Read this for Pop Sugar Challenge prompt "set in wilderness".
I had never read a Bryson book before, so the beginning chapters took me longer to read as I was trying to get into the groove of his writing. I will admit that it took me more chapters to find that groove than my usual and I almost DNF'd it. But today I decided, with 16 chapters left, to work through as much as possible before the end of the month. The beginning chapters made Bill out to be very impulsive - the decision to hike all 2100 miles, the money spent on equipment, the books he read. It seemed gimmicky, like he knew he was going to write a memoir out of this experience without thinking through what this experience was going to be like.
Luckily, I hit my stride when Bill and Katz decided to leave the trail in Gatlinburg and drive up a little into Virginia and finish the first leg of their trip somewhere in the Shenandoah Valley. The best part of the book for me was Bill's solo journeys into Pennsylvania and New Jersey; the Delawere Water Gap is on the outskirts of where I grew up (Matamoras, Pike County - if you use Google maps to try and find that tiny speck of dirt, you will need to zoom in....a lot). The section on Centralia reminded me of an episode of Disaster Area podcast about that coal fire; reading a first hand account of someone who was there years after the evacuation and bulldozing added greatly to my knowledge of the disaster.
I also really enjoyed his day hikes in the New England region, except for the last march through Maine (mainly because of Katz). Katz got on my last nerve and the time spent in Maine I was just done with him when he admitted to drinking again. I did enjoy the natural and social history that is found throughout the book. I almost DNF'd after another Mary Ellen story and could not have been happier to see she left the trail early and I wouldn't have to read about her clearing her ears through her nose again.
This isn't really a book about hiking or very introspective; it is much more an outsider's perspective on what he finds along the trail that catches his attention. I am not one for camping, but I do enjoy the occasional day hike (when it is started and finished at a hotel with running water). I was amused by Bill's humor, but didn't really laugh.