Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hiking with Bill Bryson

Stretching from Maine to northern Georgia, the Appalachian Trail runs about 2,100 miles along the East Coast of the United States. It takes you through 350 mountain tops and beautiful valleys; it features deep woods and glittering streams.

Hiking the entire trail takes about five months.

No, I am not planning on going for a hike - Bill Bryson is. Or rather, he was. He already took the hike, back in 1996, and then he wrote a book about it. I am reading it right now.

In his usual fashion, Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" intrigues me immediately. I can totally picture this slightly goofy, middle-aged man sitting on his New Hampshire couch thinking one day, "I'm gonna hike 2,000 miles!" His wife, of course, thought it a bad idea from the start.

From the adventure of buying expensive equipment that may or may not be neccessary to finding a friend and partner in crime to share the experience with, Bryson's story brings me along for the ride (For me, it actually is a ride. I don't have to lift more than my arms to hold the book up, and most of the time it is resting against the bed anyway).

The story feels like it could be my own. Not that I would ever go for such a long walk. But if I did, similar things would happen. I just wish I could write about them like Bryson does.

I've often pondered dropping by Hanover, New Hampshire, to see Bill Bryson. It's a small college town - less than an hour from where my host-father's Vermont cabin is. If I ask people around town where Bill Bryson lives, they might know and they might tell me. Perhaps I could drop by for a chat.

I'm not quite sure how well that would go over, though. Although I feel like I know him from reading (most of) his books, I am quite certain he would stare blankly at me and say "who did you say you are again?" And "you are writing an article about me for what paper again?"

Hope is still alive and well that I will get to meet him one day. For now, though, I still have his books. And we've got lots of miles left to hike on the Appalachian Trail.


Anne Sofie said...

Is this book as good as his books on Britain? I love them, partly because I really enjoy Bryson's writing, partly because I am an Anglophile. Just because I'm an Anglophile, I thought I might not like his other books. I'm not that much interested in America, but on the other hand the U.S. through Bryson's eyes might be quite interestin. What do you think? Will I like it?

Vickan said...

You will most certainly love it! I have yet to read his books about Britain. I've read his first book after coming back to the United States, and I've read his book about Australia - they are all fantastic. Anything through Bryson's eyes takes on a life of its own.

Although I read online last night, after Googling Bryson, that some of the stuff he writes is more fiction that fact. It is understandable that he may embellish certain experiences and you have to take them with a grain of salt. However, his writing makes it all worthwhile.