Location: Somewhere in the Bigelows, ME
I started late today because I only had six miles to hike. Last night there was a terrible rainstorm. The wind blew harder than I’ve felt on this trip yet, and I learned today from a caretaker that the temperature dropped to 42F. The winds kept me awake last night because I kept hearing limbs break and I became paranoid about my tent being crushed.
While crossing the Bigelow range, I met Sourball between Avery and West Peaks. He had spent the weekend in the fire warden’s tower and was heading in my same direction as I was. He appreciated that I told Steve Longley, the ferryman, that he said hello. Sourball told me that he was researching Alpine plants for his monthly article on horticulture of the Appalachian Trail in the Bangor Daily News. He also told me that he was self-publishing a book on the AT. For that reason, I decided to hike the rest of the day with him.
On West Peak, we had a clear view 100 miles each way. We could see Mt. Katahdin to the north, Mt. Washington in NH to the south, Cadillac Mountain on Acadia to the east, and the Canadian border mountain range to the west. The view extended forever in every direction. Sourball smoked at heap of pot at the summit. I declined his offer to smoke once more. He said marijuana was the only drug he used anymore, but he didn’t really consider it a drug. He talked about his previous LSD addiction that nearly ruined him. He began to hike the mountains to escape the drugs and through that decision he owes his livelihood. He still embodies the stereotypical stoner mentality and character that I have come to despise. Frequently he tried to make deep, profound comments and he would either forget his original thought completely or get sidetracked by tangent stories.
He explained his book in detail to me. The book is fictional. It’s based on his 1994 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Most characters and the roots of the storylines are drawn from reality. The book is 15,000 words long, divided into 22 vignettes, and it took him 12 years to write. The main character is a man, Ivey Burbank, who hikes the Appalachian Trail and becomes involved with 61 different characters in 22 episodes. I’m interested to see how Sourball manages 62 characters in 125 pages. He offered me quotes from the book. Unfortunately I can’t remember them exactly, but many of the passages he recited did not appeal to me. They certainly did not sound as through 12 years of work had been applied. The stories were riddled with similes and metaphors, many of which I didn’t think matched the actions he was trying to describe. Once character, Clay Deep, climbs out of the valley like a bug climbing out of a glass jar. I suppose I understand the action, but I don’t know if that is the best comparison he could have drawn. I hate to be a harsh critic of a man nearly 60 whose dream is fulfilled by publishing this book, but his ideas and writing did not appeal to me at all. He said repeatedly that American readers were suckers for alliteration, a comment that made me cringe every time he touched on it. He took much pride in one phrase about blueberries on the bushes bobbing on bending branches (or something like that). I wish I could remember more about his works, but I cannot. He plans to send me a copy of his book. He’s paying to have 50 copies of the book published. Having been rejected by most publishers, he has developed a plan for publicity. He will send a copy of his book to Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Oprah, and Jimmy Buffet, just to name a few on his list. Included will be a note asking for their help in making the book known. If they can’t help him, then he just hopes that they enjoy the book. I look forward to receiving a copy of Dreaming the Appalachian Trail. For Sourball’s sake, for his dreams and happiness, I hope that the book does succeed, regardless of my opinions about its quality.