“It had only to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles for no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. ”
— Cheryl Strayed
I recently finished listening to Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, at the recommendation of fellow librarian, Claire Matthews.
This engaging memoir chronicles the author’s brave and some might say reckless decision to hike 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to the state of Washington by herself. With no real long-distance hiking experience, Strayed embarks upon a life changing journey along one of the most scenic and challenging trails in the United States. Weighed down by an enormous pack of supplies (she even has a foldable saw!), nothing could prepare her for the actual reality of hiking the PCT. Strayed encounters wildlife, extreme weather, intense hunger and dangerous thirst, as well as a cast of vividly depicted characters she meets along the way.
Much more than a travel memoir, Wild is the story of a young woman whose life is spiraling out of control following the tragic and unexpected death of her mother from lung cancer. Seemingly determined to ruin her life and her marriage, she engages in high risk behaviors including a string of one-night stands with strangers and a dangerous flirtation with heroin. Following her inevitable divorce from Paul, who by all accounts appears to be the most patient and understanding man in the world, Strayed is determined to get her life back. Hiking the PCT is the first step of a long journey back to her true self.
“I had to change was the thought that drove me in those months of planning. Not into a different person, but back to the person I used to be – strong and responsible, clear-eyed and driven, ethical and good. And the PCT would make me that way. There, I’d walk and think about my entire life. I’d find my strength again, far from everything that had made my life ridiculous.”
Strayed writes with breathtaking honesty about her own mistakes, her sense of guilt, and the unquenchable grief she feels at the loss of her mother. Wild is inspiring, funny, sad, cathartic, and well written. Readers will enjoy taking this journey with Strayed; perhaps even being inspired themselves to invest in a good pair of hiking boots and a bottle of Snapple lemonade.