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5 Burnside TRAV- HIKE GD GENERAL

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

by

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail Cover

 

 

Excerpt

PROLOGUE

The trees were tall, but I was taller, standing above them on a steep mountain slope in northern California. Moments before, I’d removed my hiking boots and the left one had fallen into those trees, first cata- pulting into the air when my enormous backpack toppled onto it, then skittering across the gravelly trail and flying over the edge. It bounced off of a rocky outcropping several feet beneath me before disappearing into the forest canopy below, impossible to retrieve. I let out a stunned gasp, though I’d been in the wilderness thirty-eight days and by then I’d come to know that anything could happen and that everything would. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t shocked when it did.

My boot was gone. Actually gone.

I clutched its mate to my chest like a baby, though of course it was futile. What is one boot without the other boot? It is nothing. It is use- less, an orphan forevermore, and I could take no mercy on it. It was a big lug of a thing, of genuine heft, a brown leather Raichle boot with a red lace and silver metal fasts. I lifted it high and threw it with all my might and watched it fall into the lush trees and out of my life.

I was alone. I was barefoot. I was twenty-six years old and an orphan too. An actual stray, a stranger had observed a couple of weeks before, when I’d told him my name and explained how very loose I was in the world. My father left my life when I was six. My mother died when I was twenty-two. In the wake of her death, my stepfather morphed from the person I considered my dad into a man I only occasionally recognized. My two siblings scattered in their grief, in spite of my efforts to hold us together, until I gave up and scattered as well.

In the years before I pitched my boot over the edge of that moun- tain, I’d been pitching myself over the edge too. I’d ranged and roamed and railed—from Minnesota to New York to Oregon and all across the West—until at last I found myself, bootless, in the summer of 1995, not so much loose in the world as bound to it.

It was a world I’d never been to and yet had known was there all along, one I’d staggered to in sorrow and confusion and fear and hope. A world I thought would both make me into the woman I knew I could become and turn me back into the girl I’d once been. A world that mea- sured two feet wide and 2,663 miles long.

A world called the Pacific Crest Trail.

I’d first heard of it only seven months before, when I was living in Minneapolis, sad and desperate and on the brink of divorcing a man I still loved. I’d been standing in line at an outdoor store waiting to purchase a foldable shovel when I picked up a book called The Pacific Crest Trail, Volume 1: California from a nearby shelf and read the back cover. The PCT, it said, was a continuous wilderness trail that went from the Mexican border in California to just beyond the Canadian border along the crest of nine mountain ranges—the Laguna, San Jacinto, San Bernardino, San Gabriel, Liebre, Tehachapi, Sierra Nevada, Klamath, and Cascades. That distance was a thousand miles as the crow flies, but the trail was more than double that. Traversing the entire length of the states of California, Oregon, and Washington, the PCT passes through national parks and wilderness areas as well as federal, tribal, and privately held lands; through deserts and mountains and rain forests; across rivers and highways. I turned the book over and gazed at its front cover— a boulder-strewn lake surrounded by rocky crags against a blue sky— then placed it back on the shelf, paid for my shovel, and left.

But later I returned and bought the book. The Pacific Crest Trail wasn’t a world to me then. It was an idea, vague and outlandish, full of promise and mystery. Something bloomed inside me as I traced its jag- ged line with my finger on a map.

I would walk that line, I decided—or at least as much of it as I could in about a hundred days. I was living alone in a studio apartment in

Minneapolis, separated from my husband, and working as a waitress, as low and mixed-up as I’d ever been in my life. Each day I felt as if I were looking up from the bottom of a deep well. But from that well, I set about becoming a solo wilderness trekker. And why not? I’d been so many things already. A loving wife and an adulteress. A beloved daughter who now spent holidays alone. An ambitious overachiever and aspir- ing writer who hopped from one meaningless job to the next while dabbling dangerously with drugs and sleeping with too many men. I was the granddaughter of a Pennsylvania coal miner, the daughter of a steelworker turned salesman. After my parents split up, I lived with my mother, brother, and sister in apartment complexes populated by single mothers and their kids. As a teen, I lived back-to-the-land style in the Minnesota northwoods in a house that didn’t have an indoor toilet, electricity, or running water. In spite of this, I’d become a high school cheerleader and homecoming queen, and then I went off to college and became a left-wing feminist campus radical.

But a woman who walks alone in the wilderness for eleven hundred miles? I’d never been anything like that before. I had nothing to lose by giving it a whirl.

It seemed like years ago now—as I stood barefoot on that mountain in California—in a different lifetime, really, when I’d made the arguably unreasonable decision to take a long walk alone on the PCT in order to save myself. When I believed that all the things I’d been before had prepared me for this journey. But nothing had or could. Each day on the trail was the only possible preparation for the one that followed. And sometimes even the day before didn’t prepare me for what would happen next.

Such as my boots sailing irretrievably off the side of a mountain.

The truth is, I was only half sorry to see them go. In the six weeks I’d spent in those boots, I’d trekked across deserts and snow, past trees and bushes and grasses and flowers of all shapes and sizes and colors, walked up and down mountains and over fields and glades and stretches of land I couldn’t possibly define, except to say that I had been there, passed over it, made it through. And all the while, those boots had blis- tered my feet and rubbed them raw; they’d caused my nails to blacken and detach themselves excruciatingly from four of my toes. I was done with those boots by the time I lost them and those boots were done with me, though it’s also true that I loved them. They had become not so much inanimate objects to me as extensions of who I was, as had just about everything else I carried that summer—my backpack, tent, sleep- ing bag, water purifier, ultralight stove, and the little orange whistle that I carried in lieu of a gun. They were the things I knew and could rely upon, the things that got me through.

I looked down at the trees below me, the tall tops of them waving gently in the hot breeze. They could keep my boots, I thought, gazing across the great green expanse. I’d chosen to rest in this place because of the view. It was late afternoon in mid-July, and I was miles from civiliza- tion in every direction, days away from the lonely post office where I’d collect my next resupply box. There was a chance someone would come hiking down the trail, but only rarely did that happen. Usually I went days without seeing another person. It didn’t matter whether someone came along anyway. I was in this alone.

I gazed at my bare and battered feet, with their smattering of remain- ing toenails. They were ghostly pale to the line a few inches above my ankles, where the wool socks I usually wore ended. My calves above them were muscled and golden and hairy, dusted with dirt and a constel- lation of bruises and scratches. I’d started walking in the Mojave Desert and I didn’t plan to stop until I touched my hand to a bridge that crosses the Columbia River at the Oregon-Washington border with the grandi- ose name the Bridge of the Gods.

I looked north, in its direction—the very thought of that bridge a beacon to me. I looked south, to where I’d been, to the wild land that had schooled and scorched me, and considered my options. There was only one, I knew. There was always only one.

To keep walking.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 112 comments:

JJB, March 19, 2013 (view all comments by JJB)
Such raw writing, with wonderful adventures! Couldn't put it down!
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(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
nprmariposa, February 10, 2013 (view all comments by nprmariposa)
A note of caution: this book is poorly written and an embarrassment to female hikers. She focuses on her heroin use and sex with strangers so repetitively in the beginning, you start to wonder what this book is about. If you think this is good read, you seriously need to pick up a few more books.
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(4 of 31 readers found this comment helpful)
Eastonworks, January 31, 2013 (view all comments by Eastonworks)
This book resonated with me on so many levels. Cheryl Strayed's style is so frank, honest, and bare bones. She uses language vividly and left me wanting more. I've hiked portions of the PTC in Oregon before, and have been to some of the places in her memoir. This made it even more real to me. One of the best outcomes of reading her incredibly engaging book is that it made me realize I can--and will--overcome difficulties in my life. But more than anything, I just flat out enjoyed reading this book!
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780307592736
Subtitle:
From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Author:
Strayed, Cheryl
Publisher:
Knopf
Subject:
Biography - General
Subject:
Biography-Women
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20120320
Binding:
Hardback
Language:
English
Illustrations:
1 MAP
Pages:
336
Dimensions:
9.51 x 6.49 x 1.28 in 1.3 lb

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Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$14.50 In Stock
Product details 336 pages Knopf - English 9780307592736 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

I know this title is everywhere right now. I was very fortunate to get an advanced copy, and I immediately fell in love. Why? Well, like many, my favorite books are those that seem to have been written just for me. I deeply understood the raw ache of grief, anger, and loneliness. I wanted to run away to fill that black maw with anything other than what I was feeling. Cheryl did too. I didn't take it as far as hiking the Pacific Crest Trail solo, but I laughed out loud at many parts, seeing myself on her journey. Bittersweet, fulfilling, and healing.

"Staff Pick" by ,

This is the amusing, thoughtful, downright zany story of a young woman's eye-opening 1,000-plus-mile trek up the Pacific Crest Trail, all the way to the Bridge of the Gods. It inspired me to undertake my own hike — 10 miles on the Appalachian Trail. It was exhausting!

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In the summer of 1995, at age 26 and feeling at the end of her rope emotionally, Strayed resolved to hike solo the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,663-mile wilderness route stretching from the Mexican border to the Canadian and traversing nine mountain ranges and three states. In this detailed, in-the-moment re-enactment, she delineates the travails and triumphs of those three grueling months. Living in Minneapolis, on the verge of divorcing her husband, Strayed was still reeling from the sudden death four years before of her mother from cancer; the ensuing years formed an erratic, confused time 'like a crackling Fourth of July sparkler.' Hiking the trail helped decide what direction her life would take, even though she had never seriously hiked or carried a pack before. Starting from Mojave, Calif., hauling a pack she called the Monster because it was so huge and heavy, she had to perform a dead lift to stand, and then could barely make a mile an hour. Eventually she began to experience 'a kind of strange, abstract, retrospective fun,' meeting the few other hikers along the way, all male; jettisoning some of the weight from her pack and burning books she had read; and encountering all manner of creature and acts of nature from rock slides to snow. Her account forms a charming, intrepid trial by fire, as she emerges from the ordeal bruised but not beaten, changed, a lone survivor. Agent: Janet Silver, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Agency." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , "Spectacular!"
"Review" by , "Cheryl Strayed is one of the most exciting writers I've come across in a long time."
"Review" by , "Stunning...An incredible journey, both inward and outward."
"Review" by , "A rich, riveting true story . . . During her grueling three-month journey, Strayed circled around black bears and rattlesnakes, fought extreme dehydration by drinking oily gray pond water, and hiked in boots made entirely of duct tape. Reading her matter-of-fact take on love and grief and the soul-saving quality of a Snapple lemonade, you can understand why Strayed has earned a cult following as the author of Dear Sugar, a popular advice column on therumpus.net. . . . With its vivid descriptions of beautiful but unforgiving terrain, Wild is a cinematic story, but Strayed’s book isn’t really about big, cathartic moments. The author never ‘finds herself’ or gets healed. When she reaches the trail’s end, she buys a cheap ice cream cone and continues down the road. . . . It’s hard to imagine anything more important than taking one step at a time. That’s endurance, and that’s what Strayed understands, almost 20 years later. As she writes, ‘There was only one [option], I knew. To keep walking.’ Our verdict: A."
"Review" by , "Strayed’s journey was as transcendent as it was turbulent. She faced down hunger, thirst, injury, fatigue, boredom, loss, bad weather, and wild animals. Yet she also reached new levels of joy, accomplishment, courage, peace, and found extraordinary companionship."
"Review" by , "Strayed writes a crisp scene; her sentences hum with energy. She can describe a trail-parched yearning for Snapple like no writer I know. She moves us briskly along the route, making discrete rest stops to parcel out her backstory. It becomes impossible not to root for her."
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