Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed – this national best seller, recommended through Oprah’s Book Club, seemed like a book I should read. It wasn’t about the Appalachian Trail but it was about an incredible hike through one of the Triple Crown long-hikes in the US. The PCT travels from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington to the tune of 2,663 miles (give or take a few). Cheryl Strayed, struggling with her mother’s death, a marital divorce, drug abuse, and an abusive father starts out to conquer the mammoth trail. Her initial goal of hiking through California, starting at Mojave and hiking to the northern border of the state, was altered when she and other thru-hikers discovered that the Sierra Nevada was socked in the snow and ice making the mountain trail impossible to traverse. She skipped Sierra Nevada and rejoined the trail at Sierra City, CA, deciding to extend her northern terminus to the Bridge of the Gods on the Oregon/Washington state line.
There were great stories about rattlesnakes and the challenge of snow. I really enjoyed some of the sections of the book and identified with the nights on the trail (fears and the comfort of the tent), but, by and large, I would not recommend the book. The deep wounds caused by her mother’s early death at the hand of cancer dominated the text with flashbacks and personal retrospection. Her adultery and subsequent divorce from her husband, her heroin relationship with a boyfriend just prior to her hike, her rather graphic account of putting down a family horse, and her intimacy with a local man in Ashland, Oregon all devalued the book for me. I understand mentioning these realities in her life but they tended to monopolize the 311 pages and include much more detail than I needed or wanted to know.
Cheryl shared a spiritual tapestry as she sought after reality and meaning. She touched on spiritualism (palm reading) to American Indian rituals to animism, to naturism all underlined by the thick thread of atheism. By the subtitle: Lost to Found, I thought she would reach some sort of ultimate healing and a philosophical basis for decision making and living life. I was sorely disappointed. She seemed almost as lost at the end as at the beginning.
Wild was well written and it was mostly my perspective and spiritual scaffolding that made this text difficult to embrace or appreciate. My recommendation for a book that chronicles a young woman’s solo hike along one of America’s long trails is Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis – a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Interested in Odyssa? Check out my archives – Odyssa! 10/23; Record Holders 10/29; and Book Seventeen 11/14.