In the book A Walk in the Woods, which event seems the most important to author Bill Bryson and why?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In A Walk in the Woods, one of author Bill Bryson's main themes concerns how overpowering nature truly is. Truly experiencing nature is humbling, allowing us to see how unimportant we are and to feel ourselves as being just a tiny part of this vast world. Since nature is so very overpowering, it is actually also very terrifying. It can be argued that Bryson feels the most humbled and terrified of nature when he first looks at the actual map of the entire Appalachian Trail.

In Chapter 8, the group needs to stop off at an outfitters because Stephen Katz, his hiking partner, needed new bootlaces. While browsing the store, Bryson saw a map of the trail pinned to the wall; the map encompassed "its long march through fourteen states" (p. 104). He then notices that the map was "six inches wide and four feet high" (p. 104). At first, the map did not faze him, but as he looked closer and at the entire map, he became astonished. He especially notes, "Of the four feet of trail map before me, reaching approximately from my knees to the top of my head, we had done the bottom two inches" (p. 105). When he showed the map to Katz, Katz expressed their sentiments best when he said, "Jesus ... We've done nothing" (p. 105). It was at that point he realized how enormous and overpowering nature is. He further realized that everything they had accomplished so far, including the blizzards, amounted to absolutely nothing--to only two inches. Hence, all in all, this is the moment when he first feels the most humbled in the entire book.