Manchester author to commence Long Trail thru-hike

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MANCHESTER — Manchester author David Quesnel has traversed Vermont once by bike for his book "GrandPAW's Memoirs: Tour De Vermont 251," and now he plans to do it again on foot.

Quesnel will begin hiking the Long Trail from the Canadian border on Monday, and plans to write about the experience for a third book in his "GrandPAW's Memoirs" series, to be titled "Short Stories from the Long Trail." The trail, the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the United States, extends for 272 miles from the Canadian border to Massachusetts.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Quesnel, who has hiked parts of the trail with his wife in the past. "This is the first time that I'm going to throw that pack on and just go. I was in my wife's custody before, so to say; I'll be on my own this time."

For the author, these expeditions into the wilderness are deeply spiritual.

"I belong out in the woods, the woods are spiritual for me," said Quesnel. "I hike, snowshoe, and stay active year round. The personality changes that are forged in mountains are incredible."

This transcendental spirituality is inextricably linked to Quesnel's identity as a Vermonter, explored in his first memoir, "Growing up on a Dirt Road," on his childhood in Whiting, Vermont.

"I have an unabashed love affair with Vermont," said Quesnel. "I really do."

Though he has not always considered himself to be a writer, the author feels compelled to continue to share his adventures in his home state.

"I had the intention of writing about the bike trip when I started. This is the second book that I have written and published, and it was in my mind right from the beginning," said Quesnel. "Writing is not easy for me, it's not natural, but I had every intention of writing."

His travels by bike didn't quench his thirst for adventure, however.

"I think what I didn't realize is that I'm a quest person. After doing 251 towns on my bike, I needed to find something else to do," said Quesnel. "I know [former Governor] Jim Douglas a bit, and when he heard I was doing the bike tour he said `What are you gonna do, walk it next?'"

Quesnel plans to do exactly that, and perhaps most looks forward to the seemingly endless opportunities for solitude found on the trail.

"When I hike or bike I do it by myself rather than in groups of people. I really enjoy the quiet, peaceful solitude of being out in the woods," said Quesnel. "I enjoy those long periods of time alone -- you can go hours on the Long Trail without seeing another person."

Out of this solitude however, grows opportunities for human connection, which the author's books have come to symbolize.

"Most of the sales for my book are to people that really know me," said Quesnel. "I gave away something like 17 copies to children and grandchildren, to share these stories with my family and friends."

In sharing his adventures with those closest to him, Quesnel hopes that he can instill his trademark veneration for the natural world in others.

"Life is a gift, embrace it; get out and get active. I know I've motivated a few people," said Quesnel. "When I did my 70 mile bike ride to celebrate my 70th birthday, I had nieces who rode 50 miles to celebrate their 50th birthday. The fact is, somewhere along the way I've motivated them, and I've raised the bar."

Sharing that motivation is what has driven the author to continue exploring, and to continue writing about it.

"You can be hiking or biking at any age; I'll be 72 years old when I start this hike," said Quesnel. "I'm enjoying life because I'm healthy, and if there's one message I could share from doing the things that I do, it's that you too can do it."

Reach Cherise Madigan at 802-490-6471.

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