View Full Version : Walk in the Woods (Bryson)

2003-02-19, 15:58
Great book. Not perfect.

I had my interest in hiking stimulated again after a many years hiatus after listening to the tapes of this book. If anything, the tapes are better than the book as it is read by Bryson in his pseudo british/iowa accent. No wonder Steven Katz makes fun of him as he thinks there is a bear outside the tent late one night in the Shenadoah!

There are a lot of books by those who finished the hike on the AT. Few books make it to print from those who failed. Learning from the failings is sometimes as useful as learning from winners.

What did Bryson do wrong?

-Too heavy
-Inadequate preparation
-Out of shape
-Time limit unrealistic

But it can be argued after reading the book that he never had any concept of doing a Thru Hike... He only had 6 weeks to devote to the hike.

What is great about the book is the funny stories, often on himself, of the little and big pains that happen on the trail: cold, snow, lonliness, whacky fellow walkers, cravings, town stops, etc.

Unfortunately, Bryson takes some pot shots at some very real people who are easy to recognize. I don't know if they deserve this reputation or not, but they are not allowed to protect their reputation.. Rainbow Springs Campground near Franklin comes to mind here. Sometime I need to get down to near Wayah Bald and see for myself.

Oh, and it is interesting to see what did not make the tapes from the book and wonder why... Part of the Rainbow Springs experience is left out, as are several nasty stories from PA.

So what did you make of the book? What was good, what was not so good?


2003-02-19, 18:28
here we go again......

Sorry, Flyfisher...not trying to be snide, but this topic always seems to generate a lot of heat....

Lone Wolf
2003-02-19, 18:45
I'm with you flyfisher. I liked the book. It's a lot better than most of the journal type books about the AT. It's the elitist ATers that don't like it. Most that whine about the book haven't read it. Or done a thru-hike.

2003-02-19, 18:57
I have read some of the good and bad press on the book. Since it started me back on the road again, and it was not yet listed, I thought it would be good to list.

I can stand some heat, but I doubt that what I wrote will get much.

2003-02-19, 19:53
If you all are like me, then the paucity of literature available to hikers in general that is entertaining rather than instructional makes any book, good or bad, at least worth reading once. I have read brysons book twice and enjoyed it both times. He does get a little preachy in spots, and I wish that he would give references for some of his environmental doom and gloom. I consider it to be an essential element of any backpackers library so that initiates to the sport (and yes I consider backpacking a sport.) can read and potentially understand and possibly get excited about the possibility of getting out doors.

going back to my point regarding how little is out there for us, I suppose that is why I keep renewing backpacker Magazine. it is the closest thing to a "journal" that we have. We may disagree with the content occasionally or even the opinions expressed, but after all they are just opinions, and I would wager that most people on this board are very close to experts in this field. your opinion is just as valid. I mean after all, most people here are building there own gear to custom specs, we are not beginners by any stretch of the imagination. Backpacking like any culture will have its subcultures that attract different people. I happen to like hanging with hammock sleepin, stove buildin, tarp pitchin, soda bottle usin minimalists. Of course I am never giving up my thermarest. the extra weight is worth it. even in summer.

thats just my opinion, I could be wrong. :)


2003-02-20, 11:37
If he got preachy, he's got a good reason to be. The suggested reading section in the back of Mr. Brysons book lists many natural and scientific books that one would have to assume he got his information from. We have to remember that the demographic of readers for this type of book, not AT hikers, but yuppies getting on planes and the very rotund ice cream in one hand and fries in the other types he described seeing in Gatlinburg, are going to be put off by a book with subnotes. The author can assume that anyone interested in the info will likely find it the same way he did, wanting first hand accounts from scientists rather than travel writers. It is, however, irratating that he couldn't have put a simple referance guide so readers could check it out for themselves w/o having to get All of those suggested books.

2003-02-20, 12:43
exactly. I don't agree with the "greenies" at one end of the spectrum, nor do I agree with wanton rape and pillage as some political elements in our society seem to embrace. One thing I have learned in my higher education, (BS biology, BS Chemistry, MD, Residency in FP ETC) is how to read a scientific article and how to determine the validity of research. Biology is one of the softest sciences and it is very difficult to evaluate research in this area. Frequently I think that objectivity is lost when this research is conducted, and that the researchers personal views may be transmitted into this "science". This happens on both sides of the arguement. The result? Well, I recycle, I turn off lights in the house, I have a programmable thermostat, And I drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee. And I actually NEED an SUV, why I can discuss later. bottom line, the truth is somewhere in the middle, neither "side" is correct in beliefs or policies. What Bryson fails to mention is that extinction is a fact of life on earth. 99% of all the species that were ever present on earth are extinct. In addition the climate is always in flux. It is going to get warmer, then colder, then warmer, then colder. Considering how much a volcano puts out, the idea that we as humans can affect "global warming" is ludicris. On the other hand, we have a direct impact on acid rain, therefore we should do something about it.

Sorry for the rant. Shrill environmentalists and arrogant big oilmen both annoy me.

once again, thats just my opinion, I could be wrong.


steve hiker
2003-02-20, 14:31
About extinctions. I've heard that we're in the middle of the 6th major extinction phase in earth' history, similar to the massive extinctions that took out the dinasours. In geologic terms, the curve is straight down (even without a meteor strike), and in retrospect will have appeared to have occurred suddenly.

I've only read this in the popular media, and don't have any scientific reports to cite. One source was a Time magazine special edition a couple years ago, in which it stated that perhaps 2/3 of all current species on earth may become extinct within a century. It wouldn't surprise me if this were true, given mankind's wholesale destruction of the environment.

2003-02-20, 15:32
American Chestnut's are a good example. 1900 wasn't that long ago, and Bryson doesn't need a biologist to point that out! Hey Sundog, I've got an A.A.S. from a community college! Beat that!:D