Thursday, May 28, 2015

A walk in the woods

Book: A walk in the woods
Author : Bill Bryson

I picked up this book at a local flea market in the hope of knowing more about the Appalachian Trail (AT) , for my plans to travel to the AT valley at the peak of the fall season, the touristy time of the year had gone haywire, all thanks to a major blowout at work.

  Bill Bryson is a popular travel writer, but travelogue was not my thing, until I read one, reading about nature was not my thing, until I read one. When Bryson decided to hike the AT all the way from Springer Mountains in Georgia to Kathinad in Maine, he knew he was setting himself a harsh target. About Two thousand miles, in much more realistic terms: a five day car drive.

 Why would one attempt such a strenuous and daunting stretch, knowing very well that it is going to be a backbreaker? At least Bryson had a reason, to write a book about it, but what about Katz, his co-hiker, the guy who accompanied him; with his drinking problem, eating problem, and TV addiction; he didn't even reform himself at the end.

  Bryson is funny, entertaining, and informative, all characteristic of a well written short essay. To sustain that over 300 pages is sheer genius, in the trail hiking terms, a steep walk of perseverance. At times he was so funny that I had to roll on the floor or hit a soft bed to stop from laughing. Apart from the two major characters, the narrator and his partner, the irreverent Mary Ellen they meet in their first leg of the journey will have you in splits with her bewildering commentary and arbitrary knowledge.

 This is no philosophical book, but there is an inescapable feeling about the purpose of life, the question of what are we doing at this moment when the wilderness awaits with so much adventure and sunshine. Hikers wake up to difficulties every morning, so much like many of us in the corporate world, they walk, scamper uphill, saunter downhill, and swim across streams, until the sun vanish from the sky. And then they eat some minimal food, and slip away into sleep under the shining stars, mostly because they don't have enough food, and their tent is torn or lost half way into the hike.

  Bryson, at his evocative and humorous best paints a picture of what goes through the mind of a hiker, the craving for good food, for a proper bath, or for shelter above his head when he is in the middle of the woods staring at the stars. How he wants to give up everyday, but how not giving up makes him stronger the next day, only to think about giving up again. This is especially true for an ill-prepared hiker, which is what a normal person like me can aspire to. The book has piqued my interest in hiking, although hiking across the AT is out of question, there is a part of me which wants to do at least a day hike along the blaze of the AT.

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