Take a hike: Review of A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Years ago, when my husband and I were on our honeymoon, we hiked a mountain and stayed at a lodge in the Smokies. It was close to, or maybe part of, the Appalachian Trail, and it was a beautifully challenging experience to spend most of a day hiking to where you were going to sleep and being without running water for short time. A few years later we discovered a few access points to the Appalachian Trail near where we lived in Pennsylvania, and we did a short day hike.

a walk in the woodsThough I don’t have any plans to ever hike the whole AT, I am impressed with and awed by people who do it. A friend’s son recently got back from hiking half the trail, so his experience was fresh in my mind as I picked up Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my review through the Blogging for Books program.)

I had never read anything by Bryson before, but I learned quickly that he’s funny as well as observant. The book is full of not only thought-provoking musings about nature but hysterical anecdotes about the trouble he and his friend, Stephen, find themselves in as they hike the trail.

Bryson’s book is part memoir, part travelogue, part research paper as he includes historical information about the trail and the things that have happened on the trail along with facts about the park service. I learned a few things, was entertained and inspired. Reading this book made me want to take a hike–literally.

“Woods are not like other spaces. To begin with, they are cubic. 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 you are in a big space. Stand in a woods and you only sense it. They are a vast, featureless nowhere. And they are alive.” — A Walk in the Woods, p. 44

And although (spoiler alert) Bryson doesn’t hike the entire AT (and now that I think about it, that wasn’t the promise of the book), he does hike significant portions of it and discovers some beautiful areas of the eastern part of the United States. I’ve got a few places added to my must-visit list.

I’ll be adding more of Bryson’s books to my to-read list also.

I’ve heard the movie is not as good as the book (is it ever?) but I’d be interested to see it anyway. If you like the outdoors, even the occasional walk in the woods, check this one out.


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