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Home » Book Review » A Walk in the Woods–bears, snakes, and spooky woods…oh, my!

A Walk in the Woods–bears, snakes, and spooky woods…oh, my!

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A Walk in the Woods

by Bill Bryson

The Appalachian Trail, a little over 2,000 miles of challenging terrain, is a test that hikers of all ages, genders, and experience levels attack in various ways. There are parking lot visitors; they drive in, look around a bit and perhaps picnic, but do not actually hike the trail. Section hikers traverse parts of the trail at various times with a few completing the whole trail over the course of a lifetime. Then there are a few hardy souls who are full thru-hikers; they keep at it from south to north until they complete the trail.

As you might imagine, hiking the Appalachian Trail is an endeavor that requires a lot of planning and the purchase of expensive equipment to get the lightest weight gear possible. Carrying a forty pound backpack all day over rough terrain with formidable ascents and descents is a difficult task indeed. Author Bill Bryson who has written a number of travel books relates in A Walk in the Woods his experiences on the Appalachian Trail with Stephen Katz, a former school chum he had traveled around Europe with twenty-years prior. Much of the book describes the harsh realities of the hike and the delightful relief of their occasional forays into civilization to replenish supplies and sleep in a real bed. Some of the book relates their changing relationship as they confront the trials of the trail together as well as anecdotes about the interesting people they meet along the way.

Bryson’s writing style is comfortable. The descriptions are detailed without being overblown, and there is just enough history of the trail to give the reader an understanding of why it is the way it is. Often humorous, it provides an interesting read taking the reader into a once in a lifetime experience on the Appalachian Trail.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Travel

Notes: Some profanity

Publication:  December 26, 2006 (first published May 5, 1998)—Anchor Books

Memorable Lines:

But even men far tougher and more attuned to the wilderness than Thoreau were sobered by its strange and palpable menace. Daniel Boone, who not only wrestled bears but tried to date their sisters, described corners of the southern Appalachians as “so wild and horrid that it is impossible to behold them without terror.” When Daniel Boone is uneasy, you know it’s time to watch your step.

I was beginning to appreciate that the central feature of life on the Appalachian Trail is deprivation, that the whole point of the experience is to remove yourself so thoroughly from the conveniences of everyday life that the most ordinary things—processed cheese, a can of pop gorgeously beaded with condensation—fill you with wonder and gratitude.

And all the time, as we crept along on this absurdly narrow, dangerous perch, we were half-blinded by flying snow and jostled by gusts of wind, which roared through the dancing trees and shook us by our packs. This wasn’t a blizzard; it was a tempest.


  1. Carla says:

    I admire people who take on these challenges, train for them and complete them. I am also a bit jealous of the nature and wonders that they see, up close and personal. This books sounds quite interesting, thanks for sharing it, Linda.

    Liked by 2 people

    • lghiggins says:

      You are welcome, Carla. It is not a book I would have picked up on my own, but I was glad I read it. It was a book my bookclub chose. We really diversify!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Carla says:

        I love to mix it up as well. Will you still be able to continue with this bookclub now that you have moved?

        Liked by 1 person

      • lghiggins says:

        Yes. We had started it with Zoom during the early stages of the pandemic. There are only 6 of us, and one lady has already moved. We are continuing with Zoom so that we can all remain. It is a silver lining to the lockdown.


  2. It sounds like an amazing book experience, I am definitely an arm chair hiker!

    Liked by 2 people

    • lghiggins says:

      I have done one real wilderness hike, about a week long, with a baby on my back. That was plenty for me. My other hikes have been much shorter and only a few more with tent camping. All of that was when I was much younger. These days I’d be glad to pull up an arm chair next to yours, and we can read about or discuss hiking.😆

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nancy says:

    I have this book back at the LakeHouse. I started it right before we left for our winter home. So I will be picking it up when we get there in May.
    My son’s friend did the whole Appalachian Trail. She made it! She was in her early 30’s when she did it! AMAZING!
    Happy Week to you!

    Liked by 2 people

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