Bryson’s tale of the Appalachian Trail, with its mixture of light-hearted adventure and journalistic exploration, was a light summer read. As always, our members’ reactions varied a good deal, with ratings ranging from “mildly amusing” to “hilarious.”
Most of us enjoyed the informational and critical sections about subjects including bear behavior, acid rain, the decline of the under-funded national park service, a decades-long underground fire, the geology of the Appalachians and the biology of trees.
Some readers, hikers themselves, were reminded of their own experiences of hiking as a spiritual experience. For all that, just about everyone enjoyed Bryson’s pudgy junk-food junkie hiking companion Katz. One of us wondered aloud if he got any revenue from the book to which he provided so much humor and pathos.
One member was unsettled to be signing grim waivers full of alarming fine print for her teenage son’s impending camping trip to New Mexico after reading so much about bear attacks.
Another reader wondered where Bryson’s allegiance really is: while he writes thoughtfully about so many issues affecting the Trail, his behavior regarding safety, diet and ecology were “appalling.”
Many found Bryson’s failure to stick to the Trail from start to finish a disappointment; some of us found it endearing. For those who laughed out loud reading this one, the good news is that Bryson has written several other humorous travel memoirs.