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With two nominations from Book Club members, Bill Bryson's chronicle of his trek along the Appalachian Trail (which he started on March 9th) seems like an appropriate choice for March. The Appalachian Trail is the oldest of America's long distance trails and stretches 2,100 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mt Katahdin, Maine.
Any long distance hikers here or anyone dreaming of a long distance hike? What do you think of Bryson's account?
(And if you have a suggestion for next month's book, add it to the Good Reads discussion.)
This is a good book! There were definitely some laugh-out-loud moments. My dad is a Bill Bryson fan, and this is his favorite of all. Good choice!
I do have a possible discussion topic in mind, but it might be too soon. I don't want to give anything away. I'd like to hear what other people think!
I don't think we need to worry about spoilers any more. What discussion topic did "A Walk in the Woods" make you think of?
Does he make it to Katahdin?? (Libby, don't give it away!) I've read other Bill Bryson books but never this one. This is a good excuse to pick it up.
One of my topics would definitely give Kate's question away. But here's another: I've never done more than a 10-mile backpacking trip before. I remember being surprised by how often Bill Bryson and Katz stopped in small towns, hotels, etc., as I had never considered that an AT thru-hiker might take such breaks along the way. What are your thoughts about an AT thru-hike that includes pit-stops at hotels and restaurants? Would this no longer count as a true thru-hike in your eyes? Or does a thru-hiker deserve a break every now and then? How far off-trail can a person go, and what activities can/can't a person participate in, before you no longer consider it a true thru-hike?
And a thought, which part of the book (so far, if you haven't finished) has made you laugh the hardest? I'll have to crack mine open for some quotes, but I remember enjoying some of his silly bathroom humor :)
This is a great point. When I was rereading the book this month I noticed that Bryson talked a lot about the idea of preserving the AT as wilderness versus as a way for people and nature to coexist. Although there's definitely a place for long distance wilderness hikes, I like the image Bryson paints at the end of chapter 15 of incorporating the small towns and farms that are typical of the east coast into the AT. Since the longest backpacking trip I've ever taken only lasted 4 days, I'm definitely not in a position to say what is a real thru-hike. In my eyes, anyone's who has carried their own food and shelter for miles deserves as many pit stops as they want.
I agree, I like the idea of including historic/cultural sites as a part of the Appalachian trail. I think the greatest feat would be to travel from Maine to Georgia on foot (or vice versa), regardless of what happens along the way. I'd definitely want a break every now and then! But I imagine there are some individuals (in our book club?) who might think otherwise? Or might have more to add?
What I've found is that I know so many people at this point who have hiked the full AT that I need to be mindful of giving the feat the full respect it deserves. When you can rattle off a list of people who have done something, it's easy to see it as commonplace and therefore easy, when it is neither. I know of a young woman recently who planned her AT trek for months, flew down to GA, and was back at the airport headed home within the first week. A while back I watched a special on public television about the AT and was struck by the hikers who made it all the way to the base of Katahdin and then had to struggle to make it up that final stretch. They were wondering out loud whether it even mattered at that point if they did Katahdin or not. Both those stories got me thinking about what percentage of people who start in GA make it to ME ---And how much of it you have to complete in order to say you've done it.
One of my favorite books out there!
I would suggest O'Pioneers by Willa Cather