The year was 1995 and Cheryl Strayed, the author of the New York Times Bestseller Wild: Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, was 26. Her life had hit bottom, divorced, broke, one-night stands and dabbling with heroin. Her beloved mother had died four years prior and her death had affected Strayed deeply. One day depressed and desparate, Strayed spotted a book in a Minneapolis store: The Pacific Crest Trail Vol 1: California. Its considered the bible for anyone planning to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, also known as the PCT, a 2650 mile wilderness trail that stretches from Mexico to Canada.
Cheryl Strayed had never heard of tne PCT. She was young and comfortable in the outdoors having grown up in the Northwoods of Minnesota but not really a hiker. Yet something about the book spoke to her, a chance to test herself against the elements, accomplish a very difficult goal which might lead to some answers and a new beginning. Cheryl bought the book and began planning her trip to hike part of the PCT from the Mojave Desert in California up through to the border of Oregon and Washington.
It would be a life changing experience, an 1100 mile hike through all kinds of weather and geography: mountains, rivers, meadows, snow, extreme heat and then temperatures that would dip to the 20's. Strayed would walk miles each day and set up her tent at night and (when not exhausted) take out her flashlight and read her favorite books she brought with her on the journey as a coyote howled in tbe distance. Hiking the PCT was a magnificent but also gruelling and dangerous journey. Along the way Strayed would encounter rattlesnakes, black bears. She would meet other hikers and arrive every two hundred miles or so at the post offices and small towns along the way so she could pick up her resupply boxes faithfully mailed to her by her friend Lisa in Portland.
Strayed recounts all of this and much more in Wild. It's an inspirational, fascinating and very honest memoir. Strayed is not shy about showing us her flaws but the best memoirs are frank and though readers may find themselves questioning her choices along the journey, her courage and perseverance is indisputable. Most of us will never hike the PCT but vicariously going on the journey with Strayed is the next best thing and it will get you thinking about your own life and the changes you might want to make.