A Walk In The Woods
Why A Walk In The Woods and Katahdin
Hiking to the top of Mount Katahdin in Maine was one of the first goals when I started to plan 52 Peaks. Katahdin is my homage to the Appalachian Trail as it marks the northernmost end where through hikers end their 5-6 month journey. A Walk In The Woods is Bill Bryson’s novel about his experience hiking the Appalachian trail in middle age. It seemed the perfect fit to honor Katahdin.
More About A Walk In The Woods
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail is a 1998 book by travel writer Bill Bryson, describing his attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail with his friend “Stephen Katz”. The book is written in a humorous style, interspersed with more serious discussions of matters relating to the trail’s history, and the surrounding sociology, ecology, trees, plants, animals and people.
The book starts with Bryson explaining his curiosity about the Appalachian Trail near his house. He and his old friend Stephen Katz start hiking the trail from the state of Georgia in the south, and stumble in the beginning with the difficulties of getting used to their equipment; Bryson also soon realizes how difficult it is to travel with his friend, who is a crude, overweight recovering alcoholic, and even less prepared for the ordeal than he is. Overburdened, they soon discard much extra food and equipment to lighten their loads.
After hiking for what seemed to him a large distance, they realize they have still barely begun while in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and that the whole endeavor is simply too much for them. They skip a huge section of the trail, beginning again in Roanoke, Virginia. The book recounts Bryson’s desire to seek easier terrain as well as “a powerful urge not to be this far south any longer”. This section of the hike finally ends (after nearly 800 miles (1,300 km) of hiking) with Bryson going on a book tour and Katz returning to Des Moines, Iowa to work.
In the following months Bryson continues to hike several smaller parts of the trail, including a visit to Centralia, Pennsylvania, the site of a coal seam fire, and eventually reunites with Katz to hike the Hundred-Mile Wilderness in Maine, which again proves too daunting. The fact that Bryson did not complete the trail is not surprising, since fewer than 25% of through-hike attempts are successful; he quotes the older figure of 10%.
William McGuire “Bill” Bryson (born December 8, 1951) is a best-selling Anglo-American author of books on travel, the English language, science, and other non-fiction topics. Born in the United States, he has been a resident of Britain for most of his adult life, returning to America between 1995 and 2003. He served as the chancellor of Durham University from 2005 to 2011.
Bryson came to prominence in the United Kingdom with the publication of Notes from a Small Island (1995), an exploration of Britain, and its accompanying television series. He received widespread recognition again with the publication of A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003), a book widely acclaimed for its accessible communication of science.