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Reviews > Books > General > A Walk in the Woods > Owner Review by David Wilkes

July 27, 2008


NAME: David Wilkes
EMAIL: amatbrewer@charterDOTnet
AGE: 42
LOCATION: Yakima, Washington USA
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 198 lb (89.80 kg)
SLEEVE LENGTH: 20 in (51 cm)
CHEST: 42 in (107 cm)

I started backpacking about 13 years ago when I moved to Washington State. Since then I have backpacked in all seasons and conditions. I have usually only managed time for 1-3 trips a year averaging 2-5 days, and as many day hikes as I can. I am currently getting into condition to summit some of the higher peaks in Washington, Oregon, California. I prefer trips on rugged trails with plenty of elevation gain. While I continuously strive to lighten my load, comfort and safety are most important to me. My current pack is around 30 lbs (14 kg), not including consumables.


Title: A Walk in the Woods
Format: Paperback
Author: Bill Bryson
Broadway Books, a subsidiary of Random House, Inc.
City and State of Publishing: New York, New York USA
Publisher's URL:
ISBN: 0-9679-0251-3
Year Published: 1999
Pages: 276
MSRP: 14.95 USD
Measured Weight: 259 g (9.15 oz)*
*Weight was measured on a digital scale made by Escali that claims accuracy to 1 g or .1 oz.
Dimentions: 8.5" x 5.25" x .75" (21 x  13 x 2 cm)


I normally avoid books like this as they often focus more on subject matter than the quality of the writing. The result is all too often a book with lots of good and sometimes even useful information, which is so poorly written or organized that it is difficult if not actually painful to read. I picked up "A Walk in the Woods" for two reasons, first and foremost was that I was on a trip and absolutely desperate for something to read on a long flight. Second was that a review of the book said the author was an accomplished author and very funny. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the book despite being disturbed, if not horror-struck, by some parts. I read most of it on that trip and held off reading further so I could take it with me to finish during an upcoming hiking trip (3 days hiking and climbing Mt Shasta in California).

The concept of a novice hiker taking on the Appalachian Trail and bringing along an overweight, out of shape, non-hiker who he had not seen in years, required a level of sheer gall and foolishness that I found myself horrified by and envying at the same time.

The following excerpt [pg 21&22] is not exactly the way I would describe someone I would choose to spend a few days on the trail with, let alone months.

"He had partied for years, until there was no one left to party with, then he had partied with himself, alone in the small apartments, in T-shirt and boxer shorts, with a bottle and a Baggie of pot and a TV with rabbit ears." "…the last time I had seen him was about five years earlier in a Denny's restaurant where I was taking my mother for breakfast. He was sitting in a booth with a haggard fellow who looked like his name would be Virgil Starkweather, tucking into pancakes and taking occasional illicit nips from a bottle in a paper bag, It was eight in the morning and Katz looked very happy. He was always happy when he was drunk, and he was always drunk."

The quality of the storytelling and writing along with a sense of humor that was right up my alley made the book enjoyable to read. Moreover, the view of trail life from a fresh pair of eyes reminded me of how much I enjoyed taking my daughter on her first backpacking trip as well as why I got into hiking in the first place.

I consider myself a very considerate hiker who tries to practice "leave no trace" as best I can, and am focused on (if not obsessed with) self-sufficiency in the backcountry. As a result, some parts of the book really raised the hair on the back of my neck. In particular, I was disturbed by one character dumping most of the contents of his pack along the way in order to lighten his load (I can't even leave behind the unburned end of a match without feeling guilty), a climb up a particularly nasty peak without some basic equipment, and above all the main characters taking on such a trek with virtually none of the necessary experience or skills. However, I do admire the author freely exposing his poor judgment or lack of knowledge, and his skill at describing the lessons he learned.

In addition to the amusing antics and adventures of the two main characters, the author wove in some interesting and enlightening information about the Appalachian Trail and its history from a novice hikers viewpoint, as well as some not so subtle hints into the authors opinion of how the Department of Forestry is run and funded.


I found the book a joy to read, so much so that I will be actively looking for other books by this author. In addition, I have started looking to see if there are any similar books about trails or places in my part of the country. I would highly recommend the book for light reading.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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Reviews > Books > General > A Walk in the Woods > Owner Review by David Wilkes

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