terrain hikers could imagine. And for another, I get the feeling that the hiking, as arduous and demanding as it becomes at times, is not the end game, but serves more as a platform for facilitating the philosophical and spiritual journeys McCord takes as he is walking. McCord is no novice to the outdoor world; or to the literary world for that matter. For more than sixty five years, since the age of twelve, he has been a walker, rock climber, and spelunker across three continents; and a poet-philosopher of the interactions between the mind and the natural world through more twenty books. The richness of his experience is one of the things that makes this book so compelling. If I had anything to criticize about the book it would be the ending.
The narrative ends tidily enough with some poetic observations about the journey just described; namely, the Jornada Del Muerto; followed by a one page list of sources about that journey. The latter had a conclusive look about it that made me feel that the book was finished; and I almost set it aside, thinking about the review I would write. But something made me turn the page, and lo and behold, I found a drawing and nine more pages describing a hike to the top of a seldom climbed mountain in New Mexico. This is a relatively minor criticism, one that borders on being nit picking, and the problem could be easily solved by removing the page with the list of references to the back of the book.
For me, reading “Walking to Extremes” was a spiritual, almost hypnotic experience and at times, I found myself plodding alongside McCord listening to the voices of ghosts as he conjured them, while conjuring a few ghosts of my own. This is a deep, sometimes profound, always readable book that is well worth your time; especially if you are an armchair explorer or ardent backpacker.For me, reading “Walking to Extremes” was a spiritual, almost hypnotic experience and at times, I found myself plodding alongside McCord listening to the voices of ghosts as he conjured them, while conjuring a few ghosts of my own. This is a deep, sometimes profound, always readable book that is well worth your time; especially if you are an armchair explorer or ardent backpacker.
Title: Walking to Extremes
Author: Howard McCord
Publisher: McPherson and Company
Publisher Address: P.O. Box 1126, Kingston, NY 12402
Publisher Phone Number and URL: 1-800-613-8219,
ISBN, Price, Publication Date: 978-0-9792018-6-8, $15.00, 2008
Reviewed by: Ron Standerfer (December/2008)
Ron Standerfer is a freelance writer and photographer who is a frequent contributor to Ezine Articles as well as numerous other online news sites. His latest novel, The Eagle’s Last Flight chronicles the life of an Air Force fighter pilot during the Cold War and Vietnam years. Details of his book can be found at theeagleslastflight.com
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