Thursday, January 17, 2013

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

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life? - Mary Oliver

You've probably seen this book around and about the stores, and you may have already fallen victim to the enthusiastic Omg you should read this! In reading, as in all aspects of life, you’re only a victim if you choose to be -- and I suggest that in the case of reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, you should definitely choose to be! (Is that convoluted enough? I’m saying you should read this.)

I borrowed this book from Sister1 when I was at home, three days before my return to DC. It’s a quick read, but post-skiing exhaustion combined with the awesome addictiveness of Nashville meant that I got to SFO with about 20 pages to go. It wasn’t a for-keeps borrow, so I left the book with my sister and headed into the airport hoping to find a copy in one of the bookstores and happily finish it standing up backpack-on before my flight. The first bookstore didn’t have it (panic!!!)…but the convenience/candy store did. #Win!

It was like this, mostly because I cried a lot reading this book.

I don’t know why I liked it so much…the writing was meh ok, the protagonist was generally likable  and the story was occasionally oddly repetitive…but the subject was SO INTERESTING.

It’s about the author’s solo hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (like the Appalachian trail but longer, harder, more beautiful, and fewer people do it), while she comes to terms with the death of her mother and figures out her life. She was 26 when she hiked it (alone!) in 1995, and even though she was woefully unprepared, she made it.

PCT map, and more info on the trail.

The trail starts in Mexico and goes all the way to Canada, but Strayed hiked starting in the Mojave Desert in Southern California. Because 1995 was an epic snow year in California (I actually remember this skiing/flooding-wise), she had to skip a lot of the Sierras and resume the hike further north in California and finish in Washington State.

I don’t really feel the need to “find myself,” but I would love to do the PCT. The book is oddly inspirational in a she-did-it-even-though-she-probably-shouldn’t-have-been-able-to sort of way. And it is refreshingly not cheesy at all, unlike many young peoples’ memoirs.

It’s much more than just a hiking story (because how many times can you say you woke up and walked all day before it gets boooring?), it’s about her family, her relationships, and figuring out how to be alone.

I definitely recommend this book. Read it and then let’s talk about when to go hike the PCT!