Wednesday, March 9, 2016

A Walk in the Woods
Bill Bryson

      Try to read Bill Bryson's book, A Walk in the Woods, without laughing out loud.  I dare you.   What could be funnier than a forty six year old man (with no hiking experience) hiking the Appalachian Trail with  an old college pal, (also with no hiking experience) who is a recovering alchoholic addicted to Little Debbie Snacks and soda pop?  Nothing, I assure you.
     Bryson begins by describing the purchase of his backpack at a specialty "outdoorsman" store, (ha ha) and then filling that pack with a tent, groundcloth, portable stove, pots and pans, (ha ha ha) bottles for water, water purifying kit, waterproof jacket, (hahahahaha) extra socks, extra sweater, maps...get the picture yet?
     He and friend Stephen Katz manage to hike approx. 875 miles of the 2100 mile long Appalachian Trail during one long, very hot, summer, taking breaks to go home and regroup, hitch rides, skip over the boring parts, and slip in a few weeks of solo day hikes.  This haphazard hiking method (which is better by far than anything this normal human being could accomplish) leads them finally to the toughest part of the A.T., The Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine.  A maze of trees and swamps, frosty lakes and sheer rock climbs, The Hundered Mile section of the trail prompts the two men to  look each other in the eye and...quit.  But considering that only 10% of the hikers who start the A.T. in northern Georgia end up making it this far, even an unsuccessful attempt is quite an accomplishment.
      Expecting bear attacks at every step, Bryson and Katz encounter only pushy novice hikers, rude twenty-somethings who are ignorant of even basic trail etiquette, and nasty bunkhouses.  I'll admit, I kept hoping that they would encounter some type of threateneing wildlife, just to see what their reactions would be.  But, other than dirt, heat and hunger, (Katz had a habit of tossing their provisions out of his pack when the going got tough.)  intense discomfort and soul-sucking exhaustion were the only threats.
     So I highly recommend unwrapping a Little Debbie cake, lacing up your hiking boots then propping your feet up on the couch to take A Walk in the Woods with Bill Bryson!


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