Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

On the aftermath of her mother’s death and a divorce, Cheryl Strayed hiked a large portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, the west coast cousin to the Appalachian Trail that cuts through blazing desert and snow-logged mountains alike.  The trail at first began as a sort of escape, and Cheryl thought initially that she’d prepared properly, but the entire trek proved a series of obstacles both mental and physical.  The first one was an overweight pack.  When she started the walk, Cheryl could barely lift her backpack onto her shoulders.  Months later and toughened by the trail, her backpack remained a source of pain and a point of amusement for many she met along the hike.

The folks Cheryl encounters vary; some have bad intentions or are just mean-spirited.  Most of her acquaintances though are good-hearted generous people and extremely encouraging of her and her intent.  The author has plenty of bad times and bad food; she also meets lots of trail angels who get her over her rough patches, people who give her food and lodging and talismans to keep her on the straight and narrow (or switchbacked and narrow, however you look at it).

Walking the trail is a time of psychological angst and release; Cheryl at times resents her strong attachment to her mother and at others draws great strengths from what she learned from her mom.

Although hiking the trail is at times monotonous and painful, there are some great beauties that she sees.  I’m sold on seeing Crater Lake in Oregon just by her descriptions.  There are lots of hair-raising wildlife encounters as well (bears and rattlesnakes and such) but she manages her fearful times with mantras and a very loud whistle.

I have read several accounts of AT hikers.  This is my first from someone doing the PCT.  She didn’t cover the entire thing, but look at the map at the beginning of Wild,see and read about the stretches she did walk, and feel your jaw drop. 

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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