17 June 2007

In Memorium: Colin Fletcher, Inveterate Walker

Colin Fletcher died last week at the age of 85. For those of us who considered his book The Complete Walker a kind of bible, this news represents the end of an era.

I recall the first time I cracked open a copy of Fletcher's book almost 30 years ago. To a teenager interested in the outdoors, but for whom the Boy Scouts were too cultish and conservative, Mr. Fletcher's lyrical, funny, and practical way with dispensing advice about walking and backpacking was a godsend.

My pal Geoffrey Rule turned me on to Fletcher. Geoff was from British stock and Fletcher was Welsh. They both had an enthusiasm for walking, especially in wilderness, that was infectious and seemed cut from another time.

Mr. Fletcher wrote about his own experiences in the wilderness in such books as The Thousand-Mile Summer (1964) about his walk through the Mojave Desert and the Sierra Nevada range, The Man Who Walked Through Time (1968), which chronicled a two-month long trek along the length of the Grand Canyon, and River: One Man's Journey Down the Colorado, Source to Sea (1997).

But it was The Complete Walker that gave me advice about gear, what to take on various trips, and what to know about walking in the wilderness, which to Fletcher remained "a delectable madness, very good for sanity." Although the book was far too large to pack on a backpacking trip, I still won't leave for a multi-day trek without consulting it. Even today, I've turned to the book when planning for one of my 40-mile excursions in the Wind River range, the White Mountains, or Yosemite over the past few years.

It's an indispensable guide. And Fletcher was a companion who will be missed. Luckily, his book is still in print, in an edition updated by Chip Rawlins: The Complete Walker.

Here's a link to his obit from the Los Angeles Times: Fletcher

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