I heard the hype about "Wild" earlier in the year, and I dismissed it as "Eat, Pray, Love in the Woods." I didn't like that book, and I had no interest in reading about another self-centered and self-indulgent woman. But then I saw an excerpt of "Wild" in a magazine and thought, "What the heck. I'll give this a shot." The excerpt featured Cheryl as she prepared her backpack in the motel the evening before she began her trek. I'm so grateful I took the time to read the excerpt, because I was struck by her beautiful writing and her honesty and humor, and I was persuaded to read the full memoir.
Cheryl made the decision to hike the Pacific Coast Trail rather impulsively at the age of 26. She was devastated by the death of her mother and her recent divorce, and she sets out alone on the PCT as a kind of emotional cleansing. Her lack of preparation leads to many mistakes, from the weight of her pack to her ill-fitting shoes. But she learns on the fly, and she benefits from the advice of the more seasoned hikers she encounters on the trail.
I was filled with a mixture of admiration and envy while reading "Wild." It's impossible not to respect the courage it took for Strayed to set out on her own, even though she severely underestimated the hardships she would encounter. At the same time, I found myself wishing I would have done something like this in my twenties. At almost forty, and with all the encumbrances (physical and otherwise) that go along with it, such a trek seems nearly impossible. But with "Wild," I felt like I was walking alongside Cheryl, experiencing the heat, hunger, solitude, and most of all, the exhilaration, right along with her.