Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Walk in the Woods - Bill Bryson

1998; 274 pages. Genre : Anecdotal. Overall Rating : B..

    Bill Bryson's witty recounting of his attempt to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, despite being 44, not in shape, and not knowing anything about hiking. He's joined by his boyhood friend, Stephen Katz, who is even more out-of-shape and unknowledgeable than Bryson.

What's To Like...
    As usual, Bryson self-deprecating humor had me chuckling out loud. There's the savings-draining trip to the sports store, trying to pack without breaking one's back, the foibles of a pair of urbanites camping in the wilderness, and a guffaw-inducing meeting with a moose. Fortunately, the bears, ticks, and poisonous snakes stayed away.
    You also get to share his joy as he beholds sunrises and mountain ridges essentially untouched by the human hand. And Bryson shares his research into the history of the trail, the US National Park Service, the fauna and flora, and the very mountains themselves.
    Unfortunately, the chuckles-per-page diminish in the second half of the book. Maybe Bryson had difficulty finding something funny about almost dying from hypothermia. So the first half of the book (Georgia thru Virginia) rates an "A"; while the last half (Pennsylvania thru Maine) rates a "C".
You dare to call yourself a hiker?!
    The Appalachian Trail is 2200 miles long. Almost all of it is up-and-down mountains on barely discernible paths. I once did a 10-mile hike in Boy Scouts, over mostly level eastern-Pennsylvanian terrain, in perfect weather, and at a leisurely pace. It took most of the day.
    Bryson ended up walking 890 of those 2200 miles. That he'd write a book about this feat seems to have ticked off a bunch of self-styled "serious hikers". Personally, I'm quite impressed. I didn't enjoy AWITW quite as much as I did The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid, but it's still an entertaining book, and a recommended read.

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