What the…?! “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson was amazing. Like, running around telling everyone I know, amazing. I told a friend and my dad that I was inspired by it. I told another friend that he should get it because he’s a “real” hiker, unlike me who mostly just goes for long day hikes. And I commented on another blog about it. THAT’S how much I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down.
What was so amazing? From page one, I felt like I was there, and this guy goes and does things the same way my family does, so I don’t feel like I missed anything. When we go on an adventure, whether it be a day trip or a long road trip, we have always researched a little about where we are.
I say, “where we are,” because we don’t plan much about where we’re going, so we really can’t do a lot of research in advance of our trip. We have a general plan of what direction we’re going and where we may end up the first night, but usually the rest of the trip is a surprise. We’ve never been disappointed.
Typically, at the RV park we land at, we browse their gift shop, pick up maps, and ask about local sights. We look for a local museum or historical site, visit a park visitor center, and pick up small publisher books about the place or the people that founded it. I look for older books, ones written by the people that lived it. We walk, A LOT, around the area and within the parks. The point is to try to get to know the place better the short time we are there.
When I read Bill Bryson, I feel like he’s doing the same thing. His story isn’t just about hiking the Appalachian Trail. It’s about his misadventures getting ready for it and while he was on it. It’s about the nature he saw, the history of the trail and the towns and parks it runs through, the people he met along the way, and the stories he heard.
Within the first few pages, I was ready to get back out on the trails myself, in earnest this year! I texted a hiking friend and told him about the book. A few days later, he texted me a picture of his copy and asked what we were doing this weekend. And now I have plans to hit the hills at the crack of dawn in a few days.
As you probably know, I dread the coming of summer every year. I’ve lived in Southern California all my life, and in the desert for long enough to tolerate the heat. My trouble comes because I start to get cabin fever about halfway through the summer. I need to get outside but I can’t go out half naked to beat the heat like everyone else. It’s not modesty that keeps me covered up, my friends. It’s my red hair and fair skin.
In the winter, it’s easy to keep from getting sunburned. But in the summer, when the temperatures rise, shedding my long-sleeved shirt and long pants is not an option. I’d burn to a crisp in a matter of about twenty minutes. So, like those of you that spend your snowy winters indoors, I hibernate over the summer, focusing on indoor projects. But I love hiking in the desert so much.
This weekend’s plan, thanks to “A Walk in the Woods,” is to get up early, drive the hour up into the mountains, and hit the trail at 6am to beat the heat. We’ll climb to the top, maybe have a few adventures of our own, have a picnic with a view of the valley below (or more trees, depends on how far we get), and climb back down before the heat of the day tortures us. It’ll be a nice preview of the coming Fall.
I cannot express how much I loved “A Walk in the Woods.” On the back, right at the top, there is a quote from Washington Post Book World, “Choke-on-your-coffee funny.” Yep. That’s exactly it. It’s hilarious, heart-warming, full of interesting information, and I didn’t want it to end.
The last book I read by Bill Bryson was “At Home” and I’m pretty sure I fell in love with him back then. Why did it take me so long to read him again? All I know, is that from now on, every time I see a Bill Bryson book on the shelf anywhere, I’m going to buy it. He’s brilliant.