Bill Bryson's stylish walking stick keeps him connected to his family while he hikes the lonely Appalachian Trail.
As Bryson says goodbye to his family, his wife presents him with a "knobby walking stick the children had bought [him]" (1.2.81). This gesture deeply moves Bryson. From that day forward, he treasures that walking stick like it was made of gold, keeping it with him every moment of every day. Unless he forgets it. Which happens a lot. Luckily, Katz usually trails behind and always runs up to Bryson with the stick in his hand and a proud grin on his face.
In that way, the walking stick also represents Bryson and Katz' friendship. Near the end of the first leg of their trip, Bryson realizes that he left his stick miles back—and Katz happens to be walking alongside him that day. "Without hesitation" Katz tells Bryson that he'll go back for it, which is a gesture that might have caused Bryson to "have wept again" (1.12.49-50). Although he tells Katz to not bother, this touching exchange shows that the two men truly care about the other as individuals—and friends.