A Walk in the Woods – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail is a book by travel writer Bill Bryson describing his attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail with his childhood friend Stephen Katz. The book is written in a humorous style, interspersed with more serious discussions of matters relating to the trail’s history, sociology, ecology, flora and fauna.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, so I thought I’d spent the last of my holiday indulging in a witty travelogue to set my feet itching. Unfortunately, I picked the wrong book. Years of declining the advice of the Bryson-worshipers, it seems, was not in vain.

I’m halfway through, and – like the author on the daunting trail – am unsure as to whether or not I can finish my task. Bryson sounds, to put it mildly, a real jerk. He’s smug and superior, and spends most of the book complaining about his companions on the trail. A common motif is how everyone one is but a weekend hiker, that he is a true back-to-nature type in comparison. True, some of his encounters sound less than thrilling, but even the obnoxious woman he encounters should get credit for tackling the trail by herself. Instead, she’s unceremoniously ditched (in real life as well as print) by the man who couldn’t stomach the thought of going alone. He enlists the companionship of a long-lost friend with whom he’d proven incompatible on a previous travel experience. Said “friend” is then derided throughout the book for his sloth, roughness in manner, and lowbrow tastes. Meanwhile, Bryson paints himself as Guardian of the Trail, criticising the Parks Service along with all who venture through her woods.

I’m still waiting for even a glimpse of the much-vaunted Bryson wit and charm to show itself. At the moment, he’s nothing more than the stereotypical Blue Stater – putting himself on a pedestal while looking down his nose at everyone else. It’s not attractive, and it makes for a very frustrating read. I wish he’d stayed home.

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