Hiking in Pop Culture

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Two popular best-selling books became movies in the past year.

A Walk in the Woods and Wild.

DF-06533_R (l to r) Nick Nolte stars as Stephen Katz and Robert Redford as Bill Bryson in Broad Green Pictures upcoming release, A WALK IN THE WOODS. Credit: Frank Masi, SMPSP / Broad Green Pictures

For those of us that enjoy spending time in the outdoors, and are familiar with tents and hiking boots, these movies had a lot of potential. Friends and family probably told you about these movies and wondered what you thought.

Personally, I read both books before they were movies.  As is almost always the case, the books are better than the movies.  Though, opinions aside, it is quite interesting that the two best-selling hiking books of late tell the tales of people who never completed the hike that they imply or intended to complete.

Of course, the reality is that hiking in and of itself doesn’t often leave a lot of story to tell (though Muir would disagree).  Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods is lighthearted, entertaining and full of comedy with a bit of history for good measure.  Though the book’s cover (before the movie) did portray a bear, even though not one bear was encountered in the book.

Bryson never completed the entire AT, though did make an admirable effort.

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Strayed’s Wild, tells the tale of a women’s hike along a part of the PCT.  Though, surprisingly for those looking for a book about hiking, the book’s real focus is the sorted past and sex life of a worn woman.  A woman who didn’t actually hike much of the PCT.  The hike is used as a writer’s crutch to string together stories of her past. Some even question the validity of her PCT experience.

It seems that much like the photos that often appear on Instagram, the gritty details of hiking don’t make for a best-selling book.  What works are the highlights, the summit views, the comically large pack and the story of that time you almost got killed.