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A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America | Book Review

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, a novel by Bill Bryson takes you through the journey of a man looking to connect with more then just his local environment, but explore nature and go where many do not dare to go. Although Bryson does not touch every single mile he wishes to, at the end of his journey he fulfills more then ever imagined.

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Bryson creates a sense of place in a variety of different ways. Bryson’s feelings towards his preparations for the Appalachian Trail give us a better understanding of the sense of place. “Are you saying, Dave, that I pay $250 for a pack and it doesn’t have straps and it isn’t water proof? Does it have a bottom in it?” (Bryce, 10). Bryce heads to his local sporting goods store to talk with an expert on the trail. Dave Mengle tells Bryce he must purchase sleeping bags, boots, tents, thermal clothing, cook sets, and packs. We can infer that the trail is not simple and requires previous preparation in order to assure ones safety. Bryce begins to realize that this task may not be as easy as he thought and must prepare for any dangerous encounters he may face with nature.

We get a more clear view of the sense of place and began to see the surroundings that Bryce encounters when they enter what seems to be his favorite part of the trip so far, the Shenandoah National Park. He enjoys the lively scenery which includes grouse, deer, owls, and turkeys. Not to mention the easier terrain, this being their favorite part. However, not every animal encounter is pleasant. Bryson remarks, “I think I have a right to be a trifle alarmed, pardon me. I’m in the woods, in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, staring at a bear, with a guy who has nothing to defend himself with but a pair of nail clippers.” (Bryson, 142). Bryson becomes fearful when he hears an animal in their cam, but this quickly fades when he realizes that the bear only wishes to drink from a nearby stream.

As Bryson says, “It was a miracle, I swear to God. Just when I was about to lie down and give myself to the wolves and bobcats, I look up and there’s a white blaze on a tree and I look down and I’m standing on the AT.” (Bryson, p. 266) We can conclude that towards the end of the novel a final connection was made between Bryson and Mother Nature. Although Bryson didn’t complete every step of the 2,200-mile trail he realized that this is not necessary in order to get the fulfillment he desired before seen starting his journey through the Appalachian Trail.

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First, Bryson demonstrates human-environment interaction when he must quickly learn to adapt to his environment and knows that this is necessary in order for him to begin his hike down the Appalachian Trail. One of the more clear themes is location of the story which takes place on the Appalachian Trail. The “AT” is a marked hiking trail in the eastern United States, extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. Bryson’s new location to Hanover, New Hampshire gives him the urge to begin traveling the trail after coming across part of the trail. There were many landmarks throughout Bryson’s journey to demonstrate place. Springer Mountain is the southern trailhead of the AT. Amicalola Falls Lodge is seven miles from their starting point at Springer Mountain in northern Georgia. While they are still in northern Georgia, the trail takes Bryson and Katz over a narrow ledge along Big Butt Mountain. Finally, Bishop Boarding House welcomes Bryson and Katz as they emerge from the Maine woods. Mrs. Bishop assures them that the woods will still be there if they decide to try again.


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