A Walk in the Woods Questions and Answers
by Bill Bryson

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What was the time of day in the story?

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A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, takes place over many months. It chronicles Bryson’s attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail along with his friend “Stephen Katz.” It does not take place over one day, or during one specific part of the day.

The majority of the novel does take place during the daytime, while he and Stephen Katz are hiking. Hikers going on the Appalachian Trail or other long routes of a similar nature generally go to sleep very early (due to lack of light and general exhaustion) and wake up early too. So, the majority of the novel—the meat of the story, while they are on the trail—probably takes place from around 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., or so. There are a few scenes that take place during the nighttime, such as Bryson’s descriptions of himself cozied up in his tent with his book and his reading light.

The non-stop nature of hiking the Appalachian Trail is part of its difficulty and mystique. It is essentially a job one does for many months on end, from morning till night, and most people do not succeed. Bryson and Katz themselves do not end up hiking the entire thing.

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A Walk in the Woods takes place over about a year. First of all, Bryson has to prepare for the 2,100 mile walk along the Appalachian trail and then he has to wait for early spring to start.

According to Bryson, you can walk the trail from north to south, or from south to north. If you walk from the north (starting in Maine) you can only start the walk after the snows have cleared in late May, early June. The problem with starting this late in the year, however, is that it will expose you to the hottest weather of the year, and the worst of the insects. If you start in the south from Georgia you can leave in early spring. Though he lives in New Hampshire, Bryson decides to fly to Georgia to start the walk in early March.

He quickly finds out that starting that early has its own problems. For example, bear attacks are most common during these early spring months. Particularly after a bad berry season. As Bryson says, they've just had a bad berry season.

In the end, Bryson and Stephen Katz become part of a majority of people who can't finish the trail. That is not, they decide, a failure on their part. For their age, the condition they are in, and the difficult terrain they encounter, they are more than happy with the 800 miles they complete.