March 23rd, 2009


A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. 1998

My wife bought this book for me. It's from my reading list which consists of any book from the eight feet of bookcases that line the west hallway wall of the town library. Used paperbacks sell for 50 cents, hardbacks, a dollar. She knew I have a weakness for good personal travel books.

The book is well-written, an enjoyable and humorous read once you get past the stereotypical put-down of rural southern life. It is a history and a description of  the Appalachian Trail as well as a general social commentary and a first-person account of walking 870 miles of the 2100 mile AT. Over one summer, sometimes solo, sometimes with a companion, Bryson hiked bits and pieces of the trail. The largest contiguous piece was at the southern end where he and his friend Stephen Katz walked from the beginning in Georgia through the Smokey Mountains to near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

His opinion of the Gatlinburg area, you have to include Pigeon Forge, Dolly Parton's extravaganza, agrees with mine. On our visit to the Smokey Mountain National Park, Kathy and I passed through the area without stopping, preferring instead to use the sleepy little town of Townsend as our base. I enjoyed visiting the park although I can still recall, with some clarity, a terrifying experience involving wind, rain, hail, and lightning on a mountain-side while hiking a trail near Cades Cove.

That was twenty years ago; I suspect Townsend is no longer sleepy ... or little.