September 19, 2013

girl gone wild

Imagine hiking solo 1770 kilometres from California to Oregon along the Pacific Crest Trail, trying to piece back together your life after your mother has died and your marriage has collapsed. Oh ya, you're also 26 and coming off a string of affairs and heroin addiction.  Cheryl Strayed's brilliant memoir Wild takes the reader along for her harrowing feat of physical and mental endurance. It's hard not to feel frustrated with Strayed when she first sets off for her journey when you recognize how ill prepared she is for such a feat. For starters, her backpack is far too heavy (nicknamed "Monster" for it's ridiculous weight (more than half her own body weight), her boots are ill fitting and she is often down to her last few coins to buy food with when she arrives at various pitstops along the way.
With each blistered step that Strayed takes through this challenging journey, you can't help but cheer for her in recognition of how very brave she is. Meet ups with a rattlesnake, bears, creepy men - all encountered on her own in the depth of the woods. Or what about sleeping in a tent in the middle of nowhere, on your own, listening to branches snap outside your thin canvas wall.
One night, exhausted from a day where drinking water was at a minimum and the sun was beating down on her, she falls asleep on her tarp, not even strong enough to pitch her tent, and when she wakes up, she feels little hands all over her body, and looks down to see that she is covered in hundreds of tiny frogs. Hundreds. They have completely covered her body. Now I don't know about you, but when I think of my circle of female friends, I know I'd be hard pressed to find one who would want to take on such a journey on their own. I was so utterly inspired by her courage and her mental strength to keep going.  The trail eventually led her back to herself - back to a sense of fullness that had evaded her when life had previously felt hopeless. She said that in hindsight she realizes she needed to carry "Monster" and feel the weight in order to shed it.
Would you ever take on such a physically and emotionally challenging journey as the Pacific Crest Trail?
I would love to do a huge hike with my husband one day - I think it would be such an incredible experience to share- but I'm eyeing the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island- which is only 77 kilometres, baby steps compared to her 1770 km trek.
The book was so well received, that Oprah relaunched her defunct book club after reading it.
Click here for a little clip of Cheryl Strayed speaking with Oprah about being alone.

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