Study Guide

A Walk in the Woods Part 2, Chapter 20

By Bill Bryson

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Part 2, Chapter 20

  • Needless to say, the following day's hike is tense. To be honest, they're probably a bit nervous too, given that they're about to enter the Hundred Mile Wilderness.
  • It's a pretty tough walk, especially because the trail is so unkempt. To make things worse, Katz runs out of water after the first day.
  • The next day, they walk until they can't any longer and plop onto the ground. Katz tells Bryson a joke (which we definitely can't reprint here), which we interpret as a peacemaking gesture.
  • Katz then explains how he fell off the wagon. He took a job in Des Moines where his coworkers went out drinking every night after work.
  • Although he resisted for some time, he eventually became so lonely that he accepted their invitation to partake in booze-soaked madness. This story moves Bryson, giving him a better understanding of his cartoonish friend.
  • They start walking, but Bryson quickly realizes that Katz needs water ASAP. He decides to go ahead to "Cloud Pond" and fill up their bottles so they're ready and waiting for Katz (2.20.34).
  • Katz doesn't show up. Bryson backtracks, but is unable to locate him.
  • Two hours pass and Katz still hasn't shown up. Without anything else to do, Bryson decides to keep moving forward, calling Katz's name and praying for him to turn up.
  • Bryson has no luck. He decides to stay in a shelter (which happens to be one of the nicest he's seen so far) before continuing his search the next morning.
  • He comes across a clue that afternoon–"an empty pack of Old Gold cigarettes" sitting beside a stream (2.20.34). An occasional smoker, Katz only buys Old Golds.
  • Bryson finally comes across him a few hours later. He's sitting on a rock and looking rough: all scratched up and caked with mud.
  • It turns out that Katz had passed right by Cloud Pond and got lost off the trail. Wow—he's lucky to be alive after that.
  • Unsurprisingly, Katz wants to leave the trail right now. They manage to catch a ride from a logging truck and are back in civilization lickety split.

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