Monday, August 10, 2009

On the Appalachian Trail by guest blogger Steve Head

Made an unannounced visit to Manitowoc this past weekend for the Lakefest for Kids, or whatever it is called. Even managed a brief stop at the store to learn the latest news on foggy town. Good to be on familiar turf.

Just finished up 'A Walk in the Woods' by Bill Bryson. The book was a birthday gift from an old friend and one I began reading immediately. As expected, this book is his account of walking various stretches of that recently newsworthy Appalachian Trail, 2,200+ miles from northern Georgia up to Maine. Let me assure you it is not 275 pages of how he placed one foot in front of the other and repeated. Although the string that connects this narrative is his walk on the trail and the people, places, and things he encounters. His companion for the initial campaign is a high school friend who has traded an alcohol addiction for junk food. The early days are a struggle for both but they develop their own rhythm and routines.

High on the list of informative research subjects is Bryson's fixation on bears, and other dangerous beasts found on America's trails. He goes into exquisite detail on bears, attacks by bears, eating habits of bears, difference between grizzly and black bears, and more. There are also pages devoted to hiking and camping equipment, birds, trees, lodges, weather, Pennsylvania coal mining, the history of the trail, the various organizations maintaining and providing maps for the trail, the burning town of Centralia, PA, and so much more.

I found this book particularly interesting. Having spent a good deal of time on hiking trails, primarily in Utah. His experiences with weather, trail food, drinking water, uneven hiking surfaces, sleeping on the ground, steep hills followed by valleys followed by steep hills, were so familiar. It takes me back to those younger days of going into the mountains, or the desert of southern Utah, for a day or weekend or week, and all those fond memories and stories.

There is not any mention whatsoever of the current governor of South Carolina. Although you will have no shortage of conversational tidbits from reading this book.

It is hard to determine if every word he writes about his actual adventures on the Appalachian Trail is true or if there is exaggeration for dramatic effect. But it does not matter. It is a delightful read and by the end you want to lace up your walking shoes or boots, load up a daypack, and go out and cover some ground, if only in your mind.

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