Baxter State Park officials are bracing for another surge in Appalachian Trail popularity with the movie version of the book “A Walk in the Woods” set to be released Sept. 2. But the author of the original the book, which describes his humorous journey up the AT, isn’t so sure. Bill Bryson told The New York Times Magazine that the movie could also turn potential hikers off.
Baxter has been trying to cut down on trail- and environment-disturbing activities even before record-setting AT runner Scott Jurek made big news for being fined for littering, having champagne and breaking group size rules on top of Mount Katahdin July 12. Park officials have been concerned with littering, alcohol and drug use, and large groups heading to the AT’s famous terminus for awhile.
And they’re bracing for it to get worse after the movie’s release. The official movie hashtag is, after all, #TakeAHike.
New York Times Magazine’s Ana Marie Cox decided to ask Bryson his thoughts on the subject in an Aug. 28 Q&A:
Park rangers along the Appalachian Trail are preparing for a huge influx of visitors, thanks to the release of ‘‘A Walk in the Woods,’’ the movie based on your book about trying to hike the whole thing. What type of person do you think would see that movie and think, I want to do that, too?
Well, that’s a good question, because I’ve had at least as many people tell me that my book has put them off the idea of walking the Appalachian Trail.
She also asked whether bears might be an additional problem associated with more hikers:
Apparently, less-experienced backpackers tend to draw more bears to the trail, because they leave more litter.
But Bryson dismissed it as a rare ocassion:
Most bears between Georgia and Maine are timid around humans, partly because a lot of them know that humans often carry rifles. But in certain places, where the bears don’t have any history of being shot at, they tend to be much more assertive and come up and, in a sense, mug people and very occasionally kill them.
Bryson is probably even over-stating the risk. Between 1900 and 2009 — that’s right, in 109 years — there were only 14 fatal black bear attacks in the lower 48 states, according to a 2011 research article in the Journal of Wildlife Management.