A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail is a 1998 autobiographical book by travel writer Bill Bryson, describing his attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail with his friend "Stephen Katz". The book is written in a humorous style, interspersed with more serious discussions of matters relating to the trail's history, and the surrounding sociology, ecology, trees, plants, animals and people.
The book starts with Bryson explaining his curiosity about the Appalachian Trail near his house. He and his old friend Stephen Katz start hiking the trail from Georgia in the south, and stumble in the beginning with the difficulties of getting used to their equipment; Bryson also soon realizes how difficult it is to travel with his friend, who is a crude, overweight recovering alcoholic, and even less prepared for the ordeal than he is. Overburdened, they soon discard much extra food and equipment to lighten their loads.
After hiking for what seemed to him a large distance, they realize they have still barely begun while in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and that the whole endeavor is simply too much for them. They skip a huge section of the trail, beginning again in Roanoke, Virginia. The book recounts Bryson's desire to seek easier terrain as well as "a powerful urge not to be this far south any longer". This section of the hike finally ends (after nearly 800 miles (1,300 km) of hiking) with Bryson going on a book tour and Katz returning to Des Moines, Iowa to work.
In the following months Bryson continues to hike several smaller parts of the trail, including a visit to Centralia, Pennsylvania, the site of a coal seam fire, and eventually reunites with Katz to hike the Hundred-Mile Wilderness in Maine, which again proves too daunting. The fact that Bryson did not complete the trail is not surprising, since fewer than 25% of through-hike attempts are successful; he quotes the older figure of 10%.
At the time of his attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail, Bryson was in his forties.
In 2005, Robert Redford announced, and later confirmed, that he would star in and produce an adaptation of Bryson's book into a film, and that he would play Bryson. He also hoped that his erstwhile co-star and friend, Paul Newman, would team up with him to play the role of Katz, although he jokingly expressed doubt as to whether the health-conscious Newman would consider putting on enough weight to accurately portray the rotund Katz (Newman retired from acting in May 2007 and died in 2008).
In February 2007, Chris Columbus, director of Home Alone and the first two Harry Potter films, was reported to have agreed to direct the adaptation. However, in January 2008, the Hollywood Reporter, while noting that the script was delayed due to the Hollywood writers' strike, reported that Barry Levinson, the Academy Award–winning director of Rain Man, was in talks to direct.
Redford has said of the project:
It'll be fun. I don't know when I've read a book that I laughed so loud. Also, it's a chance to take a look at the country ... The backdrop is pretty terrific, if you stop to think of all the visuals that are possible as they go along that trail.
In February 2012, it was reported that novelist Richard Russo, during a speech at Union College, confirmed that he was working on the screenplay.
By November 2013, Nick Nolte had been cast to costar as Katz. Larry Charles (of Borat and Brüno) was briefly attached as director, but eventually the job went to Ken Kwapis, whose most recent film was Big Miracle and who was a key figure on the U.S. television series The Office. The screenplay was by Michael Arndt, credited as Rick Kerb, and Bill Holderman, who is a producer at Redford's Wildwood Enterprises. Shooting began in spring 2014. The movie was largely filmed at Amicalola Falls State Park, in Dawsonville, Georgia, including scenes at The Lodge at Amicalola Falls.
The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2015, and was released in theaters on September 2, 2015, by Broad Green Pictures.
A Walk In the Woods was named the funniest travel book ever written by CNN. A review in the New York Times stated that readers, "may find themselves turning the pages with increasing amusement and anticipation as they discover that they're in the hands of a satirist of the first rank." The New Yorker described the book as, "wry, well-researched account."ISBN 0-7679-0251-3. Hardback. Published by Broadway Books, on May 4, 1998.
ISBN 0-7679-0252-1. Paperback. Published by Broadway Books, on May 4, 1999.