(This review of Walking Woodstock: Journeys into the Wild Heart of America’s Most Famous Small Town appeared in the Winter 2011/12 issue of Home Planet News. Thanks, Leslie!)
Perkins and Nixon, fellow poets, friends, and ardent hikers, have been walking together around the Woodstock area for many years. They have contributed an occasional column on their exploits and explorations to the Woodstock Times, and those columns serve as the source for most of this book. Their concept of “Woodstock area” extends rather far in all directions, in one case even over the border into Massachusetts.
At first glance, you might think this is a book mostly for other hikers. And in fact it will serve them well, providing many interesting hints about good walks in the area—including one excellent trail I had never known about, which begins only about a mile from where I used to live. (There is only one map, though; serious hikers will need some of the supplementary publications recommended at the end of the book.) But in its charming and amusing way the book is also an engaging commentary on the physical and cultural surroundings of the Woodstock area, a guidebook for outsiders and a frequent reminder for locals. Both Perkins and Nixon are skilled prose writers, and they have turned out a highly entertaining book which could hold the interest of people who have no intention of going for walks around Woodstock.
Perhaps the most compelling section of the book concerns Perkins’ shoulder injury during a walk he and Nixon took, at an easy point of the challenging Kaaterskill Falls trail. Both writers give their perspectives on the difficult task of rescuing Perkins and his slow recovery, paying tribute to the rescue workers who got him to the hospital. It’s a memorable story. I would have welcomed more of the writers’ poetry but the samples of each one’s work included (one by Nixon, two by Perkins) are fine and characteristic. Carol Zaloom’s charming linocuts add to the book’s atmosphere.