Friday, August 25, 2006
A Thought to Consider
*Today, in conclusion, three unconnected and brutally abridged (by me) passages that make a point...
Now here's a thought to consider. Every twenty minutes on the Appalachian Trail, Katz and I walked farther than the average American walks in a week. For 93 percent of all trips outside the home, for whatever distance or whatever purpose, Americans now get in a car. On average the total walking of an American these days - that's walking of all types: from car to office, from office to car, around the supermarket and shopping malls - adds up to 1.4 miles a week, barely 350 yards a day. That's ridiculous.
Nobody knows how many people hike the Appalachian Trail, but most estimates put the number at around three or four million a year. That four million include[s] a high proportion of what you might call Reebok hikers - people who park their car, walk 400 yards, get back in their car, drive off, and never do anything as breathtaking again.
There may be more demanding and exciting summits to reach along the Appalachian Trail than Mount Washington but none can be more startling. You labour up the last steep stretch of rocky slope to what is afterall a considerable eminence and pop your head over the edge, and there you are greeted by, of all things, a vast, terraced parking lot, full of automobiles gleaming hotly in the sun. Beyond stand a scattered complex of buildings among which move crowds of people in shorts and baseball caps. It has the air of a world's fair bizarrely transferred to a mountain top. I felt for some minutes like a visitor from another planet. I loved it. It was a nightmare, of course, and a desecration of the highest mountain in the northeast, but I was delighted it existed in one place. It made the rest of the trail seem perfect.
This week; illustrations selected to accompany short passages from A Walk in the Woods © Bill Bryson 1997.