A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

What’s more American than the majestic views and scenic vistas of our National Parks?  Did you know that the most visited National Park in the United States is North Carolina’s own Great Smoky Mountains?  America’s longest hiking trail, The Appalachain Trail, winds it’s way through our North Carolina mountains from Georgia all the way to Maine.  I’ll be heading there later this week for a trip to check out the Asheville area and drive “America’s Favorite Journey” on the Blue Ridge Parkway (so dubbed in a recent WRAL documentary).   I’ve been to the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia before and have camped and even been white water rafting down the Nantahala River.  Even though I love the mountains, I’d never be foolish enough to think that I could “thru-hike” the entire Appalachian Trail from end to end.  But, that’s exactly what Bill Bryson did back in the mid-nineties upon returning to the United States after living as an ex-patriot for about 20 years in England.  Not only did the overweight, out-of-shape author think it would be a great way to get re-aquainted with his homeland, he also though it would be a great idea to bring his even more overweight and out-of-shape ex-alcoholic friend, Stephen Katz, too!

I first read this hilariously inspiring and informative book before it was published, as the publisher had sent copies to thousands of booksellers around the country to generate buzz.  It worked like a charm as I devoured the book, bought copies as gifts and suggested it to everyone I could think of.  It went on to become a huge best-seller and has remained very popular over the past decade, as well.  Bryson used to “hike” quite a bit in England, but evidently hiking in England means short to medium country walks from village to village and pub to pub.  Wilderness hiking in America is something quite different – as Bryson & Katz discovered.  Soon after moving back to America and settling with his family in a small New Hampshire town, Bryson found a local path that disappeared into the woods.  His curiosity being too great to resist, Bryson followed the path and discovered that it connected to the famed “AT” and inspiration struck.  Now he just had to convice his family to let him attempt what is possibly the most difficult “thru-hike” in America … and start getting into shape and buying his supplies.

What makes this books such a great read, especially in the Summer, is not only Bryson’s writing style and the unique adventure they find themselves in, are the strange cast of characters they meet along the way and the beautiful descriptions of nature & the fascinating history discovered along the journey of the “AT.”   Bryson presents a tale that will entertain and make you think about the need to renew our commitment to preservation of America’s National Parks and wild places.  If you enjoy this book, you’ll want to try some more of Bill Bryson’s wonderfully humorous, engaging and surprisingly informative books.

Find and reserve A Walk in the Woods in our catalog.

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