A Walk in the Woods

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

By: Bill Bryson

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Another recommendation from the parents that I really enjoyed. Got to hand it to the parents, they just keep getting it right. Bryson’s story telling abilities are outstanding. This book’s wit and humor had me laughing out loud more than a couple of times. From meeting kooky thru hikers to coming face to face with a monstrous, blood thirsty, creature of the north (commonly known as a moose…) this book is sure to entertain.

I really enjoyed the way Bryson tied factual knowledge, such as historical events and statistical data, neatly into his stories. The context helped me enjoy the journey. For example, did you know the U.S. Forest Service controls more miles of roadway than the Interstate Highway System? Who knew? You’d think the agency dedicated to preserving forest wouldn’t be so keen on plowing roads straight through every chance they get. The wise lesson here that the environmentally conscience Bryson alludes to is judge programs by their outcomes, not their intentions. trail

Some other lessons I got from the book are as follows:

1. It’s the simple things in life – The Appalachian Trail is known for being one of the most rugged trails in all North America. The shelters along the way are poorly built, unkept, abused, 3 sided buildings. The weather ranges from frigid (many hikers have died from hypothermia) and windy to hot and muggy. No convenience stores exist, water must be filtered before it’s collected, and sleeping with strangers in tight places is common. Yet hikers continue to expose themselves to these conditions year in and year out. I believe it’s the humility that comes along with the experience. Most people take air conditioning for granted, but Bryson sure didn’t after hiking through the hundred-mile forest in August!

2. It’s never too late – Bill Bryson was 44 when he took off on his great expedition. His hiking partner, Stephen Katz was slightly older and much more out of shape. But it didn’t stop them from taking on a nearly 2,200-mile hike. Just 3 months ago, Dale Sanders became the oldest man to hike to entire Appalachian Trail. He was 82. Don’t let age stop you from following your dream or challenging yourself with a new quest.

3. Friendship should be cherished – The book is dedicated to Katz for good reason. Without a friend to hike with, Bryson admits he probably would not have completed much of anything. The part I liked the most is that these two characters had not seen each other in nearly 20 years. Both are from Des Moines, and Bryson moved to London shortly after school. I have not lived in the state I grew up in since I was 18, nearly 7 years ago. Even though I don’t see them often, I’m thankful for the friends I have back home.

I think we all have a little Christopher McCandless inside of us. Bryson sure did, I’m glad he channeled it and turn in into this great story to tell. If you’re into hiking, friendship, and laughter, give this book a chance.

over and out,

Jacob

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