An Après Hike With Bill Bryson

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Bill Bryson as an Apres Hike

In the few months that this website has been in operation, I have featured easy hiking adventures in Europe and the US, discussed hiking boots, backpacks and other hiking subjects.

One thing I have not talked about at all is the topic of après-hikeAnd why has nobody so far bothered to say anything about this topic? Because there is, strictly speaking, no such thing.

This is (yet another) striking contrast to hiking’s distant cousin of skiing, “cousin” because it is also an outdoor activity and “distant” not least because it is one for which the prefix après seems to have been invented – après a day on the slopes, after all, you can wine, dine and be merry, meet other skiers of the opposite or (if that’s the way you “swing”) same sex and invite them to your chalet for romantic encounters.

And what about après-hike?

Even if you do not spend your evening in a draughty tent over tinned food and a can of coke, the best you can do in your stopover village is to walk the local high street up and down, then down and up and up and down again, pick the least terrible restaurant and then a bar (to be mistrustfully eyed by the locals) – before you retire to your room at 9 p.m.

Now, unless you understand enough of the local language to follow a TV programme – provided you have a set in your room that actually works – you are pretty much on your own.

Which is why any advice for après-hike can be summed up rather succinctly:

Bring a book

But what book? I think we can fairly easily agree that a hiking vacation is not the right time to delve into a classic that you have always wanted to read but never found the time for.

Neither should you occupy yourself with anything that has to do with your work – isn’t that what you were supposed to have left behind?

No, a “hiking trail” book should make you feel good, make you chuckle, feature a joke or two which you may want to share the next day with your travel companion who is snoring blissfully in the bunk next to yours.

It should, perhaps, even have a connection to your trip: something about the country or region you’re in, or something about hiking in general.

"A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson"

One book that ticks all the boxes is one by Bill Bryson, “A Walk in the Woods”.

It is funny, warm-hearted and kind – and it tells the story of its two middle-aged hikers in such a way that your own hike will positively glow in comparison.

What would be your book choice?


13 comments to An Après Hike With Bill Bryson

  • Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World

    I love Bill Bryson’s books, but ‘A Walk In The Woods’ is a favorite, no doubt. I’m trying to thin of a book I’d bring on a long hike… hmmm, any of Terry Pratchett’s books would be fine. He’s a terrific satirist writer and I can keep reading his books over and over again and find new stuff I didn’t notice before.

  • In the ‘olden days’ prior to having kids, I travelled a lot, all over the world. I loved it then and hope to do more again in the future.

    As well as Bill Bryson, at that epoque I loved the book ‘The Songlines’ by Bruce Chatwin. A tale of treking across the outback in Australia, following the invisible pathways traced by the Australian Aborigines, based on myths and stories handed down, by word of mouth, from generation to generation. Written around a wonderfully poetic idea. The book was interjected with funny titbits that made me laugh and taught me new ideas and concepts throughout…I think I would read this book again if I went on a hiking trek tomorrow.

  • Love Bill Bryson, but especially “A Walk in the Woods,” it’s one of those books that I can read over and over again, and laugh out loud every time. Beyond just a great story, I love how it gives a historical perspective of the AT. After reading it the first time, it made me really interested in the AT, and I spent time reading a lot more books on the subject, I’d love to hike a segment someday soon.

    I also wrote a post on my own blog http://twoweekstotravel.com/2010/12/08/for-the-win-2/ featuring Bill Bryson and this book!

  • Parker H.

    Going along the other lines of “hiking” type books, I would probably have to say “Into the Wild.” The story of Christopher McCandless is truly a heartbreaking and hard-to-swallow one.

    I think all of us “nature lovers” see a bit of “Alexander SuperTramp” in ourselves, simply having that urge to just drop everything and travel to the place we’ve always wanted to and be alone with the wild. It also tugs at the hiker’s heartstrings because McCandless’ totally free spirit eventually led to his ultimate demise. Planning is extremely key when traveling ANYWHERE and had McCandless done a little bit of survival research, he probably would have survived as Jon Krakauer describes in the book.

    “Into the Wild” definitely helps put the essence of survival into place and makes me appreciate the fact that I plan so thoroughly when venturing out onto the trail.

  • Oh yes,”Touching the Void”. What a story!

  • “The Worst Journey in the World” by Apsley Cherry-Garrard or “Touching the Void” by Joe Simpson, hell anything Joe writes will do :)

  • I’m reading always different thrillers. I just read some good ones by Karen Slaughter… the name fits already to her books. :)
    I also really like the books from Ken Follet. But I don’t have one book, which I really could add here…

    But Jeremy seems to have a good one! I’ll get that one now & add it this list here! :) “A Million Miles in a Thousand Steps”

  • Jeremy B

    I almost hate to give away the secret of my book because I am writing a series about it. It’s inspirational, it’s about life, and it has some travel stories in it including hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and a bike ride across America. It is Don Miller’s “A Million Miles in a Thousand Steps”. I’ve never been so inspired as the whole book talks about how to live a meaningful life. After a long hike and some time with nature, it’s a great way to end a day! One of the best books I ever read!

  • I guess I’m thinking along the same lines as Suzie in her comment above. However, I would bring a pair of books by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht “The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook” and “The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Travel”. Very useful (building a snow shelter, escaping from a mountain lion, etc) and entertaining (as in the “How to Foil a UFO Abduction” instructions).

  • Charles McCool

    Into Thin Air, I would like to read that again. Not much on laughs but great adventure. I also have read A Walk in the Woods so I will pass on potential prize. Thank you.

  • Try reading Surviving Paradise by Peter Rudiak-Gould. It is about his year of teaching English on a remote Marshall Island. No need to send the book to me should I be deemed the winner. I have already read this fantastic book.

  • Suzie

    If I was going by myself I’d be taking a bookshelf of survival books. It’s a certainty I’d get lost and I’d want to ensure my survival until someone found me. Too hard to narrow it down to one book, but if I seriously had to I’d make it My Side of the Mountain by Jean George. Very inspirational book and one I’ve kept from my childhood.

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