So after I finished Bryson’s Thunderbolt Kid, I checked Overdrive to see what other books of his they offered. A Walk in the Woods came highly recommended, and I’m here now to recommend it to you! If you want to read several hundred pages about the beautiful scenery and history of the Appalachian Trail and come away thinking, “God lord, I’d love to do that but those people are crazy!”, then you should definitely read this.
“Black bears rarely attack. But here’s the thing. Sometimes they do. All bears are agile, cunning and immensely strong, and they are always hungry. If they want to kill you and eat you, they can, and pretty much whenever they want. That doesn’t happen often, but – and here is the absolutely salient point – once would be enough.”
Rather spur of the moment, Bryson decides he’s going to hike the Appalachian Trail — or at least part of it. He’s joined by his idiot friend Stephen Katz (mentioned in Thunderbolt Kid as well), and buys a bunch of stuff, and sets out. The rest of the book intertwines their adventures with the history of the trail itself. The result is very funny, and also rather sadly appropriate to our current times — he spends a lot of time talking about the importance of the parks department and how much they’ve contributed to the country. It also made me badly want to try a hiking trip like this — and also realize that to do so would be insane.
“But I got a great deal else from the experience. I learned to pitch a tent and sleep beneath the stars. For a brief, proud period I was slender and fit. I gained a profound respect for the wilderness and nature and the benign dark power of woods. I understand now, in a way I never did before, the colossal scale of the world. I found patience and fortitude that I didn’t know I had. I discovered an America that millions of people scarcely know exists. I made a friend. I came home.”