52 Books: Book 10

My ninth book to read this year was A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. I confess that this is the second time I have read this book {the first being several years ago when my husband and I read it aloud on a road trip}. I loved the book then and I still love it now.

I guess it is my personal desire to walk the Appalachian Trail that makes this book so endearing to me, but it is also Bryson’s witty writing that I enjoy so much.

The book follows Bryson and his long-time friend, Katz, as they attempt to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. The book is quite comical and gives a great overview of what it is like to hike for days on end in the woods. Whether or not you love to hike, this is a book worth reading.

Excerpts from the book:
All 2,100 miles of the trail… are maintained by volunteers – indeed, the AT is said to be the largest volunteer-run undertaking on the planet. It remains gloriously free of commercialism.

Woods are not like other spaces… their trees surround you, loom over you, press in from all sides. Woods choke off views and leave you muddled and without bearings. They make you feel small and confused and vulnerable, like a small child, lost in a crowd of strange legs. Stand in a desert or prairie and you know are in a big space. Stand in a woods and you only sense it. They are a vast, featureless nowhere. And they are alive.

I was beginning to appreciate that the central feature of life on the Appalachian Trail is deprivation, that the whole point of the experience is to remove yourself so thoroughly from the conveniences of everyday life that the most ordinary things… fill you with wonder and gratitude.

I had come to realize that I didn’t have any feelings towards the AT that weren’t confused an contradictory. I was weary of the trails, but still strangely in its thrall; found the endless slog tedious but irresistible; grew tired of the boundless woods, but admired their boundlessness; enjoyed the escape from civilization and ached for its comforts. I wanted to quit and do this forever, sleep in a bed and in a tent, see what was over the next hill and never see a hill again…

I got a great deal… 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 wilderness and nature and the benign dark power of the woods. I understand now, in a way I never did before, the colossal scale of the woods. I found patience and fortitude that I didn’t know I had. I discovered an America that millions of people scarcely know exists… 

We didn’t walk 2,100 miles, it’s true, but here’s the thing: we tried. So Katz was right after all, and I don’t care what anybody says. We hiked the Appalachian Trail. {The author and his hiking partner completer 870 of the 2,100 miles}


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