Thursday, August 22, 2019

Re-Listen: "A Walk In The Woods" by Bill Bryson

Re-Listen: A Walk in the Woods: rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson, 1998, some download my wife got.

I heard this again on the drive out to KS for summer vacation. This may be my third time to listen to it, actually.

Anyhoo, here is the skinny: Bryson is living in Vermont (New Hampshire?) and back behind his rear yard is the trail. He gets a yearning to make the hike. He cannot recruit anyone to go with him - he even tries all his old high school pals in Iowa. One IA guy calls him and comes along. Things happen and Bryson sticks in plenty of information about the history of: the Trail, National Park Service, urban sprawl, bear attacks, crime on the Trail, so on, so forth.

The book is 21 years old but not much has changed I suppose. Maybe some more sprawl. I am four years older than Bryson when he did this walk and really cannot see the big deal his wife seems to have made of it. Sure, the hike is a big undertaking requiring planning and decent gear but as long as you prep for the hike and do some multi-day prehikes to shake out your gear and get in shape is not the huge, dangerous adventure it sometimes comes out as.

Most trail trouble comes from Bryson's hiking companion, Katz. Bryson writes much of the story about Katz because he is quite the character. For instance: Katz shows up for the hike overweight, in poor fitness, and with way too much weight in gear. There are at least two instances where Bryson writes about Katz getting fed up with all the extra crap Katz brought and chucking half the stuff off a cliff.

----Which reminds me: in Yellowstone we only did a one night back country hike. They provide bear bag poles with a cross beam running between two trees. Our campsite's bear pole was next to some boulders. I walked behind the boulders to dig a hole and relieve myself and found a bunch of uneaten food scattered around. There was no evident bear claw marks or slobber so I figured someone didn't want to haul there full jar of peanut butter around. That is an asshole move because I ended up having to pack their garbage out for them.------

Katz comes off much worse in the film version. Being portrayed by a bloated, red-faced Nick Nolte is nothing to be happy about. I only just now discovered that Katz is a pseudonym for Matt Angerer who was still alive in 2015, but less one leg after a medical amputation. That sounds about right as Bryson wrote about Katz.

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