Northbound: Crowd-funded Book of Appalachian Trail Photos

"Northbound" ~~ Photographs of hikers along the Appalachian Trail by Michael "Dumptruck" Wilson

"Northbound" ~~ Photographs of hikers along the Appalachian Trail by Michael "Dumptruck" Wilson

Dumptruck -- a.k.a. Michael Wilson -- is married to Clever Girl, one of my favorite Appalachian Trail writers. Who knew? Dumptruck is (at least) a tremendously gifted photographer.

Dumptruck has an indy-funded project that's about to go to press. If you'd like a copy, you'll have to respond before midnight on January 3, 2014.

Perhaps our interview with Michael/Dumptruck will convince you to help this amazing artist and get something for yourself in the bargain.

Michael Wilson, you've written a book about the Appalachian Trail (AT). What makes your work different from the others?

Northbound is entirely photographs taken while on the Trail. It contains only a small bit of writing at the beginning. I think other books have captured the physical nature of the Trail and its landscapes incredibly well. Yet, for me, they all seemed to miss the true spirit. This book captures the lifestyle and the faces of hikers on the Trail. I feel it shows that the most beautiful, inspiring, and moving scenes on the Appalachian Trail are of those traveling it.

There are a million picturesque places along the AT. But, I've heard hikers say that they wished they took more pictures of people they met on the Trail.

My mother said it best when I was seven years old, "In five years, no one is going to care about a picture without someone in it." This reverberated in my head while hiking the Appalachian Trail this year. I once heard it described as "The People's Trail." That idea made me want to document the faces of other hikers and the lifestyle that comes along with a thru-hike.

So, you hiked the entire AT yourself? Did you do it alone?

Actually my wife, Clever Girl, and I hiked it together this past year. We started March 7, 2013 at Springer Mountain and ended September 13th at Katahdin. We were living in New York City in 2011. Just before we got married we decided that hiking the Appalachian Trail would be our honeymoon. I have to say to anyone considering a hike with your partner, you should absolutely do it! There is no way I would have been able to do it by myself. There is something about experiencing the Trail with someone you love that makes it so much better.

Everyone probably asks you how long it took, how many miles you hiked, how you trained for the hike and what you missed most on the Trail. What are some uncommon questions people ask you?

People seem to ask what changed the most about you since the hike. For me, I'd say it was less what changed ... and more being reminded of the things in your life that really matter and focusing more energy on them. In this day and age, there seems to be a great deal of time spent on things that keep us "busy." It's hard to make time for anyone else anymore. As a couple, we were asked if we argued about anything on the Trail. Honestly, the answer is not even once. We were so free and disconnected from society that we both really appreciated the time we got to spend together.

Do you have any advice on how to care for cameras & gear on the AT?

The Trail has no mercy for cameras and other electronics. However, cameras are more durable than you'd imagine. I carried my camera in a case on the front hip-belt of my pack and used a shower cap to cover it in light rain. In heavy rain, I put it into my pack inside a dry sack. I did get water in the back of the camera somewhere in Virginia. After that, the menu functions didn't work, but it still took pictures. So, really, no loss. I got it repaired when we finished, but it was worth it.

Any tips you have on taking good pictures, besides what your mother taught you?

I'd say just keep shooting, carry extra memory cards and don't worry about having to buy new cards. When you see something you like, study it and take a bunch of pictures from different angles. Also, if you're going to be taking pictures of people, just talk with them for a while first. Make them comfortable. Anyone can take awkward photographs of uncomfortable people. Something simple - that even I often forget - is to be mindful of what is behind your subject. Try not to have objects appear to be popping out of people's heads.

Do you have any favorite characters you met on your journey?

We met a guy in Virginia who was only out hiking for a week. Then he was going to go to NYC for a job. We hiked for half a day with him and parted ways. A month or so later in Massachusetts, this very guy shows back up ... only now he's hiking in a suit coat with the sleeves ripped off and a pretty solid Mohawk. He told us he got to New York, had everything lined up for the job and even bought a suit. He woke up one morning and decided he'd rather be hiking. Regarding the suit jacket he said, "I couldn't let a good suit go to waste."

Were there any shots you missed?

There are a couple shots in my mind that I wish I had taken. There is one in particular that was from a super-cold morning, I believe it was six degrees. We were staying in a shelter in GA. Clever Girl was in her sleeping bag with the drawstring closed down so just her nose and mouth were visible. There was ice all around the opening of her sleeping bag. My camera's battery froze that night and it wouldn't power on after that. Sometimes, I remember pictures I didn't take better than ones I did. Again, takes lots of pictures and don't worry about filling up memory cards.

What's next?

We are living near Portland, Maine, now. I am focusing on my wedding photography business and any other photography opportunities. I am also hoping to create a new sport this winter; actually it just combines two activities that already exist. You snowshoe up a mountain with a sled attached to your pack. Then, at the top, have lunch. Take in the view, relax and sled down the mountain. This is really just an excuse to hide my terrible skiing ability.

Where can people get a copy of Northbound?

The only way to get a copy of Northbound is through my crowd-funding campaign. The campaign runs until Friday January 3rd, 2014. There are only a few days left. All the money raised will go toward offsetting the printing costs of the book. There will not be any copies for sale once the campaign has ended.

Here is a link to the campaign:

Also, Clever Girl blogged our amazing hike. Click here to read it.

Click Here for stories from Clever Girl

Tags: Appalachian Trail, Hiking, and News

About the Author Robert Sutherland:
Robert Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life. Robert has two adult daughters and six grandchildren.
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