Bill Bryson, frequent author and occasional backpacker, entertained an intimate gathering of several hundred this evening in Frederick, MD. He held a book reading and book signing event. I arrived 45 minutes early because I knew there might be a crowd. Forty-five minutes early was not early enough. When I arrived, the line of those waiting to enter the venue went down the block, around a corner, and into a nearby parking garage.
Bryson read from four of his books, including A Walk in the Woods. He noted that he hadn’t read from A Walk in the Woods for a long time, but had to this evening because Frederick is so close to the Appalachian Trail (AT).
Bryson chose to read the passage about his and Katz’s first encounter with Mary Ellen in the southern mountains. I must have read this account a dozen times, but thoroughly enjoyed his reading tonight. Bryson seemed to genuinely enjoy the audience’s laughter. Can you imagine how many times he has read that passage and heard an audience laugh since the book was published in 1998?
Bryson did not hike the AT in Maryland, where Frederick is located. He spent some time in nearby Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. He also hiked sections of the AT in Pennsylvania. He advised tonight’s audience that they should skip the trail in Pennsylvania.
If you have read the book, what passage would you have asked Bill Bryson to read? Flinging necessary supplies in Georgia? The middle-of-the-night discussion of defending themselves against bears with the only weapon they packed -- toenail clippers? The suspense of hiking in dangerous weather in the White Mountains?
Bill Bryson will remain in Frederick and be speaking tomorrow at 11 a.m.