This book is really funny. Unlike A Short History of Nearly Everything which is also great, this audiobook wasn’t read by Bryson. There were still a few moments where I laughed so loudly my girlfriend asked me if everything was ok. There’s one line where a deeply unpleasant woman steals a Hostess cake from Bryson’s deeply unpleasant trailmate. “Before he could react and smite her dead….” or something like that that made me laugh so hard. This book is similar to Into the Wild if you haven’t read that, in that it tries to discourage rash decisions to go into the wild. Bill Bryson is a kind of normal guy who struggles mightily with the trail, but he does a lot. He also heavily emphasizes that this is a voluntary venture.
I live about two hours from Shenandoah National Park and grew up along the Appalachian Trail in a different part. I haven’t hiked the trail in total or even in large sections, but every year or so I think about doing large section hikes. Specifically I would love to chunk out whole states or groups of states. I used to live in upstate New York and so it didn’t really help convince that this is a bad idea.
All told, I don’t think I will ever be able to do it. I am a school teacher and the calendar just doesn’t truly allow me to consider taking a liberal amount of time off to do this. The record is 45 days, which involved lots and lots of money, planning, logistics, and running. I drag my feet when I run so I trip over the slightest raise all the time.
But I absolutely want to hike the whole thing. I also absolutely want to hike those other huge trails.
So in the meantime, I will take my day trips and try to get better and better at the other aspects (planning, backpacking, camping etc).
He spends a lot of the book fearing bears and then lamenting that he doesn’t find them. Finding bears in Shenandoah is scary and wonderful experience. You’re like “Whoa! A bear!” and then like “Fuck! A bear!” This summer alone I have gone to Shenandoah twice and twice come across a bear on the trail. It enlivens you if you’re on your way down, but makes you question your motives on the way up.