The Pacific Crest Trail (aka the PCT) stretches approximately 2,650 miles from the Mexican to the Canadian border. It travels through various terrains, including the Sierra Nevada and the Cascade Range. At age 26, Cheryl Strayed hiked from the Mojave Desert to the Bridge of the Gods alone, traveling around one thousand miles. “Wild” tells the extraordinary story of her journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. Although she hiked the trail in 1995, “Wild” was published in 2012, and since then her book has been quite the success, becoming a #1 New York Times Bestseller.
When Strayed was twenty-two, she lost her mother to lung cancer. Soon her family dissipated and her marriage collapsed. A couple of years later, after her life continued to go downhill, she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, mostly on impulse. Strayed began her journey in Mojave, California with a backpack hilariously large for a woman of her size, more than half of her weight, and a load of emotions, including determination, nervousness, and excitement. After one night in a motel, she set off on her journey. She hitchhiked a ride, like she had to do so many times, from the last motel she stayed in for many weeks to Tehachapi Pass where she began hiking.
Cheryl Strayed’s raw style of writing brings her story to life. Her various emotions of nervousness and elatedness emanate from the page. When she began her hike, it was not at all what she expected, and the reality of the trail hit her hard. The ridiculousness of the whole thing dawned upon her, and although she was probably tempted to turn back, she did not. Strayed pushed onward and into the wild, and in doing so, she tells her story in an incredible, touching, and intense way. She encountered many different people along the trail, all hiking for different reasons. She was the only woman hiking by herself, which was somewhat dangerous, especially given trail conditions, but it helped her come to terms with herself and her world. It gave her a sense of accomplishment that nothing else could and many other hikers that she met supported her on her journey as well. Their stories intertwined with Strayed’s for a short amount of time on the trail, and the stories that she tells about them help her to tell her own even better.
Her journey included many mishaps and a few misadventures, but the change that she went through while hiking the PCT is amazing. There are no misconceptions of what it is like to backpack long distance after reading Strayed’s book. She lays down the bones, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Her writing style makes her journey even more potent. She mixes stories of her past with the stories of the trail, bringing the story to life even more. This is a story of a woman doing what very few people choose to do, and it changes her in indescribable ways.
“Wild” is worth the read. It’s funny in surprising ways. It’s raw and emotional. Strayed tells her story in a unique, passionate way. She found herself on the trail, in a journey that was not an easy one. She had lost a lot, including herself, but the rugged terrain and the experience of hiking the trail, brought her to a sense of peace. With a surprising amount of wisdom, a touch of humor, and a good dose of heart, “Wild” keeps the pages turning.