Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Walk in the Woods (copy)

Weather this spring has been quite unseasonably warm and dry. Memphis news station, WREG, reported temperatures to be 12 degrees above normal for this time of year. I am beginning to think Punxsutawney Phil, the official weather groundhog, has a gift. Not only did he predict the early spring for 2007, but also busied himself setting out the lounge and pouring iced tea.

The last two weeks of March and the first two weeks of April are prime times to begin a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail according to Bill Bryson’s book, A Walk in the Woods.

Just what is a thru hike you ask? A thru hike means walking from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine or visa versa in one season; which is over 2,174 miles from start to finish. Most thru hikers prefer to begin their odyssey in Georgia during early spring then arrive in Maine just as fall begins. In theory, they avoid extreme weather such as freezing sleet and snow.

This is how expatriate and author Bill Bryson begins his journey. The book jacket claims he took on this daunting task, “For reasons even he didn’t understand.” Some of us in Reading Round Table suspect his purpose was solely to write the book. Not an unfounded thought, since he wrote Neither Here Nor There after a 1991 back packing trip in Europe.

A Walk in the Woods was written in 1998 after Bryson “sort of” finished the trail in 1996. The book is laugh-out-loud funny. First off, Bryson sends out Christmas cards inviting any and all to join him. Out of all the possibilities, he has one taker, Stephen Katz; a man who exercises by watching T.V. and considers dinner a twice nightly event.

The first night of camp, Bryson realizes his new mate isn’t ideal, as Katz admits to tossing all their food down a ravine before falling instantly to sleep. For penitence Katz rises early and makes coffee. Unfortunately, the brew is contaminated with pink floating specks (toilet paper), as Katz explains tossing the filters, too.

As if going off trail for a bit, Bryson fills the book with “aside” information. Along with the running narrative, readers will learn much about our state parks and woodsy forests.