‘wild’ By Cheryl Strayed

by Andy Amick on May 30, 2012

in Backpacking

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

In a break from the normal bikepacking, first aid kits, and singlespeeds, this post is a review of the new book by Cheryl Strayed.  In ‘Wild’, Cheryl takes the reader through her 1000+ mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).


The story is a departure from most hiking/adventure books in that the story is almost more about Cheryl’s life away from the trail than her life on the trail.  If you are expecting something like ‘Into Thin Air’ or other pure adventure stories, you will be disappointed.



The Story

On the other hand, if you want to read about someone finding their way after several years of struggle with the backdrop of the story being a hiking trail, then you’ll enjoy the book.


Cheryl is not a backpacker or even an avid hiker, but she commits to doing a large portion of the PCT alone 4 years after the death of her mother.  The beginning of the hike finds her in a hotel room where she packs her backpack for the very first time (see, I told you she wasn’t an experienced backpacker because everyone knows to test your gear and pack at home first) and then is unable to lift it off of the ground.


She manages to get past this “issue” and makes her way onto the trail where she finds out more about herself than she could have ever imagined.  This is what really drew me into the story – seeing how dealing with the ups and downs (pun intended) of the trail mimic the same feelings and struggles she has been dealing with back in everyday life.


Towards the end of the book, Cheryl writes what I think sums up most adventures:

“If I’d done that, I wouldn’t have been here, eighty-some days out on the PCT, broke, but okay – getting to do what I wanted to do even though a reasonable person would have said I couldn’t afford to do it.”

There are many reasons not to do them, but at some point, you just have to go.  In the end, fulfilling dreams, enjoying the adventure, and finding ourselves far outweigh the excuses.


The 8H Club

While reading the book, a lot of ‘H’ words kept coming to mind.  Some of these are a stretch, but the list had to be more than 4 since the 4H club was already taken.


Heartache – death of her mom and other struggles

Hiking – duh, it is about the PCT

Heroin -it was a tough go after her mom died

Heavy load – both physical and emotional

Honest – deep personal thoughts are shared (sex, drugs, a little rock ‘n roll, anger, family relationships)

Hippies – the Rainbow Gathering even makes an appearance

Hills – hey, I needed another H related to hiking in the mountains

Healing – it took 4 years to find the right therapy, in the form of the PCT



Overall Rating

4 out of 5 stars

The book was a good read.  The honesty with which Cheryl shares her thoughts and emotions makes it easy to connect with her on both the physical and emotional issues she faced in her hike of healing.


If you’re looking for a book with more adventure, check out Jill Homer’s book about riding the Tour Divide.  It still has some deep personal story lines, but more of the focus is on the adventure.  Plus, it’s about bikepacking, and what could be better than that?

About Andy Amick
A little bit nutty in general, a lotta bit nutty about bikes. Each of his boys received a bike helmet for their first birthday and the three of them have been biking together ever since.

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