There is a lot of hype about the upcoming movie A Walk in the Woods which is based on author Bill Bryson’s best-selling book. As an avid hiker, outdoor enthusiast, and long time Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hiker wanna-be, I bought the book and read it cover to cover in two nights just after it was published in late 1998.
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To say I was disappointed in Bill’s account of his AT hike would be an understatement. His story was funny, as you’ve probably heard, but I just couldn’t get over him skipping major sections of the trail, yet telling people he ‘hiked’ the AT. I think about some of our hiking t-shirt designs like Conquer, Just a Hill and Impossible, and how a person’s state of mind directly impacts their reality. At the time I felt like Bill was missing out on the real AT experience by skipping around and leaving huge chunks of the AT un-hiked. How could he really push his mind and body when he wasn’t putting in the grueling miles day after day?
Fast forward 17 years and I have to admit my judgments around his hike have changed. I spent 14 years section hiking the Appalachian Trail. I didn’t skip a single mile of the nearly 2,200 mile trail, but along the way I learned a lot about myself and those hiking the AT. What I have come to learn is everyone ‘hike’s their own hike’ and that’s all that matters. Every hiker on the AT has their own unique story of why they are on the AT and what they want to get out of it. Whether they are hiking 10 miles or 2000, I have no right to judge another person’s motivations for being on the trail or their hiking style.
What I can now say about Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods is I am grateful his book motivated me to plan my first section hike, and that it probably did the same for a multitude of others. With the movie out, I can only imagine it will spur interest in the AT for a whole new generation. Getting people outdoors, whether for a day hike or 5 month thru-hike, is a good thing in my book.
- Tommy Bailey