I’m unsure if it was due to the holidays and talking with more family & friends, if it’s because my hiking start date is coming up soon, or because the movie has been released (likely a combination of all 3), but I have finally been exposed to the “Oh, you’re hiking the PCT. Like the woman in the book?” I had been preparing myself for this as, based on comments in PCT forums I’m a part of, it seems to be a very common response or question my fellow 2015 PCT hikers have been experiencing. I had no intention to do a post on Wild and its (potential) impacts on the Pacific Crest Trail. I figured so many others had “been there, done that”, so I was going to leave it. Plus, I didn’t have anything controversial to say about the book.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I’m shocked at the controversy this book continues to stir up. Of all the things to get worked up about within the hiking community (Leave No Trace! Illegal motorized use! Wildlife approaches! Climate change impacts! Federal regulations on land use!) apparently a book about one person’s experience hiking is what causes everyone to respond.
Good for Cheryl for having the courage to write! It’s hard to write. Even a poorly written book takes discipline and courage and its more discipline and courage than I’ve been able to muster! Wild is not about “hiking the PCT”. Her physical hike could have occurred anywhere it just so happened to have taken place on the PCT (I relate it to the movie Titanic: it was a tragic love story that took place on a famous ship…but really, the name of the ship was irrelevant). It isn’t a complicated and thought-provoking novel that will rock the way you think but it was an enjoyable read about a woman trying to work through a rough point in her life in a manner which I can relate to: physical activity. I obviously appreciate the need to get outside in order to work things through. Wild was an enjoyable read and it provided me with my initial, first-person, real-life material of what the PCT was about. I’d been on the PCT’s website (www.pcta.org) but hadn’t yet stumbled upon the multitude of blogs people have kept over the years.
I’m finally fielding those “Wild Effect” questions: Are you doing it because of the book? The book was not the deciding factor for me and I think it’s this assumption by people that has caught me by surprise. I had pretty much decided that I was going to hike the PCT prior to reading Wild but hadn’t told (errr…I mean asked?) Adam. I think I was hurt that people would assume I would read a book and just decide to hike the trail based on that. My gut reaction was defensive and basically “Come on, now! Don’t you know me better than that?” I don’t want to do it “because” of some book, I want to hike it because it looks challenging which, in my view, is fun! I’m not out to work through any crisis (I have a great life!) or find my true love (I’ve got that, too!).
After I started thinking about it, I realized that I have friends and family that carved hours out of their lives in order to better understand what I’M doing in MY spare time. If by reading Wild and comparing me to Cheryl Strayed you are better able to comprehend what I’m doing, then I need to be fine with that! It’s incredibly humbling to think that anyone would pick up a book and invest time reading it simply to provide themselves with a greater understanding about this hike I’m about to embark on. I truly appreciate you being that interested: it’s absolutely amazing. Thank You.
And if this book is your inspiration that encourages you to put on a backpack for the first (or the first in a long time!), that’s amazing as well! Whatever works to get you outside to experience the wilderness and all of it’s fantastic highs, incredible powers, and (of course) amazing views, I’m all for it. I hope people are a wee bit more responsible than she was when setting out (one of the biggest criticisms of the book being her inexperience) but, as in anything, you can learn as you go.
So…didja read Wild yet?