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#124120 - 11/20/09 02:28 PM Ryback retro-reviewed
kevonionia Offline

Registered: 04/17/06
Posts: 1322
Loc: Dallas, TX
I stumbled on a garage sale where the folks were ditching the 4,000-sq-ft house for an RV, and in the downsizing a bunch of printed matter had to go. Besides picking up a dozen quad maps for $10, I also snagged (for a dollar) a first-edition, 2nd printing, hardbound copy of Eric & Tim Ryback's trek on the Continental Divide Trail. The book's titled, "The Ultimate Journey" and is a great and easy read.

The book was published in 1973. I'm about the same age as the younger of the two brothers, Tim. While they were out hiking the CDT I was still in the 'burbs learning how to ride my ten-speed; I could only wish someone had given me this book back then.

The story is told from Eric's perspective, since (hoping I'm not giving too much away) Tim bailed on the trip in Colorado. But while he was along, I think Tim comes off as the most amusing -- and likable -- hiking partner since Bryson's Steven Katz in "Walk in the Woods."

When Eric hit the Mexican border alone that fall, he made quite the mark in long-distance hiking. He completed the CDT at age 20. He had completed the PCT two years earlier (*) at 17 in 1970, and chronicled his thru-hike in "The High Adventure of Eric Ryback." He had done the AT before that, which of course makes him the first person to do America's Triple Crown of Hiking.

(*) The asterik, used here like in baseball, is explained later.

Eric, at 5'8", was a hiking machine, especially when you think of the weight of that old pack he was caring. And he was probably as slick a talker as he was/is a writer, because he convinced his 17-yr-old brother, a gangly 6'1", to come along on his CDT trek.

The writing reflects the times and their ages, yet it's really refreshing, even those moments that cause Eric to wax poetic.

I guess what is most impressive about the book is that they were pioneers, and kids at that. They had so little infrastructure to base their trek on. The shot of them in their turtlenecks and cotton blue jeans around their campfire is a classic.

My how attitudes change in 35 years. Some of us have come to look at the National Parks as rare havens of nature -- at least Ken Burns would have us think so. But for Eric, his walk through Yellowstone provided for some comic relief as he suddenly faced civilization and bureaucracy. It must have been something to travel NFS, BLM and private land before so much of the development of vacation homes and all their trappings (like "Keep Out" and "No Trespassing" signs) sprung up in those intervening years.

In closing, a bit on that asterik (*). After his PCT hike -- what is considered the FIRST hike of the length of the CDT, by a teenager, no less, the powers that be in long-distance hiking found people to say that Ryback had accepted rides for parts of that inaugural PCT trek. Eric & Chronicle Books, his publisher, sued for libel. Eventually the suit was dropped. Controversy remains.

It's interesting that in "The Ultimate Journey," Ryback readily admits to accepting a ride in New Mexico -- he was being escorted off an Indian Reservation for not having a permit. That event also sums up the difference in his and the modern hiking era. When the three Native Americans in an old land yacht told him to get into the car to be driven off the reservation, they told him the tribal council had sent them out to find out what this crazy kid walking alone was doing out on the desert. One of his hosts told him:

"You have become the talk of the reservation. . . . we don't see many people walking through here. You're about the biggest news we've had here since Custer."

I find it hard to say that Eric didn't deserve the titles that, through his sweat and toil and courage, he earned.

So where is Ryback today? He appears at an occasional long-distance hiking reunion where he's been regarded as a very affable celeb. He went on to be a well-regarded stockbroker, and was manager of the famous Lindner Fund a decade ago. No matter what he has done or become, it would be hard to top what he did at twenty.

Image from the front cover of the hardbound.
- kevon

(avatar: raptor, Lake Dillon)

#124146 - 11/21/09 01:41 PM Re: Ryback retro-reviewed [Re: kevonionia]
sarbar Offline

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 1453
Loc: WA
Thewre was an interview with him recently in a past issue of the magazine that the PCTA puts out. Good read!

And yeah, I am jealous of your book find! Dang!
Freezer Bag Cooking, Trail Cooking, Recipes, Gear and Beyond:

#124147 - 11/21/09 02:46 PM Re: Ryback retro-reviewed [Re: sarbar]
kevonionia Offline

Registered: 04/17/06
Posts: 1322
Loc: Dallas, TX

I'm curious if in that interview "the controversy" came up. Wondering if at this late date they've worked things out -- if things needed to be worked out. The book's coming your way after GG reads it.
- kevon

(avatar: raptor, Lake Dillon)

#124167 - 11/22/09 09:38 AM Re: Ryback retro-reviewed [Re: kevonionia]
Kent W Offline

Registered: 10/15/09
Posts: 607
Loc: IL.
Ok Im sold I just picked up this book myself on for 4.65 with shipping. I am currently reading Garveys The New Appalachian Trail. Very good read at the recomendation of a earlyer post. Bought this as well on ABE for 1.00 Abe is generally much cheaper than Amazon . Not always, I usually check them both. Happy trails

#124197 - 11/22/09 04:50 PM Re: Ryback retro-reviewed [Re: kevonionia]
Trailrunner Offline

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
I picked up the first book in the library on a whim and thoroughly enjoyed it. I found out about the controversy some time after. I felt somewhat.......betrayed. I would like to believe that young Ryback completed the entire trail but there is some strong evidence against him.
If you only travel on sunny days you will never reach your destination.*

* May not apply at certain latitudes in Canada and elsewhere.

#126998 - 01/19/10 04:28 PM Re: Ryback retro-reviewed [Re: Trailrunner]
ndwoods Offline

Registered: 01/26/02
Posts: 572
Loc: Santa Cruz CA, Sierra Hiker
I have his other one too...about the Pacific Crest's great. And, there was a 2 volume tome on hikes on the AT and he had a 60ish page story in that on his AT hike. As far as the controversy goes...he still rocks! He was soooo young to do what he did whether he hitched a couple of miles ride or not...who cares!:)
_________________________ and

#129434 - 02/24/10 11:36 AM Re: Ryback retro-reviewed [Re: ndwoods]
Doorknob Offline

Registered: 09/28/08
Posts: 8
Loc: Hawaii
I also have his books in my collection. After meeting many PCT thru hikers in the Sierras and reading Eric's PCT book I was inspired enough to complete my PCT trip in 1981. Mahalo


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