Barbarian Utopia: Encounters on the Appalachian Trail
A Documentary Film by Thaddeus Lamar


Review by Anstr Davidson


Conscientious PATC members need to know about the Appalachian Trail.  Yes, the club maintains many other trails, but "AT" is our middle name: Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.

AT film posterHow does one learn about the many facets of this great trail?  Thaddeus Lamar, the son of PATC Natural Resource Advisor Rob Lamar, has created a brief and pleasant way to learn about the trail - its wonders and its problems - with his documentary, Barbarian Utopia: Encounters on the Appalachian Trail.

Spend an enjoyable 90 minutes with this video, and you will have a good taste of the trail, trail towns, the history and politics of the trail, flora and fauna on the trail, and those who hike and maintain it.  You get a glimpse of the trail’s path in each state.  You learn what white, blue, yellow, pink, and aqua blazing are.  You observe trail magic as well as the opposite.  
If there were a school class on the Appalachian Trail, and you had not studied all semester, you could cram for the final exam with this documentary.  What’s more, you would receive a passing grade.  

PATC volunteers work on privyLamar presents a good balance of background and historical information with interviews of thru hikers.  The hikers are the stars of the show, as the film is more about their hikes than Lamar’s.  While some of Thaddeus’s hike is included, it is not the focus. The final push to the summit of Katahdin is of Rob’s hike, not Thaddeus’s.  This is different from accounts such at David Miller’s, AWOL on the Appalachian Trail. Miller’s fascinating account is of his hike from his own point of view, whereas Lamar’s account includes many viewpoints.

Lamar has a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University. After graduation, he decided to combine the film making skills he gained in college with his passion for the outdoors.  In 2014, he took several digital video cameras and thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. He spent the time since in completing the film.

His work was all worth it.  The scenery is gorgeous.  The film is put together well.  And it was even partially done on an iPhone!

If you want to be an educated member of the PATC, this is a good place to start.

Film Credits

Photos in this story are courtesy of Thaddeus Lamar.  From top:  the film's poster; PATC volunteers installing a privy (scene from film); from the closing credits

Barbarian Utopia: Encounters on the Appalachian Trail, a documentary by Thaddeus Lamar, 2019.  Purchase on the film's website or stream on Amazon.