Monday, September 11, 2006

"A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson tells the truth!

Coincidentally with my planning a massive hike I began reading "A Walk in the Woods," a very funny account about writer Bill Bryson's rejection of "waddlesome sloth" for a long hike along the Appalachian Trail.

As I lay in bed the night after we hiked, crippled as I've said, from the waist down, I read this oh-so-pertinent and perceptive passage:

"The hardest part was coming to terms with the constant dispiriting discovery that there is always more hill. The thing about being on a hill, as opposed to standing back from it, is that you can almost never see exactly what's to come. Between the curtain of trees of every side, the ever-receding countour of rising slope before you, and your own plodding weariness, you gradually lose track of how far you have come. Each time you haul yourself up to what you think must surely be the crest, you find that there is in fact more hill beyond, sloped at an angle that kept it from view before, and that beyond that slope there is another and beyond that another and another, and beyond each of those more still, until it seems impossible that any hill could run on this long. Evenutally you reach a height where you can see the tops of the topmost trees, with nothing but clear sky beyond, and your faltering spirit stirs -- nearly there now! -- but this is a pitiless deception. The elusive summit continually retreats by whatever distance you press forward, so that each time the canpoy parts enough to give a view you are dismayed to see that the topmost trees are as remote, as unattainable, as before. Still you stagger on. What else can you do?

When, after ages and ages, you finally reach the tell-tale world of truly high ground, where the chilled air smells of pine sap and the vegetation is gnarled and tough and wind-bent, and push through to the mountain's open pinnacle, you are, alas past caring. You sprawl face down on a sloping pavement of gneiss, pressed to the rock by the weight of your pack, and lie there for some miutes, reflecting in a distance, out-of-body way that you have never before looked this closely at lichen..."

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