Over the Top and Back Again, by Brandon Wilson
Pilgrim’s Tales, Inc. 978-0977053650, $ 14.95, 2010
Reviewed by: Richard R. Blake
Trieste to Monaco Over The Via Alpine Traila
As I read Brandon Wilson’s account in “Over the Top & Back Again” I enjoyed vicariously all the excitement, danger and adventure Brandon and his wife, Cheryl, experienced as they traversed a new hiking path called “The Via Alpine Trail.”
After experiencing what Brandon describes as “facing the scary sameness of so-called normal life” he was ready for a new challenge. Together the Wilson’s made the decision to downsize their belongings and to burn their bridges behind them to follow the alpine trail.
The Via Alpine Trail crosses eight countries and covers 200,000 square kilometers. The trail is made up of five tracks connecting existing long distance trails across the Alps. There are various stages and runs which sometimes intersect allowing hikers to explore a personal Alpine interest. The Wilson’s itinerary was planned around the goal to complete the trail from Trieste, Slovenia to Monaco in one five month season.
They soon discovered the difficulties confronting them. In spite of the dearth of good maps, disappearing trails, and harsh weather Brandon and Cheryl enjoyed Slovenia scenery, culture, and the promise of “Discovering the Alps” as they traversed parts of Italy, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, France and Monaco.
Clever illustrations by Ken Plumb, accompany the helpful maps detailing the trek and spectacular photos that include: the “breathtaking grandeur” of the Alps, a “jaw dropping panorama,” the marmot and other wildlife, a refuge hut, and a unique reminder of the danger of a trek, “agony of de feet.”
Brandon has a gift for creating descriptive phrases that bring a scene to life. For example: a “breathtaking, heart throbbing climb.” Other graphic descriptions include colorful characters met along the way, “a crotchety fella” and “a grand mountain woman.” These descriptions compare the vast range of attitudes of refuge owners. He uses the heart to illustrate both sight and sound, “heart-stopping vistas” and “our hearts pounding a polka.”
I especially enjoyed the thought of solitude as found in a “magical sanctuary” or “a cathedral among the clouds” as the epitome of tranquility, contrasted with a storm where the “thunder boomed like cannon fire.”
I also appreciated Wilson’s careful attention to detail, his subtle sense of humor, candid approach, and spontaneity.
Throughout the entire trek made up of 350,591 feet of vertical climbs and descents across the Alps, the rain, the snowstorms, and death-defying dangers, Brandon and Cheryl, did not lose sight of their motive and the underlying joy that drove them to experience the adventure of breathing fresh air, the freedom to explore, daily measurable accomplishments, memorable views, personal peace, the companionship of community and reconnecting with nature.