Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.

Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

My thoughts:
I listened to this book when I was training for an upcoming long race.  It was a good book to have going while doing difficult long runs, as what Cheryl was experiencing was a lot more taxing than my own training.  One recurring thought I had was that, although the solitude and chance to be alone with your own thoughts was tempting, I cannot imagine undertaking something of that magnitude alone.  It seemed unsafe and unwise, for both a man or a woman, to be out there alone and with no way to communicate should a problem arise.  Yes, there were other hikers on the trail and she does run into them from time to time, but she also goes for days at a time without seeing anyone at all.  She encounters wild animals, unexpected weather, rerouting of her expected hike, makes friends, gets blisters, and deals with the life events that have set her on this path at this time.

We all get to tough places in our lives and how we deal with them defines who we become.  Strayed dealt with hers by changing her name, getting divorced and saving up what she thinks she needs to make this solo hike.  She gets boxes ready with her supplies and gives her friend money for postage to mail them to her at stops along the way.  In the beginning her pack is so heavy she can barely life it, as there are so many things she feels she cannot do without.  As she goes along she learns what she needs and what she doesn't, both mentally and physically.  I applaud her for her willingness to go on this trek, but I cannot imagine doing it myself.  Since she did this trip in the 1990's she did it before smart phones and GPS and was guiding herself with maps in a guidebook.  On a much smaller scale I can recall going hiking with a friend at Red Rock Canyon outside Las Vegas.  We had a guide book with trail markings like "the rock with the dip in it" or around the bend by the evergreen trees.  One day we bouldered our way up to a great spot, then couldn't figure out which way we were supposed to come back down.  The descent was tough!  I can't imagine hiking for months with only sketchy maps and some trail markings. 

I enjoyed reading this.  I think it lent me some strength along the way to my own goal.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307957658
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/20/2012
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 336


  1. Hi Jill -I wouldn't normally pick up a book like this but your review opened my eyes. I'm just mystified by people's bravery (stupidity?) sometimes...lucky, her ending was better than that in Into the Wild, eh?
    Also did you know that Reese Witherspoon has optioned the movie rights?

  2. I am thrilled to learn that Wild will be a movie! I haven't read it yet but it has been near the top of my must read list since it first came out.

  3. I am finally getting around to some of the Monday posts! It has been pretty crazy with the Banned Book Week festivities and hosting all the giveaways... fun but crazy. I wanted to tell you happy reading this week :)

  4. I've wanted to read this one for a while ever since I saw another review of it. You have cemented that desire for me.