Book Review—A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

I liked this book.  Did it make me want to don a 50 pound pack and disappear into the wilderness for three months?  No.  Did it make me want to sit down with a can of cream soda and read about the wilderness?  Yes.  Actually, what I really want to do after completing this story is just what the title says, go for a walk in the woods.  I especially want to walk more after reading that the average American only walks 1.4 miles a week!  Unbelievable.

In this 1998 hiking adventure Bryson gives us the natural history of many parts of the Appalachian Trail.  He tells of the changes that inevitably sweep over a mountain, trail or town as people come and go.  About plant expeditions he states:  “The first people to venture deep into the woods from the East…weren’t looking for prehistoric creatures or passages to the West or new lands to settle.  They were looking for plants.  America’s botanical possibilities excited Europeans inordinately, and there was both glory and money to be made out in the woods.  The eastern woods teemed with flora unknown to the Old World, and there was a huge eagerness, from scientists and amateur enthusiasts alike, to get a piece of it.  Imagine if tomorrow a spaceship found a jungle growing beneath the gassy clouds of Venus.  Think what Bill Gates, say,  would pay for some tendriled, purply lobed piece of Venusian exotica to put in a pot in his greenhouse.  That was the rhododendron in the eighteenth century—and the camellia, the hydrangea, the wild cherry, the rudbeckia, the azalea, the aster, the ostrich fern, the catalpa, the spice bush, the Venus flytrap, the Virginia creeper, the euphorbia.  These and hundreds more were collected in the American woods, shipped across the ocean to England and France and Russia, and received with greedy keenness and trembling fingers.”    

People of the Northwest, don’t take your rhodies for granted anymore!   Someone, somewhere thinks it is a most valuable plant.  I was shocked to read about the chestnut blight, with a mortality rate of 100 percent.  The Appalachians alone lost four billion trees, a quarter of it’s cover in the beginning of the twentieth century.  A Walk in the Woods is entertaining, educational and a good read for anyone who enjoys the outdoors. I’m looking forward to reading more books by this bestselling author.

Appalachian Trail Map

PP  Oh deer!  

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