The international bestseller Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail is a memoir following the journey of Cheryl Strayed as she hikes the route alone.
The book is written by Strayed from memories and journals she kept during the trip. Her physical journey on the trail begins in the Mojave Desert in Southern California. After her mother’s death in 1990, Strayed’s life took a nosedive and kept spiraling downward. She finally decided hiking the PCT had to be done. The book was recently adapted for the big screen and stars Reese Witherspoon.
In the beginning, Strayed’s writing is a little difficult to follow. Her sentences appear to be written like instructions, stream-of-consciousness style. It is almost as though she is writing a “how-to” paper. Many times during the beginning of the book she describes seemingly unimportant events, which could have been written more concisely. Several of the first chapters include passages and stories irrelevant to her journey on the PCT. However, this improves as the novel continues. As the book progresses and the reader becomes familiar with Strayed’s writing style, these issues fade into the background and occur less frequently. Whether or not the reader likes Strayed’s style, it is difficult to think of her story as anything but inspirational.
Strayed’s book takes you through preparations for her journey, thoughts and experiences as she travels further into the mountain ranges. Not only is Strayed a woman with no previous experience backpacking, but she also takes this immense journey alone. While hiking, she meets many kinds of fellow trekkers, and most do not greet her warmly. Many of her experiences occur because she is a woman hiking alone, and it opens doors otherwise closed to a man or hiker pairs.
Each and every challenge Strayed faces as she travels the PCT strengthens and molds her into a different person. Carrying everything she needs for survival in a backpack over more than a thousand miles hardens her into a better person. Her resourcefulness even allows the flexibility to change plans when a record amount of snowfall forces the route to be altered. This detour causes her to end the long trek at the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks, Oregon, which is 444 miles past her original finish line in Ashland, Oregon.
The end of the book seemed a little anticlimactic. Strayed’s writing changed from overly descriptive about events on the trail to a broad telling of her life until present time.
An explanation for the lack of details given about those years is presented to the reader as, “I did not know that in, however many years, this would happen.” The book’s ending also leaves the reader questioning Strayed’s statement, “How it would be only then that the meaning of my hike would unfold inside of me, the secret I’d always told myself finally revealed.”
As a reader, I was left trying to remember the secret. The immense number of Strayed’s detailed experiences in this book is overwhelming. This information overloads the mind and leaves the reader struggling to remember it all. Nonetheless, Wild is a thought-provoking book that presents a good idea of the challenges one might face as a lone female hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail.