The story below is an excerpt from our Sept./Oct. 2015 issue. For the rest of this story and more like it subscribe today, view our digital edition or download our FREE iOS app!
The movie is expected to cause a test of the capacities of the Appalachian Trail.
This was mid-June, along the Virginia Appalachian Trail, walking southbound from Va. 42.
The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All and I were making the ascent to Kelly Knob, a walk we hadn’t done in a long time.
Nor had we seen, maybe in all of our 11-plus years of weekend hikes, such a string of northbound thru-hikers. Nearly all young, nearly all looking far too fresh and clean for the circumstance, and nearly all pleased to stop and share a moment with the semi-geezer day hikers. Several commented that they were part of a “bubble” of thru-hikers along this section.
It occurred to us that here in the spring before the release of the movie "A Walk in the Woods," (from the 1989 Bill Bryson book of the same name), we were getting a sneak preview of what southbound day hikers in our region might cross in general next spring and summer: A steady stream of hikers, akin to what we see on the most popular sections of the trail here around Roanoke; the whole trail becoming as crowded as a weekend walk up to McAfee Knob, for instance.
Speaking of which: The “Walk in the Woods” poster and DVD package features stars Robert Redford and Nick Nolte ostensibly standing on the famous formation, a circumstance that will only add, perhaps exponentially, to the crowds that already overwhelm the parking area on Va. 311 west of Salem on many warm-weather weekends. And to the general party atmosphere up on the outcropping on weekend afternoons and evenings.
A Walk in the Woods - Movie Trailer
(From the deparment of parenthetical ironies: Not only did stars Redford and Nolte apparently never set foot on McAfee, writer Bryon and co-hiker Katz skipped that section as well on their on-now, off-now walk of the trail.)
The movie is scheduled to open nationwide on September 2.
The coming swell of hikers on the trail is a projected circumstance that has the Southwest and Central Virginia Regional Office of the Appalachian Trail conservancy thinking and planning, some of which were discussed last issue in the space.
But for now, pre-inundation, allow us to enjoy the movie (mixed reviews at best, with some touting the interplay between Redford and Nolte and others charging them with doing little more than reading the script), for its stars, for its ties to the trail we love, and perhaps even a small nod to the fact that it was so long in the making that the original walking pair was to have been Redford and the late Paul Newman.