Stretching from Georgia to Maine, the Appalachian Trail offers some of America's most breathtaking scenery. After living for many years in England, Bill Bryson moved back to the United States and decided to reacquaint himself with his country by taking to this uninterrupted "hiker's highway."... read more
The book starts with Bryson explaining his curiosity at the Appalachian Trail near his house. He and his old friend Stephen Katz start hiking the trail from the state of Georgia in the south, and stumble in the beginning with the difficulties of getting used to their equipment; Bryson also... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
The book starts with Bryson explaining his curiosity at the Appalachian Trail near his house. He and his old friend Stephen Katz start hiking the trail from the state of Georgia in the south, and stumble in the beginning with the difficulties of getting used to their equipment; Bryson also soon realizes how difficult it is to travel with his friend, who is a crude, overweight recovering alcoholic, and even less prepared for the ordeal than he is. Overburdened, they soon discard much extra food and equipment to lighten their loads.
After hiking for what seemed to him a large distance, they realize they have still barely begun while in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and that the whole endeavor is simply too much for them. They skip a huge section of the trail, beginning again in Roanoke, Virginia. The book recounts Bryson's desire to seek easier terrain as well as "a powerful urge not to be this far south any longer." This section of the hike finally ends (after nearly 500 miles (800 km) of hiking) with Bryson going on a book tour and Katz returning to Des Moines to work.
In the following months Bryson continues to hike several smaller parts of the trail, including a visit to Centralia, an environmentally poisoned mining town in Pennsylvania, and eventually reunites with Katz to hike the Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine, which again proves too daunting. The fact that Bryson did not complete the trail is not surprising since fewer than 25% of thru-hike attempts are successful; he quotes the older figure of 10%.
“The US Forest Service is the largest builder of roads in the United States. (May not be an exact quote)”observation by Bill Bryson
“"Yeah, but they flung really well."”Katz after Bryson asks why he flung the coffee filters, which weighed nothing, in a fit of exasperation at the weight of his pack.
“"This is a disease for the person who wants to experience it all."”Bryson - in his attempt to give a bit of zing to the tick-borne Lyme disease.
“My son had just gotten an after-school job there, so I was under strict instructions of good behavior. Specifically, I was not to say or do anything stupid, try on anything that would require me to expose by stomach, say 'Are you shitting me?' when informed of the price of a product, be conspicuously inattentive when a sales assistant was explaining the correct maintenance or aftercare of a product, and above all don anything inappropriate, like a woman's ski hat, in an attempt to amuse.”
“We usually get frosts once or twice a wniter, but this year we had 'em a couple of times.”Mary Ellen
“In 1987, it <U.S. Forest Service> casually announced that it would allow private timber interests to remove hundreds of acres of wood a year from the venerable and verdant Pisgah National Forest, next door to the Great Smoky Mountinas National Park, and that 80 percent of that would be through what it delicately calls "scientific forestry" - clear-cutting to you and me - which is not only a brutal visual affront to any landscape but brings huge, wreckless washoffs that gully the soil, robbing it of nutrients and disrupting ecologies farther downstream, sometimes for miles. This isn't science. It's rape.”
“Altogether, forty-two species of mammal have disappeared from America's national parks this century.”
“Today, the National Park Service employs a more casual approach to endangering wildlife: neglect.”
“Having gotten everyone in a lather by interfering with nature for years, it <National Park Service> has decided now not to interfere with nature at all, even when that interference would be demonstrably beneficial.”
“I am almost certain that if that $200 million a year were restored to the budget, nearly all of it would go into building more parking lots and RV hookups, not into saving trees and certainly not into restoring the precious, lovely grassy balds.”
“In many places in America now, it is not actually possible to be a pedestrian, even if you want to be.”
“In 1850, New England was 70 percent open farmland and 30 percent woods. Today the proportions are exactly reversed. Probably no area in the developed world has undergone a more profound change in just a century or so, at least not in a contrary direction to the normal course of progress.”
If there is one thing the AT teaches, it is low-level ecstasy—something we could all do with more of in our lives.Highlighted by 99 Kindle customers
What on earth would I do if four bears came into my camp? Why, I would die, of course. Literally shit myself lifeless. I would blow my sphincter out my backside like one of those unrolling paper streamers you get at children’s parties—I daresay it would even give a merry toot—and bleed to a messy death in my sleeping bag.Highlighted by 95 Kindle customers
Every twenty minutes on the Appalachian Trail, Katz and I walked farther than the average American walks in a week. For 93 percent of all trips outside the home, for whatever distance or whatever purpose, Americans now get in a car. On average the total walking of an American these days—that’s walking of all types: from car to office, from office to car, around the supermarket and shopping malls—adds up to 1.4 miles a week, barely 350 yards a day. That’s ridiculous.Highlighted by 90 Kindle customers
I was beginning to appreciate that the central feature of life on the Appalachian Trail is deprivation, that the whole point of the experience is to remove yourself so thoroughly from the conveniences of everyday life that the most ordinary things—processed cheese, a can of pop gorgeously beaded with condensation—fill you with wonder and gratitude.Highlighted by 88 Kindle customers
Life takes on a neat simplicity, too. Time ceases to have any meaning. When it is dark, you go to bed, and when it is light again you get up, and everything in between is just in between. It’s quite wonderful, really.Highlighted by 80 Kindle customers
Compared with most other places in the developed world, America is still to a remarkable extent a land of forests. One-third of the landscape of the lower forty-eight states is covered in trees—728 million acres in all. Maine alone has 10 million uninhabited acres. That’s 15,600 square miles, an area considerably bigger than Belgium, without a single permanent resident. Altogether, just 2 percent of the United States is classified as built up.Highlighted by 64 Kindle customers
In fact, mostly what the Forest Service does is build roads. I am not kidding. There are 378,000 miles of roads in America’s national forests. That may seem a meaningless figure, but look at it this way—it is eight times the total mileage of America’s interstate highway system.Highlighted by 62 Kindle customers
Every year between early March and late April, about 2,000 hikers set off from Springer, most of them intending to go all the way to Katahdin. No more than 10 percent actually make it. Half don’t make it past central Virginia, less than a third of the way. A quarter get no farther than North Carolina, the next state. As many as 20 percent drop out the first week.Highlighted by 59 Kindle customers
For the Smokies are a very Eden. We were entering what botanists like to call “the finest mixed mesophytic forest in the world.” The Smokies harbor an astonishing range of plant life—over 1,500 types of wildflower, a thousand varieties of shrub, 530 mosses and lichen, 2,000 types of fungi. They are home to 130 native species of tree; the whole of Europe has just 85.Highlighted by 53 Kindle customers
I have long known that it is part of God’s plan for me to spend a little time with each of the most stupid people on earth, and Mary Ellen was proof that even in the Appalachian woods I would not be spared. It became evident from the first moment that she was a rarity.Highlighted by 53 Kindle customers
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