Bill Bryson and his fam have just moved to "a small town in New Hampshire" (1.1.1). Oh, we're riveted already!
One day, soon after the move, he stumbles across a footpath that leads to the Appalachian Trail. And what is the Appalachian Trail (which we'll now refer to as AT), you ask?
Well, the AT is one of longest hiking trails in America, running over 2,100 miles from Georgia to Maine. That's a long walk, guys—we sometimes struggle just to make it to the fridge.
Bryson's interest is immediately piqued. He's always wanted to feel like a real mountain man, after all, plus he's very much interested in seeing the diverse natural wonders of the States.
So he decides to walk the entire AT (man, that was fast). He tells all of his friends and neighbors about this, but they merely respond with horror stories of snake bites and bear attacks. Yikes!
And that's not even mentioning the fun stuff, like infectious diseases and random murders. Wait—so why is he doing this again?
So here's the plan: Bryson will start in Georgia in "early March" for the "first leg" of his walk (1.1.14). Afterwards, he'll wait a few months for the weather to warm up before tackling the northern chunk of the trail.
But first—it's time to go shopping. Bryson's son takes him to a local outfitter, where good ol' dad is overwhelmed by a pushy shopkeeper and the fancy (and expensive) equipment he's somehow convinced to buy.
After buying too much equipment, Bryson decides to pick up some books about the AT. What a nerd. In particular, a book called Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance catches his eye.
He tries out his brand-spanking-new tent as soon as he gets home. It's a "little claustrophobic" and "odd-smelling," but it should do the trick (1.1.43).