The Compleat Ambler - Hardback
The Compleat Ambler - Hardback
Most hiking guides are about the where and how of hiking; The Compleat Ambler is a guide to the why and what. It is the culmination of the author's over twenty years of observation, research, and writing about the natural world that surrounds us. It is a seasonal roadmap of discovery - about the history, lore, fables, and superstitions that surround us at every step. And more than that, it is a prescription to escape from the physical concrete of the cities and the mental entrapment of electronics in a renaissance of spirit outside in the wind and the rain. The intent is to inculcate an understanding of ecology, how everything fits together in interdependence. This then leads to where humans fit in, and to the necessity of balancing our needs with the physical limitations of our one and only home. If enough younger people come to appreciate the delicate balance of what evolution created for us to enjoy, they will vote to save it, for all of our sakes. Philosophically, this book is intended to be what Isaac Walton's classic The Compleat Angler was to fishing; the result of a long period of learning about the hiking world of the outdoors and a desire to share the knowledge thus acquired with the like-minded. Over the course of the last twenty-five years, a generation has come and gone; where there were few there now are many. Young people have returned to the forests and mountains in what may well be a diaspora, a break from the past toward a new future; every generation seeks its own path. These young adults are evident everywhere, hiking in ones, twos, and dozens in the newfound freedom absent the devices of connectivity. This book is for them. It goes beyond the physical mechanics and the details of boots and packs to the marvel of what nature has to offer - flora, fauna, fungi, and fossils. It is equally for those retired from the paycheck continuum of all work and no play seeking a new start; there is nothing better than nature's canvas of greens and browns with a splash of red now and then. The mental and physical health of those who walk in the woods is here, a tonic for the ready, willing, and able.
The format is seasonal with bookends. The narrative begins with the thesis that hiking and human health are quid pro quo from an evolutionary perspective with a codicil example of what nature can provide as insight - 'the weed that killed Lincoln's mother.' Starting in the spring as any awakening must, the sequence follows the progression of the seasons with three chapters for each season thematically germane to that time and place - birds of summer, fruits of fall, and rocks of winter. The last two chapters address the hazards of hiking as 'Snakes in the Garden of Eden' and the postscript 'Compleat Ambler' - a compendious summary of why it is important to 'eat right, walk more, seek trees.'
The author, William Needham, has been a hike leader for numerous local hiking organizations for over twenty years, every hike providing an opportunity for those who venture out to learn about nature. With degrees in science, engineering, education, and business, the subject matter can be wide ranging but the intent is always to better understand the realm of the forest that is eschewed by the media culture. As a matter of collateral relevant qualifications, he is a Master Naturalist in Maryland, a docent at the Smithsonian American History Museum, and the president of the Mycological Association of Washington DC. He is a trail overseer and a life member of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.
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