Colin Fletcher, 1922-2007


“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”-Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I read Thoreau because I read this quote in the first edition of The Complete Walker. I moved from Vermont to Chicago on the spur of the moment one October because I’d read Thoreau. We ate at a Thai restaurant today because when I lived in Chicago I fell in love with Thai food.

My idea of a good vacation involves a wilderness, a map, and being alone. I am comfortable and safe in wild places because I learned from Colin Fletcher’s writings that it is possible to be comfortable and safe in wild places.

There’s a sleeping bag and an alcohol stove and collapsible water bottle on the floor by this desk right now because at the end of July I’ll be going on my summer vacation, backpacking for a week along the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. I own an alcohol stove because in the 4th edition of The Complete Walker, Chip Rawlins (Mr. Fletcher’s collaborator) – wrote “If stoves were poems, this one would be a haiku.”

I am not crying, though I feel as if I could. Colin Fletcher touched my life deeply in many ways that I know he never knew about, and that even as I live them I do not always think about. Certainly it stretches the imagination to think that the Vietnamese sandwich I bought at the Thai restaurant today because I was reading Thorne on bahn mi has its indirect origin in a book about backpacking. But it does.

Rest in peace, Mr. Fletcher. I know you weren’t much more a believer then I am, but I do hope — because it lets me weep to have this hope – that you woke as if from good sleep after a long days walking, and that waiting for you was that far green country under a swift sunrise.


Backpacking icon Fletcher dies.


3 thoughts on “Colin Fletcher, 1922-2007

  1. I wonder how many people would understand the deep, deep connection you can feel about an author – How you can, sometimes, trace something in your life to one book, or one essay, or one poem? I’m sorry for this loss – and glad that you gained so much from his words.

  2. Beautifully written. I knew Collin Fletcher’s book was one of your favorites, but I didn’t know how much his work wove itself into your life. Love, DH

  3. It was after reading “the Man who walked through time” that I made the decision to continue my academic studies and become a Geographer. Shortly thereafter, I saw the Grand Canyon. I made the decision to hike in and possibly accross that canyon, some day. I did not realize it, but I wanted to do it to gain a little of what Colin Fletcher had felt. August 2007, I finally had the opportunity to hike from rim to rim. It was great! Sitting on the South Rim watching the tourist look at me having just arrived up from the canyon, I said, “Thank you Colin Fletcher”. I did not know of his demise but feel that he understood. Those of us who challenged ourselves in the wilderness can say it again and again–“Thank you Colin Fletcher”.

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