• Skywalker: Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail

  • By: Bill Walker
  • Narrated by: Bill Walker
  • Length: 7 hrs and 15 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (344 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Why would a middle-aged businessman who had never even spent the night outdoors, attempt to hike the entire Appalachian Trail? Bill Walker, a former commodities trader in Chicago and London, and an avid walker, had developed a virtual obsession to hike this historic 2,175 mile footpath in one hiking season. In the spring of 2005 he set off from his home state of Georgia, hoping to make it to Mount Katahdin in northern Maine before the arrival of winter. Immediately, he realized he had plunged into a whole new world. For starters, the Appalachian Trail has some ferociously difficult terrain, winding through dramatically diverse geography and covering the East's highest peaks. Walker's 6'11" height earned him the trail name, "Skywalker", and drew envious attention from his fellow hikers. However, the height made him more susceptible to weight loss, cold weather, and crushing fatigue. An elemental fear of bears and snakes, as well as getting lost, also loomed large. Skywalker was especially struck by the rich culture this jewel of a trail has developed over the years.

Included is a history of how the Appalachian Trail has become such a stunning American success story over the decades. It is a model public-private partnership. As many as 4,000,000 people hike some part of it each year. Mortals are compelled - or perhaps cursed - to relive their lifetime adventure. This is Bill Walker's unforgettable version, leavened with ruthlessly self-deprecating humor. Some have joked that the book is as much about what not to do, as what to do. Skywalker couldn't agree more!

©2008 Indigo Publishing Group (P)2014 Audible Inc.

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What listeners say about Skywalker: Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Liked the story, but the recording quality was fair.

I've been reading and listening to AT related stories as I prepare for my section hikes. I've been pleased with the personalities and perspectives of various authors, and Skywalker is no exception. The difference in speaking and writing style between AWOL and Skywalker is noticeable, and took a few chapters to embrace; however, I was able to quickly enjoy Walker's story telling style.

I was rather disappointed in the recording quality of the story though. It is obvious that parts of the story was recorded at different times and in different locations. Some sections echoed, and other sections are nasally.

Overall, I like the story, enjoyed the reading, and am glad I bought the audio book. I am interested in the PCT audiobook by Walker.

I would recommend this to any through/section hiker, or to anyone preparing for the AT.

5 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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So disappointing!

I love first hand accounts of AT hikes. I was really looking forward to this - but I couldn't even finish it! First of all - writers rarely make good narrators - but sometimes they do. Not in this case. Next the narrative was jumbled and uninteresting. Bill Walker seemed more interested in himself than the trail or the people he met on the way. Listening to this was like being trapped in a room with a pseudo-friend who doesn't know how to have a conversation but will talk your ear off about stuff you don't think is interesting. It is definitely a "guess you had to be there..." story from start to the time I finally had to stop listening!

5 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good story, poor narration.

I enjoyed hearing the stories, but it was a struggle to get thru the narration.

4 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Awkward narration

To sum up the other reviews this is a funny entertaining story. The narration is rushed. I kept checking to see if my speed was set correctly. At one point I even slowed it down to .75. Still Walker is difficult to understand as he slurs words and rushes his delivery. I suggest you pass on the audio and just buy the printed version.

4 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A good story flawed by a lackluster narrator

The story is entertaining and l believe l would have enjoyed the story more had the author not narrated. l found that the accent distracts. l would have enjoyed this book as a printed version as opposed to listening to the Southern twang for hours on end.

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Great Trail Hiking Literature! !

I read this after being so disappointed and disgusted by Oprah's recommendation of Wild. Skywalker is what I was really after in this classification of travel and adventure. Bill Walker's sense of humor and enthusiasm for lie and adventure have made this one of my Audible favorites.

4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

poor narration made me quit the trail

Would you listen to Skywalker: Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail again? Why?

no. i couldn't finish it the first time

What did you like best about this story?

i'm an AT thru-hiker, so i always like hiking accounts.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

it was pretty awful. it sounded like he was trying to overemphasize every sentence and doing it poorly in a weak, fake southern accent.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

far from it

Any additional comments?

i'd like to return it, but i don't want it to reflect poorly on a fellow hiker. the story was good, but he shouldn't have read it

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Disjointed musings with no real cohesiveness

Would you ever listen to anything by Bill Walker again?

No

Would you be willing to try another one of Bill Walker’s performances?

No

Any additional comments?

First off, I felt like I made the wrong purchase after about 15 minutes; However, I was determined to listen to the entire book to see if it got better.....it didn't. This book reads like a diary of random events and conversations with little to no cohesiveness. There's no story here, and after spending nearly half a year on the trail, you'd think there would be more depth in the interactions with others or within the thoughts of the writer, but no. As much as Bill Walker's fast paced speech was annoying at first, I grew to appreciate that it was going to get me through this book more quickly.

3 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Amateurish

Would you try another book from Bill Walker and/or Bill Walker?

No -- I wouldn't try another book from this author. While I'm sure the story is interesting, I couldn't get past how poorly the editing was. It felt like a good "how I spent my summer vacation" essay.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

I only got about 45 minutes in and then had to quit. I couldn't take the adverbs: "He said forlornly."

How did the narrator detract from the book?

The narrator has a thick Georgia twang...which I guess is okay, except he constantly sounds as though he's lining up the punch line of a joke. I'm not sure if that's intentional or not. I kept anticipating "You might be a redneck" coming at the end of every sentence. What was more detracting, though, was that the narrator didn't have a good sense of speed or intonation. It sounded very "read" instead of performed, as I have heard excellent readers do.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

I love the topic, and I'm sure the writer/narrator is a great guy who did have a very memorable experience.

3 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

I Tried

What would have made Skywalker: Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail better?

I really did try to get through this whole book & because I want to finish it I will... but... I needed a break from the narration. My son is on the AT at this very moment and I love reading everything I can get on the subject, but this book was difficult to listen to from the very beginning. Bill Walker was rushed in his narration, often flying through words so that they were "almost" mumbled which often caused me to focus more on that than the story line.

Would you recommend Skywalker: Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail to your friends? Why or why not?

No. There are many more wonderful books that better convey the beauty, challenge and spirit of an AT thru-hike.

How could the performance have been better?

A different narrator who took their time to relish and live the words.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Iris
  • 08-16-15

The narration is bad. It is to fast.

Very bad narration. To fast.
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1 person found this helpful

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  • Mark J Dilley
  • 07-27-20

Disappointing

I’ve read/ listened to a number of AT books. This is the worst. Story overly focused on some of the other hikers (often the women) and not enough on the trail and landscape. The narration is awful. Really fast then suddenly slows and little intonation. Avoid.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Dave & Jenny
  • 05-22-15

Should the author always read?

Whilst I really enjoyed the story, and I still think that it's best to get the author to read the story themselves, there were plenty of occasions when I had to question that in this book. Walker's enthusiasm is great, but the speed he reads at fluctuates a lot, and many parts aren't clear to hear. Surely the producer should be listening carefully and redo sections that are mumbled and rushed. It did spoil the story quite a bit, but the actual content was very enjoyable and is the second of Walker's I've listened to.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Ben
  • 06-28-22

Good Story

This is my first hiking audio book and really enjoyed the story. Also a treat having the author also narrate. Unfortunately, he doesn't take a breath :P There is no pause between paragraphs/topics, so many times 'scenes' just run into each other.
Once you realise this, you'll naturally break up the story.
The story however is very good. Does a great job in bringing the trail to life.

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  • BSG_Fan
  • 03-15-22

A good stroll

An interesting and enjoyable yarn. Another perspective on the AT and the folk who through hike it. Lots of interesting and quirky characters and descriptions of features of the trail; and of the people, towns and various accomodations along the way which supported the walk.