The new book by Keith Foskett is a bit of departure from his previous books and a bit outside what you would expect for a writer known for writing about his on- trail adventures. Keith has written in the past about his hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail (The Last Englishman), the Appalachian Trail (Balancing on Blue) and the Camino De Santiago (The Journey In Between). Each of these books are well written and entertaining accounts of successful thru-hike journeys. With the usual amount of people, places, and hijinks of trail life. Keith’s style of writing is easy to read, except for bits of his English humor easy to relate too.
High and Low if different. It starts by recounting his failed attempt of a thru-hike on the Continental Divide Trail, not something most people would want to admit let alone write about. However, this book is not just about the physical failure of the CDT hike; it is about the mental and emotional failure he experienced not just on the CDT, but also after returning to his home in England and attempting to then hike across Scotland. After recuperating for a bit, Keith starts with the tough Cape Wrath Trail in the Northwest of Scotland and then moving on to the West Highland Way and then eastward across Scotland. Like in all his books Keith paints a fantastic picture of the trail and the surrounding landscape, but more so here we get a daily insight into his emotional state, for you see Keith start to come to grips with the notion he might be suffering from depression. He fits the notion but can’t deny something is wrong. The outdoors that was always his refuse and the one place he could escape to when his batteries were running low, has now become his nemesis and antagonist as even the weather conspires to further his descent into the “pit” of despair. Keith’s description of this pit is truly terrifying as he describes not only the physical pain of hiking for days on end in less than ideal conditions but also with the new weight of depression building within him.
Keith has good days, as he moves across Scotland. Days described as “paths of endless Guinness” and meets some extraordinary people along the way that help shape the thoughts in his head. Does he make it across Scotland? Can you walk (hike) out of depression? I will leave you to read this tale and find out. What I can tell you is that this is a very engaging book that will make you think hard about the thoughts and struggles we all experience while on trail (and off) and in the end Keith offers some real concrete suggestions for how to spot the symptoms of depression and deal with these emotions.
A gentle reminder for those heading out this year to pay attention to your fellow hikers when you notice they are having more than just a few bad days on trail and don’t be afraid to get involved.
Find Keith’s books on his website and where online books are sold