I’ve been flirting with the idea of hiking the Appalachian Trail (at least a portion) since watching the documentary of the same name presented by National Geographic (2009). Perhaps it was the intriguing psyche of the hikers (one guy was dressed as Santa Claus, another as Sasquatch as they trudged up the final ascent at Mount Katahdin in Maine), or the swooping helicopter cinematography of the grand, untamed wilderness. Either way, I was captivated.
“Holy shit! 2, 184 miles?!” – My reaction – having looked up the total mileage. I mean, I knew it was a long haul, but apparently wasn’t paying close attention to the minute details of the documentary.
After the initial shock of geographical distance wore off, the focus became more about time, weather, hiking gear, food – how the hell do these hikers do it? One supported hiker did it in blazing speed of 46 days 11 hours (Jennifer Pharr Davis – ’11) which, in doing the math is a little over 47.3 miles/day. As a former cross-country runner, no thanks.
Majority of the hikers doing the trip take their time, enjoying the outdoors, and trailblazing at safe speeds. It was these ‘normal hikers’ I was interested in, and in researching found Bill Bryson’s ‘A Walk in the Woods’; a hilariously realistic look at life on the Appalachian Trail. I had never read his work before, but this book has urged me to delve into his bookography. He’s funny, with a sarcastic-wit, and while fascinating, his historical accounts can bog down particular sections of the book, but keenly keeps pace with his being tamped down by the trail. Smart guy, that Bill B. This book has helped me appreciate the time, effort, and planning that goes into such an endeavor. It’s certainly not something you just pick up and do for six months, unless you’re the niece of The Flash, Jennifer Pharr Davis.