Wild – Cheryl Strayed

A compelling book I could not put dowm.

Cheryl Strayed recounts her 100-day plus journey on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) some fifteen years ago as a young woman struggling to find her identity. Never heard of the PCT? That's okay, you've probably heard of the Appalachian Trail. The PCT is just like that.

Except longer. And higher. And colder. And hotter. With fewer manned rest areas, fewer “towns” along the way (if a post office and bar constitute a town) and fewer people altogether. On, near and around it.

Yeah, the PCT is just like the Appalachian Trail. Not.

In Wild the author describes the struggling and confusion she faces as a young newly-wed watching her mother rapidly descend and die of cancer. The eldest child she attempts to preserve some sense of family but her stepfather retreats and her siblings recoil everyone traumatized by the untimely and unforseen death of the matriarch before her 50th birthday.

Lost and confused the author adopts practices and behavior she's not proud of – some parts of Wild are difficult to read much less understand – but at some point she knows the only way she can find herself again is to backpack the highest, longest trail in the United States.

Alone.

I'll leave the author describe the people she met, the spirits they shared, and the unending journey of one step after another through mud, rocks, snow and ice for a good portion of the walk in boots that didn't fit. Its hard for many of us to imagine sleeping a night or two in the backyard, much less trek for weeks under the stars carrying virtually everything one needs in a backpack.

Yes, I'll let the author author describe the backpack – named 'Monster' – as well.

And yet Cheryl Strayed did walk the PCT, from California to Oregon (the full trail extends from Mexico to Canada) along with Monster and only what else she needed. She walked it alone as a woman long before it became fashionable to talk about leaning in.

Yes, there are sections of the book you may not enjoy, but if you are like me, it will be hard not to admire the author in the end.

A reaffirming read.

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