A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
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Soon to be a major motion picture starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte.
The Appalachian Trail 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).
- Amazon Sales Rank: #3173 in Books
- Brand: Bryson, Bill
- Published on: 2006-12-26
- Released on: 2006-12-26
- Original language: English
- Number of items: 1
- Dimensions: 6.90" h x 1.20" w x 4.20" l, .45 pounds
- Binding: Mass Market Paperback
- 397 pages
Your initial reaction to Bill Bryson's reading of A Walk in the Woods may well be "Egads! What a bore!" But by sentence three or four, his clearly articulated, slightly adenoidal, British/American-accented speech pattern begins to grow on you and becomes quite engaging. You immediately get a hint of the humor that lies ahead, such as one of the innumerable reasons he longed to walk as many of the 2,100 miles of the Appalachian Trail as he could. "It would get me fit after years of waddlesome sloth" is delivered with glorious deadpan flair. By the time our storyteller recounts his trip to the Dartmouth Co-op, suffering serious sticker shock over equipment prices, you'll be hooked.
When Bryson speaks for the many Americans he encounters along the way--in various shops, restaurants, airports, and along the trail--he launches into his American accent, which is whiny and full of hard r's. And his southern intonations are a hoot. He's even got a special voice used exclusively when speaking for his somewhat surprising trail partner, Katz. In the 25 years since their school days together, Katz has put on quite a bit of weight. In fact, "he brought to mind Orson Welles after a very bad night. He was limping a little and breathing harder than one ought to after a walk of 20 yards." Katz often speaks in monosyllables, and Bryson brings his limited vocabulary humorously to life. One of Katz's more memorable utterings is "flung," as in flung most of his provisions over the cliff because they were too heavy to carry any farther.
The author has thoroughly researched the history and the making of the Appalachian Trail. Bryson describes the destruction of many parts of the forest and warns of the continuing perils (both natural and man-made) the Trail faces. He speaks of the natural beauty and splendor as he and Katz pass through, and he recalls clearly the serious dangers the two face during their time together on the trail. So, A Walk in the Woods is not simply an out-of-shape, middle-aged man's desire to prove that he can still accomplish a major physical task; it's also a plea for the conservation of America's last wilderness. Bryson's telling is a knee-slapping, laugh-out-loud funny trek through the woods, with a touch of science and history thrown in for good measure. (Running time: 360 minutes, four cassettes) --Colleen Preston
From Publishers Weekly
Returning to the U.S. after 20 years in England, Iowa native Bryson decided to reconnect with his mother country by hiking the length of the 2100-mile Appalachian Trail. Awed by merely the camping section of his local sporting goods store, he nevertheless plunges into the wilderness and emerges with a consistently comical account of a neophyte woodsman learning hard lessons about self-reliance. Bryson (The Lost Continent) carries himself in an irresistibly bewildered manner, accepting each new calamity with wonder and hilarity. He reviews the characters of the AT (as the trail is called), from a pack of incompetent Boy Scouts to a perpetually lost geezer named Chicken John. Most amusing is his cranky, crude and inestimable companion, Katz, a reformed substance abuser who once had single-handedly "become, in effect, Iowa's drug culture." The uneasy but always entertaining relationship between Bryson and Katz keeps their walk interesting, even during the flat stretches. Bryson completes the trail as planned, and he records the misadventure with insight and elegance. He is a popular author in Britain and his impeccably graceful and witty style deserves a large American audience as well.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
YA-Leisurely walks in the Cotswolds during a 20-year sojourn in England hardly prepared Bryson for the rigors of the Appalachian Trail. Nevertheless, he and his friend Katz, both 40-something couch potatoes, set out on a cold March morning to walk the 2000-mile trail from Georgia to Maine. Overweight and out of shape, Katz jettisoned many of his provisions on the first day out. The men were adopted by Mary Ellen, a know-it-all hiker eager to share her opinions about everything. They finally eluded her, encountered some congenial hikers, and after eight days of stumbling up and down mountains in the rain and mud, came to Gatlinburg, TN. Acknowledging they would never make it the whole way, they decided to skip the rest of the Smokies and head for the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia-by car. Late that summer, for their last hike, the pair attempted to hike the Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine, near the trail's end. They got separated and Bryson spent a day and night searching for his friend. When they finally were reunited, "...we decided to leave the endless trail and stop pretending we were mountain men because we weren't." This often hilarious account of the foibles of two inept adventurers is sprinkled with fascinating details of the history of the AT, its wildlife, and tales of famous and not-so-famous hikers. In his more serious moments, Bryson argues for the protection of this fragile strip of wilderness. YAs who enjoy the outdoors, and especially those familiar with the AT, will find this travelogue both entertaining and insightful.
Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Most helpful customer reviews
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful.
Read It Before You Hike It!
By Gerald Austin Stephens Jr.
I'm a sexagenarian who, on a recent vacation, happened to walk out and back on the first three miles or so of the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail (Springer Mtn, GA) and, in a fit of exhilaration, decided then and there that I would, by golly, hike the AT before I died. I was even so foolish to announce this on social media, which provoked a flood of suggestions that, before making any rash decisions, I read Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods." And so I did. Having years ago read and enjoyed his "Notes from a Small Island," I was not surprised that "A Walk" kept me chuckling--sometimes laughing uproariously. Nor was I surprised by Bryson's skillful wordcraft--the man is a masterful phrase turner. And yet there's more. As I was joyfully entertained by his incisive sense of humor, I was simultaneously and seriously learning history, biology, geology (and several other -ologies) as well as being discomfitted by Bryson's documentation of our culture's dismissive practices regarding ecology. Bill Bryson is very witty, to be sure, but he's also very knowledgeable, does thorough research, and subsequently marshals and seamlessly expresses what he's learned. In other words, he's a very good teacher. I much recommend this book. And, yes, I'm still planning to hike the AT.
0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
It's worth your time.
By Bayard G.
Bill Brison’s memoirs of the Appalachion Mountain Trail walk that he of Hanover New Hampshire and a Sam Katz of Des Moines Iowa did in 1996-1997. Brison is a travel writer. He writes well and the book has a warmth that makes you want his book to go on and on. He has terrific humor of a sarcastic nature. He weaves into his narrative facts about the trail, the founders of the trial, how different hikers approach the hike (thru walkers, etc.), the gear, food and water required to walk the trail, the landscape, the mountains, rocks, trees, rivers, streams and lakes, fauna and flora, the dangers (bears, rattlesnakes, insects, poisonous plants, murders), the hardships, and the weather, the camp grounds and sheds, observations about other hikers, the National Parks, the local clubs that maintain the trail, persons and companies that have exploited the trees, animals, fish, and minerals, towns along the trail, roads, etc. He draws stark contrasts between the rustic trail and the concrete asphalt world on either side, and he gets you to see the rustic as preferable. The weakness of the book is Brison, at heart, a loner. I’d read his books, but I would not go out of my way to go on a hike with him (apparently not many of his friends or acquaintances did either, except for Katz and I would hike with Katz).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
More than a walk in the woods
Bill Bryson has written a hiking narrative, well sorta. In fact, Bryson has written a hiking narrative that focuses less on the trail and more on the overall experience. This includes the history, the people, and the day-to-day struggles of the hiker. The end result is a wonderful story that weaves together Bryson's trademark humor with a perspective on the wilderness of the trail.
A few reviewers have found fault that Bryson doesn't get a step-by-step account of the AT...other complain that Bryson complains too much about the challenges that he encountered. However, It is true that Bryson did not walk the trail straight through, but how many of us really have time for that? However, he was not trying to write a trail guide nor was he shy about explaining that walking a 2,100 mile trail was not easy. He is able to write a true story about the challenges faced and the characters that you may walk across while on the trail. Whether it is Mary Ellen and her annoying non-stop opinions or the college kids that are inconsiderate to their fellow cabin mates.
Final verdict -
The net effect of "A Walk in the Woods" is a story that inspires - to the point where I was trying to determine if I could take 6-months off from work to walk it myself. I really can't recommend it highly enough - unless you are looking for a straight trail guide. If you are looking for either a great (relatively quick) read or as a nice supplement to your AT reading material "A Walk in the Woods" is tough to beat.