Thursday, July 7, 2011

Book Review -- A Walk in the Woods

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

My enjoyment rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Book source:  Public library

Sensitive reader: Foul language -- what I would consider "locker room" talk.

With bravado and a lot of planning, Bill Bryson sets out on the arduous journey to hike the mythical Appalachian Trail, the roughly 2100 mile trek from Georgia to Maine. He is accompanied by an unlikely partner, affectionately known as “Katz,” a college buddy with whom he traveled (not very harmoniously, we learn) in Europe during their collegiate days.

Bryson’s charming and witty narrative gives us a hiker’s view of the travails and rewards of making this once in a lifetime journey. They experience miserable weather, sleepless nights, small town accommodations, grumblings with other trekkers and with one another – but also spectacular vistas, scenery, and a huge sense of accomplishment (even though they don’t manage to finish then entire trail).

It’s really an inspiring tale, maybe not so much to journey the Appalachian Trail, but to strap on your hiking books and explore the nearest parks and trails within the boundaries of your own state. I was ready to head out to hike one of our local trails at Pinnacle Mountain State Park during any number of chapters.

However, the story drags when the author veers from his account of their journey and talks of the many maladies that are affecting the trails – from environmental woes to lack of government funding to neglect. I think we all know that humanity has been an enormously destructive force to our environs – it was just a complete downer that I had to be constantly reminded of how evil we are. It was also dated. Bryson took this journey in 1994 (or was it 1996?) – and the book was published in 1998 – I suppose the trail hasn’t changed much in roughly 15 years (it’s probably worse, considering the above issues) – but somehow it just felt old.

This was also a book that would have benefited from other points of view – I would love to have read Katz’s account of their journey – or of Bryson’s wife, who sat at home with their 4 children while he took a 7 week extended leave of absence. She must be a saint, because if my husband left me to go trek a countryside for an extended period – I’m not sure what he would find when he returned!

Regardless, I still enjoyed Bryson’s writing and would be willing to read his others works.

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