Wherein the prolific writer Bryson tackles the Appalachian Trail, or at least 34% of it. Setting out in early spring from the southern end of the trail in Georgia, Bryson and Katz struggle with heavy packs through cold and snow, feasting on noodles and Snickers, plodding steadily ahead until the grand realization hits them that they don't have to do the whole trail, they can take a cab to Knoxville, rent a car, and hit the trail again in Shenandoah National Park which other hikers have told them is a much pleasanter stretch of trail. The horrors of Gatlinburg, the fat baseball capped Reebok wearing tourists that hop out of their car and walk 200 yards into the wilderness, snap some photos then retreat back to their mobile machines. Bryson bemoans the remoteness of the AT, hard to get to, meandering through no towns or villages, having to sleep in "shelters" with dozens of other hikers. The snow chases them into a bunkhouse filled with dripping tents and endless bowls of chili, and the hikers band together to rent a van to take them into the town of Franklin.
Bryson peppers his tale with facts about flora and fauna, Civil War history, ranting about the inefficiency of the National Park System, pleasant rambles through Luxembourg, trail deaths and sneaky hypothermia, acid rain warnings, geological history, anti-technology rants, AT history. After the initial phase of hiking, Katz and he part for the summer, to meet up again in Main to tackle the final 100 miles. Bryson then engages in a series of ill advised hikes using his car. When they meet up again in Maine, Katz is out of shape and drinking, Bryson loses him on the trail one night and when they meet up they decide to bail on the final leg.