Study Guide

A Walk in the Woods Part 2, Chapter 14

By Bill Bryson

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Part 2, Chapter 14

  • The next morning, Bryson drives to Pennsylvania. Although he quickly realizes that the maps he bought are pure garbage (yummy), he begins his trek excitedly.
  • By the way, another famous murder happened in this neck of the woods. In 1988, two female lovers were shot by a bigoted hillbilly: only one survived. Needless to say, this makes Bryson miss Katz.
  • Bryson hears a noise "perhaps fifty feet into the woods" (2.14.11). He panics, assuming that it's Freddy Krueger or something, but is relieved to see a large buck emerge from the trees. Phew.
  • He spends the next day driving through Pennsylvania. He sees evidence everywhere of the state's once-profitable, but now environmentally catastrophic, coal mining industry.
  • Nowhere is that more evident than in Centralia. In 1962, a large fire spread to coal mines below the town and that fire still rages today. The city became a veritable wasteland since then, with large, smoking rifts erupting from the streets in a hellish fashion.
  • Bryson tries to find any stragglers who still live in the town, but comes up empty-handed.
  • Afterwards, he heads to Pemberton to see another amazing/heart-breaking sight—a mountain so contaminated by the local zinc mine that "it had been entirely stripped of vegetation" (2.14.35).
  • Bryson stops in a parking lot to look at the mountain. Suddenly, he's approached by a security guard who treats him rudely… and attempts to impound his car for zero reason.
  • After being saved by a nicer guard, Bryson high-tails it to the nearest entrance to the AT. This hike is a particularly big bummer, leading Bryson to vow to never hike the AT by car again.

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