Mountain Lines – Jonathan Arlan

Roam Chronicles

Some travel books let you know that your average self is all you need to have an adventure.  In a world of Red Bull athletes and big-wave surfers, it is nice to be reminded that we can have true, life-altering experiences by getting out and just, well, walking. 

Mountain Lines takes us on the adventure that we can all have if we are willing to make the time and roll the dice with weather and sore feet.  Will you necessarily be comfortable?  Nope.  Will you be a different person when you return?  Almost undoubtedly.

Jonathan Arlan Mountain Lines

The lure of making great treks is one that can take you around the world.  Whether it’s the John Muir Trail in California or the Milford Track in New Zealand, great walks are out there to be had for almost anyone with a reasonable investment in gear but a potentially unreasonable investment in time. 

Of course, no place does this like Europe, with it’s established system of chalets, refuges, that dot the trail serving hearty meals and cheap (the inexpensive cheap, not bad cheap) wine to those willing to make the effort.

Arlan brings us on this knee crushing adventure as an every man, not the one who had trained extensively or was just finding himself in between epic mountaineering expeditions.  He brings a humble worldview molded by his understated yet obviously extensive (by most measures) experiences traveling and living overseas.  

For the average reader, Arlan’s life, as told in little tales and references throughout the book, is going to come across as much more adventurous than he lets on.  Maybe it’s just his Midwest roots.  He lulls you into thinking, I could do this.  I SHOULD do this.  And then he freezes at the crux of a col, and you wonder ‘Could I do this?’

Even your average (well, in this case, 30 day) hike in Europe will contain levels of exposure many here in the states are not used to.  It will also include better food.

And you have to appreciate a guy who admits in is book that when two Swiss women invite him to join them in a skinny dip in a lake, he’s just too tired to say yes.

So, if you are looking for inspiration to get off the couch or just plan something new, take on that next adventure, Mountain Lines would be a great read for you.  After all, in this conversation Arlan has with a French couple on the trail about sailing with their children:

‘I don’t think I could ever do that’ [Jonathan Arlan says.]

He brushed this off. ‘Anyone can.  It’s simply a matter of doing it.’

I really appreciate when travel texts that I enjoy send me down other wormholes.  Here are some of the texts that Arlan refers to in Mountain Lines and recommends:

  • Paddy Dillon – The GR5 Trail – ‘compact and invaluable’
  • Nan Shepherd – The Living Mountain
  • Nicholas Bouvier – The Way of the World
  • Jack Gilbert poem – Joy has been a habit
  • James Salter – Solo Faces; ‘the best part of the best mountain climbing novel ever written’

Mountain Lines by Jonathan Arlan: Amazon

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