By Wendy Kendall
“Wild” is a story of transformation. It’s a story of how one person finds the strength to bear the unbearable. And the setting is the Pacific Crest Trail.
After the author’s mother dies from cancer, she feels her loss deeply. In the months and years that follow, her family scatters. She wanders through her early 20s grieving and self-destructive. She makes an impulsive decision that feels so right. She will hike the Pacific Crest Trail. She’s sure this is how she’ll leave all her troubles behind. Instead she only found more, but she also found herself.
Cheryl mustered the strength needed to carry her fully loaded “monster” backpack and hike through California from the Mojave Desert to Portland, Ore. We vividly share her travails, fears, triumphs, humor and “de-feets” (you vicariously learn the painful importance of the right footwear). Her conversations and experiences with fascinating people along the way give compelling glimpses into other people’s lives. Mostly you learn about Cheryl’s emotional healing, and spiritual rejuvenation of mind and heart. She says that the pure physical experience allowed her to get out of her head and learn acceptance. Then she was able to forgive not only others but especially herself.
Cheryl takes her readers along a beautiful trail that begins in emotional torment and ends in peace. For Cheryl there is no single “aha” moment. It’s strength and personal change that’s built in a series of moments. This story resonates with a wide variety of people. I was fortunate to hear Cheryl Strayed speak about this book, and her other writing, at Third Place Books last week. I was surprised at the turnout — absolutely standing room only. Men and women of all ages identified with Cheryl’s journey, and humor. It was interesting to hear that there have been record numbers of hikers on the PCT since Wild was published.
Cheryl encouraged the audience to “give yourself permission to stray and take a different path” in life. Many from the audience spoke of how this book had inspired their own PCT type of journey – not all involved hiking, but all were personal and touching.
Let this book inspire you. The PCT may be 2,650 miles, but you can hike any piece of it. Or your inspiration may lead to a different path.
Reading “Wild” inspired me to celebrate the 2013 Centennial of the Washington State Parks. I am visiting and exploring and enjoying a different state park each month this year, all over the state.
And thereby hangs a tale . . . .
The Pacific Crest Trail is rugged and beautiful, beginning in California at the Mexican border. It continues through California, Oregon and Washington to the Canadian border, plus about eight miles into Canada. In 1932, Clinton C. Clarke and Warren Lee Rogers were the dedicated outdoorsmen who began the passion for establishing a trail for hikers and horse riders. Clarke died in 1957 before setting foot on the PCT. Rogers continued the work, and the trail was officially designated by an act of Congress in 1968. The Pacific Crest Trail Golden Spike Completion Ceremony was on June 5th 1993, just over a year after Rogers’ death.