A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson was first published in 1998. This travel memoir follows Bryson and his friend Stephen as they attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail.
The Appalachian Trail extends from North Georgia to Maine, covering roughly 2,197 miles. Hiking the trail end-to-end is an admirable feat attempted by many but not always successfully accomplished.
In this book, Bryson weaves together his adventures on the trail with discussion of the ecology and history of the trail itself and areas he passes through. The book is humorous, challenging, and educational. I felt like I was walking alongside Bill and Stephen as they huffed and puffed through their misadventures. I also learned a lot and gained a greater appreciation for nature in general, more specifically the woods where I’m from.
Laugh if you will, but reading this book actually inspired me to take my own walk in the woods. A couple chapters into the book I decided to organize a camping trip for myself and six friends to a state park about an hour away from where we live. This book made experiencing nature seem so appealing and rewarding that I just had to get out there.
So this weekend, out there I got. We made it to our campsite Friday night, successfully set up camp, started a fire, cooked dinner (chili and baked potatoes), and shivered through the night with temperatures dipping down into the 40s. I learned that cocooning down into my sleeping bag from the beginning of the night trapped my body heat and kept me warm all night, and last night slept like a baby. I didn’t wake up once! We hiked along two 1.5 mile trails in the park and saw so many beautiful fall leaves, creeks, streams, hills, and ravines. Last night we cooked hot dogs, made s’mores, and chatted around the warm fire until we ran out of wood and ran into our warm sleeping bags. The only disaster of the trip was me and a friend both getting stung by yellow jackets while gathering fire wood. I was stung once under the eye, but she was stung three times after the yellow jacket got in her shirt! Luckily neither of us are allergic or divas, so everything carried along after that just fine. I had a fantastic weekend and cannot wait to go camping again! Being outdoors was peaceful and made me indescribably happy.
One of the highest measures of praise a book can receive in my opinion is to make the reader seek out a real-life experience that imitates something they’ve read about, and this book took me there. I highly recommend it to all, whether you think you’re an outdoors person or not.