This weekend I saw "A Walk in the Woods" with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. It didn't do well on Rotten Tomatoes, but I needed to see it. Just last week I read Grandma Gatewood's Walk, about a 67-year-old woman who up and decided to walk the entire Appalachian Trail. In sneakers. How she helped raise awareness of the trail and pushed improvements to some overgrown stretches. When asked why she did it - without telling anyone ahead of time, just takin' off for a walk - she said she thought it would be a lark. I heart Grandma Gatewood.
So now here comes a movie about two old farts ambling up the Appalachian Trail (with Dire Straits' "Walk of Life" playing on the trailer). It had to be done. It seems like an extraordinary coincidence, but it probably isn't: I can't remember how I came across the book, but it was an Amazon recommendation of some sort. I imagine people are reading Bill Bryson's book, which inspired the movie, so probably Amazon found some other books about the Appalachian Trail and started promoting them.
The theater, at 1 p.m. on a 100-degree Fahrenheit Sunday afternoon, was full of old people. What DID I expect. *sighs* Remember when Redford was a stud? When Nolte played action roles? Now it's old people who go to see them. Or maybe it's old people who go to sit in cold theaters at midday.
As one Rotten Tomatoes critic said, it fell a little short of the great road picture one might expect from Redford and Nolte. But it was fine. It was funny and engaging, and Mary Steenburgen didn't even irritate me for once. And I wouldn't care if it were a completely terrible movie: I went for the scenery and the wanderlust.
People have asked me, many times, if I've hiked the Appalachian Trail. I have - part of it - down around the Georgia/Tennessee/North Carolina tri-state overlook. To me, the Appalachian Trail at that point in geography and time was a hiker superhighway, wide and well trodden, with plenty of level campsites and surprising amenities. We did lug our food and supplies on our backs, and I was the Trash Lady who carried everything out again (so my pack got progressively heavier), but it was very easy going.
Emma Gatewood, who walked the trail a year before I was born, found something a little different. The thing about the Appalachian Trail is: it stretches more than 2,000 miles, from Georgia to Maine. Up in the Green Mountains of Vermont and the White Mountains of New Hampshire, it gets really challenging. It sounds to me like you need mountain climbing experience to do the northern stretch, even if Grandma Gatewood made it to Mount Katahdin in her eighth pair of Keds, with her belongings in a denim sack.
Redford's and Nolte's characters found plenty of challenges even at the southern end, although their assertion that they were facing grizzly bears struck a false note: there are only black bears in the Smoky Mountains. But Nolte's character was not very highly educated, and I suppose you'd think any bear was a monster (and therefore a dread grizzly) if it invaded your campsite.
Anyway, it's no surprise that the book and then the movie gave me a powerful Urge for Goin', which tends to hit at this time of year. I don't want to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. For me, there's no point. But I would like to hike part of it - perhaps a weekend trip through Shenandoah National Park, with my niece or other Virginia friends.