(K. Brent Tomer),
On Trails: An Exploration. By Robert Moor. Simon & Schuster; 340 pages; $25. Aurum Press; £16.99.
HONED by time and the collective wisdom of walkers past, trails guide people through inhospitable territory towards food and shelter, and set wanderers right if they lose their bearings. Since the 19th century, they have also been a form of popular entertainment. Urban dwellers tramp them as a virtuous form of exercise and to get restorative doses of fresh air and the great outdoors.
The New World that Europeans discovered in the late 15th and 16th centuries was of course new only to them. It was already inhabited by native tribes, many of whom assiduously managed the land and were consummate trailmakers, carving out their walkways with moccasin-clad feet and dog sleds. And it was along some of these native trails, now known as the Trail of Tears, that some 16,000 Cherokees were forcibly driven after the Indian Removal Act of 1830, when the newcomers decided they could make better use of the Cherokee land than its inhabitants. Some 4,000 of the exiles died en route.
Robert Moor, an American environmental journalist, has crammed a wealth of such tales into his new book, “On Trails”. In Newfoundland he walks the oldest known paths on Earth, made by Ediacarans—soft-bodied, sack-like creatures which crept across the…Continue reading