Monday, April 21, 2014

Book Review (#38 of 2014) A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trailwas recommended to me by a co-worker who has spent some time hiking and biking various parts of the Appalachian Trail (henceforth known as the "AT"). Bryson is a humorist who has traveled the U.S. and Europe and wrote this in 1998 while living in the U.S. temporarily.

It is hard to know what is embellished and what is fact in this book, but it's certain that Bryson and an old high school classmate Kratz--overweight and out of shape-- attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Bryson is originally from the Midwest, resides in the North, and is unfamiliar with the strange ways of the hillbillies of Georgia and Tennessee. The hikers fare pretty well compared to many who give up the AT after just a few days. They survive record cold weather, snow, losing a bunch of their gear, drunk drivers, and strange or annoying hiking companions. Upon reaching Gatlinburg, they decide to bypass Kentucky by rental car (to my disappointment) and hike in Virginia. Eventually, they call it quits and decide to reunite and hike the northern part of the trail later on.

Bryson includes many facts on the history of the AT, the geography and wildlife, and is often highly critical of the U.S. Forest Service. His adventures with Katz are entertaining, sometimes fairly profane. The second half of the book where Katz is doing some solo hiking and exploring is more dull. Eventually he and Katz are reunited for a brief and disappointing last attempt at hiking before calling it quits for good. They are rightly proud of their accomplishments. I learned a bit about the AT, and was entertained. I give it 3 stars out of 5.

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