A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

“It seemed such an extraordinary notion – that I could set off home and walk 1,800 miles through the woods to Georgia, or turn the other way and clamber over the rough and stony White Mountains to the fabled prow of Mount Katahdin, floating in the forest 450 miles to the north in a wilderness few have seen. A little voice in my head said: ‘Sounds neat! Let’s do it!’

I formed a number of rationalizations. It would get me fit after years of waddlesome sloth. It would be an interesting and reflective way to reacquaint myself with the scale and beauty of my native land after nearly twenty years of living abroad. It would be useful (I wasn’t quite sure in what way, but I was sure nonetheless) to learn to fend for myself in the wilderness. When guys in camouflage pants and hunting hats sat around in the Four Acres Diner talking about fearsome things done out-of-doors, I would no longer have to feel like such a cupcake. […]

So I decided to do it. More rashly, I announced my intention – told friends and neighbors, confidently informed my publisher, made it common knowledge among those who knew me. Then I bought some books and talked to people who had done the trail in whole or in part and come gradually to realize that this was way beyond – way beyond – anything I had attempted before.”

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