Tag Archives: Keith Foskett

Travelled Far by Keith Foskett

Travelled Far is Keith’s latest book. Unlike his previous books which covered complete long distance treks, this is a collection of reflections on various shorter walks, with the exception of a revisit to the Camino and his aborted PCT walk. One of Keith’s previous books, The Last Englishman, about his PCT hike, is one of my favourite books. Balancing on Blue, on his AT trek, is also a good read, so I approached this book with relish.

Because it’s not about one trek, you can dip in and out of it, rather than his other books which draw you into the world of the through hiker and constantly nag you to turn the next page. Many of chapters are about his walks in Sussex, which is familiar territory to me as it was where I was raised as a kid and was the starting point for my hiking and backpacking adventures.

Keith doesn’t come from a journalistic background, so it’s been interesting to see his writing develop over the years. His writing has the immediacy and urgency of someone who puts in big miles every day. If I had one criticism, sometimes I wish he would slow down a bit to reflect on his journey. That said, you could never accuse him of sitting still and navel gazing!

The most interesting chapters for me were on the Camino and his aborted CDT trek. I knew a bit of the background to the CDT, but it was good to read the full story. I hope he can go back and do the full trek some time. The Camino is a completely different trek. It’s a shame he didn’t write a bit more on this, although I ought to get his first book, The Journey in Between, about his initial trek on the Camino.

Overall this book is an enjoyable read and hopefully there will be more books in the pipeline. I’d love Keith to do LEJOG and write about it! The book is available both in paperback and on Kindle (both available through Amazon). Keith kindly sent me a paperback copy for review and it’s good quality. One other thing to mention is that all the profits from the book will go Mountain Rescue UK.

My review of The Last Englishman

My review of Balancing on Blue

Disclaimer: Keith gave me a free copy of Travelled Far with no obligations or conditions. 

Balancing on Blue by Keith Foskett

Balancing on Blue is an account of Keith Foskett’s 2012 Appalachian Trail thru hike. If you’ve read Keith’s account of his PCT hike (“The Last Englishman“), you’ll enjoy this book. The AT is less spectacular and shorter than the PCT, but arguably a tougher hike with the trail following a roller coaster.

Although written as a continuous account, it’s very much in the style of a trail diary. Keith has a conversational and engaging narrative style of writing, full of observations and humour. You get a good idea of what it is like to do a thru hike with both the good and the bad.

Thru hiking is a tough business and the body takes a pounding over the 2,180 miles of the trail. Sometimes this is described in eye watering detail! Interspersed with the day to day walking are some observations on aspects of thru hiking and life in general.

Although life on the trail mainly revolves around the essentials of achieving daily mileage, eating and finding shelter, there are times for reflection. In particular, one incident struck me. The lowest section of the AT passes through a zoo! Keith’s encounter with a fox in a cage, contrasting his freedom with the fox’s incarceration is quite poignant.

Part of the fun of a long hike is the characters met along the way. Keith certainly met some characters! They are given some space at the beginning and end of the book to explain some of their feelings and motivations, which helps bring them to life for the reader.

The book contains no photos, which is a shame, but understandable given the extra cost it would entail for printing. Although there is a map at the start of the book, it would have been helpful to have one at the start of each chapter to give some context.

I really enjoyed Balancing on Blue. If you like reading about thru hikes, then it’s well worth tracking down. It’s available through Amazon as both a paperback (which is the version I read) and on Kindle. Click here for Keith’s page for Balancing on Blue.

Disclosure: Balancing on Blue was purchased with my own money.

The Last Englishman by Keith Foskett

last englishman

A good book is one that you find difficult to put down. I had to force myself to take a break from this one every so often. Even so it only took me just over one day to complete the 335 pages. The Last Englishman recounts Keith Foskett’s 2,650 mile trek along the Pacific Crest Trail, from the Mexican border to just inside Canada.

It was compelling reading from beginning to end. Keith even had to battle to get to the USA, with the Icelandic volcanic eruption throwing his travel plans into disarray. Getting to the start was an adventure in itself. Very quickly we are introduced to the trail and its tribulations. Blisters, body odour and dirt are constant companions. The fear of snakes and scorpions are a nagging reminder of being in the wilderness and away from civilisation.

The Last Englishman is an honest and personal account of what it takes to do a long distance thru-hike. You won’t find much in the way of descriptions of the majestic landscape. What you will find is a cast of vivid characters (or nutters) who chose to hike the PCT and an impression of the intense camaraderie (and occasionally friction) that the trail engenders.

Every day is a constant battle to do the miles, find water, eat enough to keep going and find shelter at the end of the day. Managing the toll that the trail takes on body and mind is a ever present challenge. Despite this, there is an overwhelming feeling of joy and freedom, with life stripped back to its basics.

There are continual questions as to whether characters will reappear in the story or disappear forever. There is the growing worry as to whether Keith will be able to finish before the winter snows arrive. I kept thinking “don’t take that zero” (a zero is a rest day).

There are a couple of very scary encounters with bears, as well an unpleasant incident with another PCT hiker. In the main, the interactions with both hikers and those that live along the trail are friendly. Sometimes the generosity is almost overwhelming.

The close camaraderie when facing seemingly insuperable odds, particularly near the end, shines through. Hikers pull each other through the inevitable troughs, both mental and physical of the hike. Without “Pockets” and “Trooper” (trail names), I wonder whether Keith would have made it.

I don’t want to tell you much more, as it might spoil the story (and the twist at the end). It’s a shame there weren’t more maps so that Keith’s progress could be followed more easily. Photos would have been nice, but the book would have cost more, and photos are available on his website. The gear freak in me would also like to have known his kit list (although this is also available on his website).

If you like backpacking books,then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one. I found the writing style very readable and remarkably I found no spelling mistakes. Perhaps I was reading too quickly! I’m looking forward to Keith’s next book on the Appalachian Trail. He is planning to do the Continental Divide Trail in 2014, to complete the triple crown.

The Last Englishman is available in paperback and Kindle versions (this is not an Amazon Associate link and doesn’t earn me any commission, but buying from Amazon ensures Keith receives a fair deal).

Disclaimer: this book was purchased with my own funds and I have no relationship with the author or publisher