After years of farming and training horses, a Michigan woman embarked on a new path: hiking Vermont’s Long Trail.
Celia Ryker, 60, has shared her experiences in the Green Mountains in her first book, “Walking Home.”
The memoir, which is set to be released June 22, is a collection of stories about hiking the 300-mile trail from the Massachusetts border to the Canadian Border. “I’d been thinking about it, and I’m approaching 60,” she said. “And it’s about time to do it.”
Readers will become acquainted with her life, childhood and lost families members. Despite her health challenges, Ryker was determined to train.
“I was always a day hiker as a child, I loved to be in the woods. But I had never done a distance hike, or slept in a tent, I’d never carried a real pack,” she said.
But, quickly, she fell in love with the activity. Ryker and her good friend, Sandy, eventually found themselves section-hiking Vermont’s Long Trail. A hike that, if done all at once, would take almost three weeks to complete.
“We’re doing it in increments of about a week and I thought, we’ll be done in a year or two for sure. Eight years later, we finished,” said Ryker.
The Green Mountain Club built the trail from 1910 to 1930, making it the oldest trail in the country.
“It’s been in use ever since, and it’s wildly popular. I’d argue probably more popular today than it’s ever been,” said Green Mountain Club’s Executive Director Mike Debonis.
Since the pandemic, he has seen significant growth in hiking.
“People really looked to the outdoors as a way to escape, stay connected, to get out with family. We saw a 35 percent increase in use last year across the system, and that’s 500 miles. The long trail itself is 273,” said Debonis.”
Former Vermonter resident and White House Library Director Jennifer Belton found the book insightful despite not being a hiker. Before moving to Woodstock in 2011, she established the first White House library to serve a sitting president. That was during the Carter Administration.
She said in a statement: “The book gave me an insight into the life of a hike, the challenges, the obstacles, and the feeling of accomplishment once those milestones are met.”
Ryker says she hopes her books inspires people to live life to the fullest.
“I want them to go out and buy walking shoes, paint brushes, tennis racket. Anything they’ve been thinking they might want to do and haven’t gotten around to it.”
Ryker was able to summit 52 mountains while on Vermont’s Long Trail. On Thursday, June 24, she plans to give an in-person presentation at Bridgewater Grange in Bridgewater Corners.