A Walk in the Woods
By Bill Bryson
This is an oldie, but a goodie. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or an armchair adventurer, there is something for everyone in this story of two unprepared, middle-aged men, who attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail. Amusing quips, observances and anecdotes abound surrounding all the actions of the writer and his friend, from buying gear before the hike to various characters they meet along the way. If they had undertaken a lesser trail, in less harsh terrain, the hilarity of their missteps and misfortunes wouldn’t be quite as intense, but the disparity of their battles with one another over things like snack cakes and then their battles within themselves when bears wander into their camp, give you a sense of how they spent much of their time in a constant state of confrontation, from without and within. Physical challenges bring out the best and the worst in people, and Bryson and his friend Katz are no exceptions. It’s a wild trek, for both the author and reader, and when you are blessed with writing as witty and astute as Bryson’s, it’s worth every second you invest in it.
What I was not prepared for in tackling this book was how much time the author spends revealing not just the splendor of the things they experienced, but the darkness underfoot, and the politics that skew everything around him. It’s a lesson in ecology, history, and current events, and I dare you to read this and not immediately find yourself looking up information on places like Centralia, Pennsylvania. It is eye-opening as well as entertaining.
Now I find myself craving a walk in the woods. Perhaps not the Appalachian Trail, but certainly the trails available here, where there are hopefully no bears or Mary Ellens.