Zero Days

Egbert, Barbara. Zero Days: the Real-Life Adventure of Captain Bligh, Nelly Bly and 10-Year-Old Scrambler on the Pacific Crest Trail. Berkley, CA: Wilderness Press, 2008.

Lots of people like to hike. Some people like to take it to an extreme, like Barbara Egbert and her family. She, with her husband, Gary, and their ten year old daughter, Mary, spent six months hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. All 2,650 miles of it. Well, Barbara had to come off the trail at the end to become a trail angel so technically she didn’t hike the entire thing but Mary became the youngest person to do so. Zero Days is a memoir of sorts about that adventure. I expected the story to be in chronological order, starting with Day one in April at the Mexico border and ending six months later at the Canadian border. Instead I found to be quasi-chronological with random sidetrackings, even referring to previous hikes before Mary was born. Here are some examples, chapter three is all about the other hikers they met along the way. Chapter eight is all about the different towns they stopped in. Day 11 of the hike can be nestled with day 108 on the same page. Names aren’t consistent either. Mary could be called Scrambler (her trail name) in the same sentence. Same with Captain Bligh (husband, Gary). Egbert sometimes refers to herself as Nellie Bly. Aside from the meandering, I thoroughly enjoyed Egbert’s tales from the trails. I learned a great deal about what it takes to hike the great trails of the United States. Like, for example, you can take detours miles and miles off the PCT and you have still hiked the PCT. You can leave the hike for weeks at a time and still be called a thru-hiker. Hell, you can even hitchhike through some of it and still be called a hiker!

My one complaint – I was distracted by how many times Barbara would exclude herself (or her family) from the norm. Maybe it was just me, but Egbert seemed to put herself in a different category than the rest of the hikers; than rest of society even. I can’t really explain it except to say I began to notice of pattern. Here are some examples of what I mean, “…many thru-hikers count on doing a lot of hitchhiking. We had decided ahead of time to hitchhike as seldom as possible” (p 136), “We had a good experience at White’s, but during a later year, some thru-hikers reported a much less pleasant time” (p 137), and “After five months of the Pacific Crest Trail, the dental procedure that summons up fear in the hardiest souls had struck me as nothing more than a minor annoyance” (p 159).

I like the way libraries work. My copy of  Zero Days traveled from Sierra Vista, Arizona. 🙂

Reason: June is National Take a Hike month. This would be some hike!

Author fact: Barbara Egbert’s family is reported to have their own website. However, when I went to check it out I was told it was “temporarily unavailable.” I guess after ten years the 15 minutes of fame ran its course. Either that or someone forgot to pay the site bill.

Book trivia: Zero Days includes “the Blighs’ PCT Album.” I especially liked the picture of Crater Lake.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Hiking the (Fill In The Blank) Trail” (p 95).



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