A Walk in the Woods

Bill Bryson’s 1998 literary work takes its readers’ imagination, as the title suggests, to “A Walk in the Woods.”

The author returning back to the United States after living for 20 years outside the country decided to the reconnect with his home landscape and hikes the Appalachian Trail. In Bill Bryson’s account of the Appalachian Trail, both historical and environmental information is received by the readers. More specifically the environmental crisis and its causes are dealt in this Bryson’s book. For some, environmental issues are quite uninteresting and dull.

However, readers of this book are still compelled to continuously read it because of its humor and thought-provoking exploration of the wild. Moreover, Bill Bryson’s style and themes informs and teaches several environmental issues and concerns to its readers while entertaining them. Though, by scanning the history and events in other areas, it can be said that Bill Bryson’s accounted environmental problems in his book does not occur solely in the Appalachian Trail, rather it is a world-wide problem.

Bill Bryson accounts that the Appalachian Trail is 2200 miles, and I think he is telling the truth. Based on what I have learned (or know) about, the Appalachian Trail is a 2,147-mile-long footpath from Georgia to Maine, which follows the ridgetops of the fourteen states through which it passes.

Although other people had put forth similar ideas, Benton MacKaye’s article “An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning,” is usually looked upon as having presented the impetus for the Appalachian Trail.

A regional planner, MacKaye saw in the post-World War I era an America that was becoming hastily urbanized, machine-driven and far detached from the positive reinvigorating aspects of the natural world. In addition to endowing with obvious recreational opportunities, the trail he imagined or visualized would be a linking line between a series of everlasting self-sustaining camps in wherein cooperation would replace antagonism, trust replaces suspicion, and emulation replaces competition.

Encouraged and supported by relatives, friends, and like-minded acquaintances, MacKaye set about disseminating the idea of an Appalachian Trail to anyone who would listen, as well as officials of the National Park and National Forest Services.

Particularly interested to the trail concept were members and officers of previously existing trail organizations such as the Green Mountain Club of Vermont, the New England Trail Conference, and the Appalachian Mountain Club. Not overlooking the advertising power of the press, MacKaye also solicited the help of newspaper reporters and columnists throughout the Northeast.

The idea struck a chord form in October 1923, just two years after publication of his article, the first few miles of trail to be built particularly as a part of the Appalachian Trail were opened to the public in the area of Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks in New York by the then recently formed New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.

Acting upon a request by MacKaye and others, the Federal Societies on Planning and Parks met in Washington, D.C, in March 1925, for the intention of furthering action on the Appalachian Trail.

There, an organization establishing the Appalachian Trail Conference (now known as Appalachian Trail Conservancy, committed to the protection and management of the trail) was adopted, and William A. Welch, of New York’s Palisades Interstate Park Commission, was named its chairman. Throughout the meeting, it was determined that the Appalachian Trail would run approximately 1,700 miles (which is 500 miles less than Bill Bryson’s measurement or the length of Appalachian Trail today) from Mount Washington in New Hampshire to Cohutta Mountain in northwestern Georgia.

A northern extension was to stretch to Mount Katahdin in Maine while a southern addition would reach all of the way to Birmingham Alabama. Among various branch routes that were also proposed, one was to follow the Long Trail in Vermont, another would extend into the Catskills, and another was to run along the Tennessee River to Kentucky.