A Familiar Wilderness

Dahlman-front cover copyMy new book, A Familiar Wilderness: Searching for Home on Daniel Boone’s Road, is now available (University of Tennessee Press). 

It tells the story of my solo hike in 2013 that traced the route that Daniel Boone and a 30-person crew blazed in 1775, which opened the way for westbound pioneers and grew into the iconic Wilderness Road.

Writing as one who moved to northeast Tennessee after a lifetime of moving around, I wanted to better understand and appreciate my adopted home, and so I made this journey. A Familiar Wilderness is framed by my 300-mile trek between Sycamore Shoals, Tennessee, and Fort Boonesborough, Kentucky, most of it along state and federal highways that have long since overwritten the Wilderness Road.

In telling that story, the book weaves in the complex history of the road and the places it passes through, considers how the region has grown and developed from the 18th century until the present, intimately describes the locations as they exist now, and introduces dozens of people I met and interviewed (and occasionally befriended) during the journey, letting them tell their stories.

As I go, I also try to offer a close-up perspective of the region, frequently raising questions about the environmental and economic impact of “civilization,” the relationships between white settlers and Native Americans, the evolution of the region’s culture, the impact and legacy of coal mining, and more.

The response so far has been gratifying, such as from George Brosi at Appalachian Mountain Books.

For more information and to keep up with upcoming events, please visit and like the book’s Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you too.