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I was recently introduced to Bill Bryson’s adventure on the Appalachian trail. I was at home one Sunday afternoon when a trailer for the newly adapted movie with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte came on the TV. I was immediately interested in this story and so I bought the book and began reading. A Walk in the Woods is the story of Bill Bryson and his friend Stephen Katz’s attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail back in 1998. The Appalachian Trail is a hiking trail that runs across the Eastern Seaboard in the U.S. It goes from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. It was founded by two Americans, MacKaye and Avery in the 1920’s. In spite of a fractious relationship between these two men the trail has not only survived all these years, it has thrived.
It is approximately 2,200 miles long, although this number fluctuates a little bit every few years as the trail gets modified or rerouted. The A.T. as it is often called, is the oldest of the many hiking trails in America. Others such as the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) have surpassed it in length over the years but it still remains the most celebrated. It is managed by the National Park Service, United States Forest Service and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy who are a non-profit organisation. It is said to be the largest volunteer run under taking on the planet. As a result it is completely free from commercialism. Every year around 2000 people start off from Springer Mountain intending to hike all the way to Maine. These are called through hikers but less than 10% of them make it all the way. Bryson just happens upon the trail one afternoon shortly after his family moved to New Hampshire. He noticed a footpath that wandered into the woods and discovered it was part of the A.T. After this chance encounter the idea of hiking the trail began to percolate and Bryson couldn’t get it out of his head. It was as though the trail was inviting him on a great adventure. He decided to accept this invitation and thus began the journey.