Saturday, September 05, 2015

"A Walk in the Woods": A vicarious hike along the Appalachian Trail (unfortunately, not all of it)

I went to see “A Walk in the Woods” (Ken Kwapis) in order to have the vicarious experience of seeing the entire Appalachian Trail.  The movie didn’t provide this, as most of the on-location scenes were in the Georgia portions, around Amicalola Falls.  Apparently this was true of the cliff and ledge scenes (best link).  The dam scene was shot around Lake Fontana in North Carolina (link).  One of the scenes really did appear to be filmed around Big Meadows on Skyline Drive in Virginia (not mentioned in the credits).
I was disappointed that travel writer Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) and pal Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte) didn’t go all the way to Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park in Maine.  They end their trip back at Bryce’s hometown of Hanover, NH, where the trail crosses (Dartmouth College is there). In fact, Katherine Q. Sayle had written on Aug. 29 that officials want to remove the summit from the Trail because of misbehavior by hikers and crowds.  There is a stunning slide show here.   I visited the area in 1975, but got only as far a lake on the trail to the summit.  I did see a bear.

I actually started hiking in 1961, my senior high school year.  My first hike was along the Piney Ridge trail in the northern section of Shenandoah, with an Amherst-bound friend who said "A hike in the mountains is worth any grade."  Later I would do Greylock in the Berkshires with him (in January).  The Science Honor Society did a trip to Mount Washington NH on Memorial Day weekend of my senior year.   In the 1990s, I was active with the GLBT outdoor group Adventuring, but that's been harder lately because of a bad hip. 

The movie itself is a series of comedy skits along the way, and plays out as a series of short films.  Bryson did write a book about this experience (having returned from England).  He leaves his dedicated wife (Emma Thompson) behind. Katz is not as levelheaded or serious in purpose as Bryson and tends to mess up. 

There is a pair of young men (Andrew Vogel and Eric Krantz) whom they encounter twice, who bail them out of trouble twice.  The script suggests they could be a male couple. 
I saw the film at Regal Ballston Common, before a fair Friday night audience, but unfortunately on one of the smaller screens.
The official site is here from a new distributor Broad Green Pictures. Note that Redford appeared solo in "All Is Lost" (Oct. 3. 2013).
Wikipedia attribution link for picture of view from Amicalola Falls, Georgia, by Thomsonmg2000, under Creative Commons CCO 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.  I visited the area for one day in December 1985.  Second picture is mine, from Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, 2013. 

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