A Walk In The Woods – Bill Bryson
First Published: 1997, Doubleday
This Edition: 2015, Black Swan
From the back of the book: “The longest continuous footpath in the world, the Appalachian Trail stretches along the East Coast of the United States, from Georgia to Maine. At the age of forty-four, in the company of his friend Stephen Katz, Bill Bryson set off to hike through the vast tangled woods which have been frightening sensible people for three hundred years. Ahead lay almost 2,200 miles of remote mountain wilderness filled with bears, bobcats, rattlesnakes, poisonous plants, disease-bearing ticks, the occasional chuckling murderer and – perhaps most alarming of all – people whose favourite pastime is discussing the relative merits of the external-frame backpack.”
Thoughts: I read this when I needed an adventure, but didn’t have the time off work available to have one. Having finished it, I now want to walk over 2,000 miles through the forests and mountains of the Appalachian Trail. So, this is a dangerous book.
Bryson’s anecdotes filled the pages with stories of Katz’s blunders as they attempt to reach Maine on foot. What Katz hadn’t told Bill on the phone was that since they last met he’d developed an alcohol problem, a strict eating regime and put on a substantial amount of weight. Perfect for trekking half way up the USA, right?
I spent most of the book waiting for them to get eaten by a bear, or fall off the side of a rocky cliff edge, despite knowing that at least Bill lived to tell the tail. I’m not entirely sure how they managed what they did.
In addition to reminiscing about the journey, Bryson introduces us to the wildlife of the Smokies, an unflattering summary of the history of the National Park Service, and some wonderful characters. The most memorable of these for me was Mary-Ellen, and it’s left me quite concerned that she may still be wandering about in the mountains somewhere pestering middle-aged men on a mission.
Edibility Rating: 4 Monster Points
Favourite Line: “Every twenty minutes on the Appalachian Trail, Katz and I walked further than the average American walks in a week. For 93 per cent of all trips outside the home, for whatever distance or whatever purpose, Americans now get in a car. That’s ridiculous.”