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A Walk in the Woods
Cover of A Walk in the Woods
A Walk in the Woods
Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
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The Appalachian Trail trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and covers some of the most breathtaking terrain in America–majestic mountains, silent forests, sparking lakes. If you're going to take a hike, it's probably the place to go. And Bill Bryson is surely the most entertaining guide you'll find. He introduces us to the history and ecology of the trail and to some of the other hardy (or just foolhardy) folks he meets along the way–and a couple of bears. Already a classic, A Walk in the Woods will make you long for the great outdoors (or at least a comfortable chair to sit and read in).

The Appalachian Trail trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and covers some of the most breathtaking terrain in America–majestic mountains, silent forests, sparking lakes. If you're going to take a hike, it's probably the place to go. And Bill Bryson is surely the most entertaining guide you'll find. He introduces us to the history and ecology of the trail and to some of the other hardy (or just foolhardy) folks he meets along the way–and a couple of bears. Already a classic, A Walk in the Woods will make you long for the great outdoors (or at least a comfortable chair to sit and read in).

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    We hiked till five and camped beside a tranquil spring in a small, grassy clearing in the trees just off the trail. Because it was our first day back on the trail, we were flush for food, including perishables like cheese and bread that had to be eaten before they went off or were shaken to bits in our packs, so we rather gorged ourselves, then sat around smoking and chatting idly until persistent and numerous midgelike creatures (no-see-ums, as they are universally known along the trail) drove us into our tents. It was perfect sleeping weather, cool enough to need a bag but warm enough that you could sleep in your underwear, and I was looking forward to a long night's snooze--indeed was enjoying a long night's snooze--when, at some indeterminate dark hour, there was a sound nearby that made my eyes fly open. Normally, I slept through everything--through thunderstorms, through Katz's snoring and noisy midnight pees--so something big enough or distinctive enough to wake me was unusual. There was a sound of undergrowth being disturbed--a click of breaking branches, a weighty pushing through low foliage--and then a kind of large, vaguely irritable snuffling noise.

    Bear!

    I sat bolt upright. Instantly every neuron in my brain was awake and dashing around frantically, like ants when you disturb their nest. I reached instinctively for my knife, then realized I had left it in my pack, just outside the tent. Nocturnal defense had ceased to be a concern after many successive nights of tranquil woodland repose. There was another noise, quite near.

    "Stephen, you awake?" I whispered.

    "Yup," he replied in a weary but normal voice.

    "What was that?"

    "How the hell should I know."

    "It sounded big."

    "Everything sounds big in the woods."

    This was true. Once a skunk had come plodding through our camp and it had sounded like a stegosaurus. There was another heavy rustle and then the sound of lapping at the spring. It was having a drink, whatever it was.

    I shuffled on my knees to the foot of the tent, cautiously unzipped the mesh and peered out, but it was pitch black. As quietly as I could, I brought in my backpack and with the light of a small flashlight searched through it for my knife. When I found it and opened the blade I was appalled at how wimpy it looked. It was a perfectly respectable appliance for, say, buttering pancakes, but patently inadequate for defending oneself against 400 pounds of ravenous fur.

    Carefully, very carefully, I climbed from the tent and put on the flashlight, which cast a distressingly feeble beam. Something about fifteen or twenty feet away looked up at me. I couldn't see anything at all of its shape or size--only two shining eyes. It went silent, whatever it was, and stared back at me.

    "Stephen," I whispered at his tent, "did you pack a knife?"

    "No."

    "Have you get anything sharp at all?"

    He thought for a moment. "Nail clippers."

    I made a despairing face. "Anything a little more vicious than that? Because, you see, there is definitely something out here."

    "It's probably just a skunk."

    "Then it's one big skunk. Its eyes are three feet off the ground."

    "A deer then."

    I nervously threw a stick at the animal, and it didn't move, whatever it was. A deer would have bolted. This thing just blinked once and kept staring.

    I reported this to Katz.

    "Probably a buck. They're not so timid. Try shouting at it."

    I cautiously shouted at it: "Hey! You there! Scat!" The creature blinked again, singularly unmoved. "You shout," I said.

    "Oh, you brute, go away, do!" Katz shouted in...

About the Author-
  • BILL BRYSON's books include A Walk in the Woods, I'm a Stranger Here Myself, In a Sunburned Country, Bryson's Book of Troublesome Words, A Short History of Nearly Everything (which earned him the 2004 Aventis Prize), The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, and Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors. Bryson lives in England.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 4, 1998
    Returning to the U.S. after 20 years in England, Iowa native Bryson decided to reconnect with his mother country by hiking the length of the 2100-mile Appalachian Trail. Awed by merely the camping section of his local sporting goods store, he nevertheless plunges into the wilderness and emerges with a consistently comical account of a neophyte woodsman learning hard lessons about self-reliance. Bryson (The Lost Continent) carries himself in an irresistibly bewildered manner, accepting each new calamity with wonder and hilarity. He reviews the characters of the AT (as the trail is called), from a pack of incompetent Boy Scouts to a perpetually lost geezer named Chicken John. Most amusing is his cranky, crude and inestimable companion, Katz, a reformed substance abuser who once had single-handedly "become, in effect, Iowa's drug culture." The uneasy but always entertaining relationship between Bryson and Katz keeps their walk interesting, even during the flat stretches. Bryson completes the trail as planned, and he records the misadventure with insight and elegance. He is a popular author in Britain and his impeccably graceful and witty style deserves a large American audience as well.

  • AudioFile Magazine Here is a perfectly enjoyable book, mixing the author's wry reportorial style with William Roberts's expert reading. Roberts has a clear, easy, deep voice, which he uses to convey Bryson's words with confidence and clarity. He understands the author's meanings, alternating between being funny and starkly informative. Bryson helps by writing a book that is part hilarious misadventure and part serious message on the state of the Appalachian Trail. In essence, Bryson decides it would be fun to hike the entire trail with a buddy and, as with most romantic notions, walks headfirst into hell. His descriptions of hell are accompanied by history and botany lessons along the way. Roberts is with Bryson's every step, cracking the author's jokes and conveying the fear, apprehension and drop-dead tiredness of the serious hiker. R.I.G. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine
  • Times Picayune

    "Bryson is a very funny writer who could wring humor from a clammy sleeping bag." --The Philadelphia Inquirer"Short of doing it yourself, the best way of escaping into nature is to read a book like A Walk in the Woods."--The New York Times"A terribly misguided, and terribly funny tale of adventure.... The yarn is choke-on-your-coffee funny." --The Washington Post"Bill Bryson could write an essay about dryer lint or fever reducers and still make us laugh out loud." --Chicago Sun-Times"Delightful." --The Plain Dealer"It's great adventure, on a human sacle, with survuivable discomforts, and, happily, everybody goes home afterwards."

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