A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
In Cajun, we call it an ahnvee. In French, it’s envie. In redneck, it’s a hankering, and plain old normal people might refer to it as a compulsion, urge, or craving. Well last weekend, right out of the clear blue sky (thanks Forrest); I got the biggest ahnvee to read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. The urge was so strong and specific that I ran all around town until I nailed down a copy of said book. Now why, you might ask, did I just HAVE TO HAVE this particular book? I dunno. Seriously, I mean I’ve never read Bryson, although I’ve always meant to get around to it, and I’ve heard good things about A Walk in the Woods. But really I just knew that at that precise moment, I wanted to read that exact thing. And I did. And it was good.
A Walk in the Woods is Bill Bryson’s true account of his attempt to thru hike the Appalachian Trail. The trail is the longest footpath in America; it starts in Georgia and ends in Maine covering 2,178 miles. It goes through 8 National forests and touches 14 states. Crazy people actually hike this thing the whole way through. Bill Bryson tired to, but he failed. Sort of. He made it from Georgia to Tennessee, and then he stopped and went home for a break, and then attempted to drive to some parts of the trail and hike a little and then stop and repeat the process the next day. His last real attempt was in Maine, where he made it about halfway on torturous terrain and then quit and hauled ass home. So he didn’t succeed at thru hiking the trail, but what he does succeed at is hiking enough of the trail (around 870 miles of it), that we get a really accurate portrayal of what it’s like to hike the Appalachian Trail, or the “A.T.,” as the cool kids call it.
We learn about the gear, we learn about the bears, we learn how it feels to walk 15 miles a day mostly uphill, with a 40 pound pack on your back whilst being attacked by bugs. We learn that after you spend your day doing this, you are treated to ramen noodles, a drafty tent, and a shitty night’s sleep on the hard earth in the company of mice and snakes. The truth is, it all sounds horrible but also really really great. It certainly appeals to the escapist in me. Checking out of corporate America for 3 to 5 months to do nothing but walk in the woods. Sure, I get it. Freedom man, freedom.