Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Walk in the Woods

A Walk in the Woods
by Bill Bryson

This is the second selection on my 20 book challenge.  I have to say I am a tiny bit proud of myself for following through on this challenge, at least to have read 2 of the impending 20.  (Now "impending 18" - woot!)  To recall, my challenge is to read the 20 books that have been on my list the longest.  Correction, read or remove.  Let me tell you, removing books from my list is not an easy thing.  I'm pretty sure I'll read them before I'll remove them. 

I originally bought A Walk in the Woods for my mother.  She is the person who instilled in me a love for the outdoors.  She made sure we went hiking a few week ends every spring, summer and fall. And in the winter, too.  And she is the one responsible for me learning how to camp, cook over an open fire and back pack.  I owe her a great deal of appreciation for learning and loving those things. Not least of which, she also passed onto me her love of reading.  

Mom came to live with my family in her final years and I thought this book might be one she would enjoy.  I don't think she ever read it but it's been in my home for years now.  I'm pretty sure that's how it also made it's way to my list. 

I need to learn to have no expectations of books.  They are rarely what I am expecing of them, and usually that leaves me pleasantly surprised.  A Walk in the Woods was not what I was expcting to read.  However in this case, it fell short of the mark.  I feel a little sad writing that since so many friends told me how much they loved it and how laugh out loud funny it is.  I won't deny I had at least one laugh out loud moment, but not enough to say it set the tone of the book. 

Bill Bryson writes this book based on his experience walking the Appalachian Trail.  A hiking trail of over 2000 miles of east coast mountains.  I love the premise and often thought how cool it would be to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, the west coast version of the AT.  Sounds like a book made for me!

Bryson accepts his friend's, Steve Katz, offer to hike the trail with him. If Bill Bryson is not prepared for what this folly will involved, his friend Steve must then be absolutely clueless.  Nevertheless, they start off on their "adventure."

It's not long before they realize that walking the entire trail just isn't in the stars for them.  They are miserable and broken and decide to take a break and walk only portions of it.  Bryson analyzes this decision and rationalizes that even though they don't set a foot on every single mile of the trail, they have indeed "hiked the Appalachian Trail."  I don't disagree, but I did find it disappointing.  (In his defense, he hiked nearly 900 miles of it!)

The book is full of history of the AT itself and of the politics, economies, ecologies, communities and resorts surrounding it.  I found it interesting, but unexpected. 

What I didn't find in this book was a lot of hiking and camping stories.  The hiking stories were more of the sort of, "How soon can we find the next town and get a shower and a meal?"  There were times of hardship and worry, but no bears.  We find early in the book that Bryson has a great concern of meeting bears.  Bless his heart, he never ran into one. 

I give the book a 3 of 5 shots. It simply wasn't the story I was expecting to read.

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