A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
I am furiously writing Christmas (Holidayish) cards to people and trying to get them sent off so they'll make it to their destinations by New Years Eve. Which is obviously not Christmas but I had a week's worth of migraines and I did nothing last week. Not even decorate for Christmas. I'm the only lightless house in the neighborhood! Even my Trump loving next door neighbor put one of those inflatable yarn ornaments out (by his Trump sign, it's color coordinated!). It's bad when you're the only scrooge on the block!
I read this book awhile ago and liked it. So when it popped up in my "to-be-read/reread" shelf, I went ahead and read it. I've read quite a few Bryson books and enjoyed all but one (he seemed really oddly bitter in that one and I can't tell if I didn't get the humor). Often his books are written for a British audience, but with the caveat that non-Brits might enjoy them. I think I enjoy Bryson more when he's bringing history into his work (re: At Home) verses when he's in a setting of which he doesn't understand or he's uncomfortable. I think sometimes when dealing with people Bryson can punch down. It can come off very elitist but yeah, sometimes it's a bit misanthropic. For instance, whilst I like many of Bryson's books, I'm well aware that he seems to see everyone in the south as something off Deliverance and judges from that. So he probably wouldn't like me for existing I guess. Perhaps that's wrong but it's been a theme in a few of his books (heavily highlighted in The Lost Continent). To be fair to Bryson, it's a thing for some people to punch down (or to take the mickey out of) I guess in Europe and it's not always my favorite type of humor. One of the first things a Danish dude said to me was that "All Americans are fat...you're just not fat yet." Thanks Danish dude. He told me later is was a joke but I mean, we're not going to be friends (which upset him?!).
I've verged. Bryson has a quirk with this writing and is best when he does history and not travel experiences where he has no curiosity (he's done this in Australia, America, UK, Africa, and Europe...occasionally he's overly grumpy and mean). Danish men surely aren't all assholes but I've yet to meet a non-rude one. I've met lovely Danish women though.
Title: A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trial
Author: Bill Bryson
Page Number: 276 pages (paperback)
Genre: Non-fiction, Travel, Humor, Memoir
Publisher: Broadway Books (an imprint of Random House)
The Appalachian Trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and covers some of the most breathtaking terrain in America—majestic mountains, silent forests, sparking lakes. If you’re going to take a hike, it’s probably the place to go. And Bill Bryson is surely the most entertaining guide you’ll find. He introduces us to the history and ecology of the trail and to some of the other hardy (or just foolhardy) folks he meets along the way—and a couple of bears. Already a classic, A Walk in the Woods will make you long for the great outdoors (or at least a comfortable chair to sit and read in).
I have Bryson's One Summer to read and At Home to reread. Which is nice for me, as Bryson did announce his plans to retire. He's had a pretty long career so I get wanting to retire.
So this book covers Bryson's attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail. I live near the Trail and I remember busting out laughing when he admitted how awed yet unprepared he was. This trail is massive and some parts are really rough (high summits). I've had a few friends complete it and more have had to stop (and even a few that had to be rescued). This trail is no joke. That being said, there are some parts that you can hop on and off for a lovely day walk.
Bryson does talk about how he stumbled upon the trail in his town (a sign mentioning one of the access points) and that's how he started on his journey. He also notes how hiking in the UK is different. It is! I had friends in uni that would take a weekend and hike and backpack in Scotland and England. I'd got with them when they'd get supplies (or refresh their supplies). There was no need for bear spray, lectures on how to avoid deranged mountain men (this might not be a universal issue), important protein/nutrients MRE were not vital (I mean, baked beans seemed to be their go-tos), snake bite kits were never mentioned. That's not to say hiking in the UK was a piece of cake, but it was a little easier to ramble around the hills. Obviously the more advanced hikers/adventurers were "bagging the Munros" where I lived.
You just didn't have to fight a bear for a Munro climb.
The main Appalachian Trail has one end in Georgia (near Atlanta) and another in Maine. There are connecting smaller trails and other longer trails (including the Eastern Continental Trail-which incorporates Florida down to Key West and New Brunswick, Quebec, and Newfoundland in Canada). The Appalachian Trail only is around 2,100 miles (around 3380 kilometers). You can walk it point to point in about a year or do what Bryson/Katz do, which is walk parts. They took breaks and went home. They skipped sections, stayed in hotels, ate at restaurants, etc. That's all fine! If I walked I'd probably do sections as well because I think walking the trail with a menstrual cycle and cramps would be a pain. I've had friends who have done it though. Either way, you're a badass for going on the trail, it's a huge feat. Just extra points if you've got period poops.
My favorite, laugh-out-loud section was when they met (against their will) Mary Ellen from Florida. I've met a Mary Ellen (many times over) and her male counterpart (Mark Elvis? Mark Edward?). Anyways, Mary Ellen in the book is a disaster. She's overconfident, opinionated (yet very wrong), nosy, bossy, and in their business. She criticizes all they do and even eats Katz's sweets (creating an enemy for life there). She tags along with them in Georgia (against their will). She befalls her own self and Bryson/Katz escape. Which is great for them, but I found much joy in their misery. I do hope Mary Ellen doesn't recognize herself in the book because Bryson was vicious towards her. Mary Ellen the person wasn't funny, but Katz and Bryson's misery was. If that makes sense.
A movie was made from the book, which I haven't seen as I'm behind on all cinema. It has a great cast (Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Emma Thompson).
The Appalachian Trail:
The Eastern Continental Trail:
Munro Bagging (AKA Scottish Mountain Hiking):
Penguin Random House:
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