A pathway of scenic terrain stretches 2,650 miles from the Mexican border in southern California, up through Washington, reaching all of the way to the Canadian border. This terrain is more commonly known as the Pacific Crest Trail, of which author Cheryl Strayed hiked more than 1,000 miles, completely alone. She wrote about her travels in her memoir: “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.”
Her hike began in 1995, when she was only 26 years old. She began walking the trail with no backpacking experience, setting off not knowing exactly how unprepared she was. While on her hike, nothing extraordinary happened: a boulder didn’t trap her arm during an avalanche or she wasn’t in any haunting fights to the death against a bear. Her story is simply one of self-discovery.
A JOURNEY TO UNDERSTAND LIFE
Strayed is the story’s protagonist. There are a few minor characters here and there, the most prominent being her mother who had passed away four years prior to the journey. Her mother is seen through flashbacks that help shape Strayed’s character and explain the occurrences that inspired her to begin her journey.
Other minor characters include fellow hikers whom Strayed meets along the way, friends from home, and her estranged brother and sister. The setting of the narrative varies, beginning in the Mojave deserts of southern California and follows Strayed as she hikes through California and Oregon and to the Bridge of the Gods in Washington state.
Strayed waited close to 20 years to write this story, and readers can see why she did this. This story isn’t exciting; it is about someone walking hundreds of miles alone, complaining about her feet and the weight of her backpack. The most exciting thing to happen to her occurs when she has to settle for boots made of duct tape after hers fall off the side of a cliff. Despite all of this, Strayed never writes from a place of distress, and the book is about finding the strength to carry on even in the toughest of situations.
Readers looking at this story may feel reluctant to choose it if they normally dislike nonfiction. Yet this is not like most nonfiction. There are no points in the story with unnecessary rambling; there is a constant story to follow.
“Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” was adapted into a movie in 2014 starring Reese Witherspoon as Strayed. The author has three other books: “Tiny Beautiful Things,” “Brave Enough,” and “Torch,” the latter of which includes the same themes as “Wild.”