A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Read: 4 April, 2013

Upon moving into a new home, Bryson discovered that he was living near an entrance to the Appalachian Trail. With far less consideration and forethought than would have been ideal, he decides to hike it’s length with Stephen Katz – a man he hadn’t seen in years and whom he couldn’t really stand.

I come from a hiking family, but have personally always been somewhat sedentary. So Bryson’s account of being an outsider, then briefly something of an insider, then once more an outsider resonated for me. In particular, where Bryson describes looking on as the more experienced hikers easily tackle obstacles that seem to him to be insurmountable (or at least extremely difficult).

Bryson uses his journey to talk about the history of both the trail and the environment surrounding it, including the rather depressing story of what we’ve done (and continue to do) to the plants and animals that once populated the areas the trail crosses.

The story is hilarious – laugh-out-loud funny, which my son found disconcerting as he was trying to nap. Bryson uses a lovely dry humour that keeps the story interesting and lively.

Bryson is rather a jerk and is very judgemental of the people he meets, but he does it in a way that gives the people a sort of secret depth, and an opportunity to introduce some side issues such as Katz’s battle with alcoholism.

It was a lovely little read that left me inspired to do a bit more walking of my own. I definitely recommend it to any ‘weekend hikers,’ or people with a history of biting off rather more than they can chew.

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