A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

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9780767902519: A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
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Stretching from Georgia to Maine, the Appalachian Trail offers some of America's most breathtaking scenery. After living for many years in England, Bill Bryson moved back to the United States and decided to reacquaint himself with his country by taking to this uninterrupted "hiker's highway." Before long, Bryson and his infamous walking companion, Stephen Katz, are stocking up on insulated long johns, noodles and manuals for avoiding bear attacks as they prepare to set off on a walk that is both amusingly ill-conceived and surprisingly adventurous. John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, and Peter Jenkins never took a hike like this.

A Walk in the Woods showcases Bryson at the height of his comic powers. Meeting up with characters such as Beulah and her fearsome husband, "Bubba T. Flubba," readers risk snakebite and hantavirus to trudge through swollen rivers, traipse up mountainsteps, and develop a new reverence for cream sodas and hot showers. But Bryson also uses his acute powers of observation to conjure a poignant backdrop of silent forests and sparkling lakes, thereby making a gentle but unforgettable plea for the ecological treasures we are in danger of losing. Fresh, illuminating, and uproariously funny, A Walk in the Woods is travel writing at its very best.

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Bill Bryson has made a living out of traveling and then writing about it. In The Lost Continent he re-created the road trips of his childhood; in Neither Here nor There he retraced the route he followed as a young backpacker traversing Europe. When this American transplant to Britain decided to return home, he made a farewell walking tour of the British countryside and produced Notes from a Small Island. Once back on American soil and safely settled in New Hampshire, Bryson once again hears the siren call of the open road--only this time it's a trail. The Appalachian Trail, to be exact. In A Walk in the Woods Bill Bryson tackles what is, for him, an entirely new subject: the American wilderness. Accompanied only by his old college buddy Stephen Katz, Bryson starts out one March morning in north Georgia, intending to walk the entire 2,100 miles to trail's end atop Maine's Mount Katahdin.

If nothing else, A Walk in the Woods is proof positive that the journey is the destination. As Bryson and Katz haul their out-of-shape, middle-aged butts over hill and dale, the reader is treated to both a very funny personal memoir and a delightful chronicle of the trail, the people who created it, and the places it passes through. Whether you plan to make a trip like this one yourself one day or only care to read about it, A Walk in the Woods is a great way to spend an afternoon. --Alix Wilber

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