Wild : From Lost To Found On the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

 

It’s 1995 and Cheryl Strayed is floundering. Still grieving the untimely death of her mother, Cheryl is in the process of divorcing a husband she loves after sabotaging her marriage with meaningless affairs. She has lost touch with her siblings, has never been close to her biological father, and the once fond relationship she enjoyed with her stepfather has become distant. A promising student, she has allowed herself to come within one paper of graduating college. One five page paper she somehow can’t seem to write.

Then by chance, she picks up a book about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Suddenly Cheryl has a goal in life: to hike, alone, this trail made famous by naturalist John Muir. It doesn’t matter that she has no real hiking experience. She has her guidebook and the friendly, knowledgeable staff at REI. They will help her choose the best equipment to take. What more could she need?

The answer to that question forms the basis of this fascinating, inspiring true story. Hunched under a too heavy backpack quickly nicknamed Monster, Cheryl begins a journey that is spiritual as well as physical. Her plans for her hike are soon revealed as inadequate (who knew water weighed so much?) and she must improvise as she goes along—much as we all have to adjust when our best laid plans go awry.

As she hikes the PCT, Cheryl finds her experience of the land changing. As she gains elevation, her view expands and she is stunned by the beauty of the wild and humbled by her place in it. She is alternately spooked and soothed by the solitude and grateful for the perspective it allows her to gain, not just on the horizon, but on her life, even the painful parts.

I loved this book. Strayed is an engaging protagonist. She tells her story beautifully and honestly, allowing us to feel her stubbornness when she refuses to give up, her fear when as a lone woman she encounters strangers, her joy and surprise at discovering her own capabilities. Her naiveté is endearing (for who among us has not gone off on a project half cocked?) and all too human; her struggle to succeed in spite of it inspiring. Highly recommended.

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