In Part One of my review of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, I got into the things I really despised about the book. Now, in part two, I’ll let you know the things Cheryl did right on her hike and whether or not I recommend the book.
The first thing that really impressed me was the fact that Strayed learned how to use and practiced using her water pump at home before leaving for her hike. Why she didn’t do this with all her gear is baffling, but the fact that she read enough to know that water is a premium on the southern part of the PCT and planned accordingly was impressive to me. Also when it comes to water, she does another thing right by sleeping with her water bottles at night. Despite being incredibly hot during the day, it can definitely drop into freezing temperatures at night in the desert! Sleeping with your bottles will keep them from freezing because of the transfer of your body heat.
Cheryl also does an incredibly smart thing by bringing not only a compass, but a book that tells her how to actually use the thing. Not everyone thinks of that when attempting to use one. Yes, it will show you which way north is, but there is a lot more to reading the compass with a map than just looking towards north! She taught herself how to do this while hiking on the trail and then puts her skills to use in the book when doing a bypass due to high snowpack. She does so successfully.
Another great thing the author mentions in her book is the fact that she leaves her backpack outside when going into a business. This is a really great thing to mention in a book which may trigger hundreds of hopefuls out to the trails. By leaving your pack outside a business you are being respectful of not only the business owners, but also the other patrons inside the business. You smell bad enough, but the pack adds to that smell tenfold! Leave it outside and help keep hikers in a positive light!
Despite her heavy pack weight and her gross lack of experience hiking, she is actually trying to hike. She mentions one day criticizing herself for only hiking 8.5 miles, yet also mentions how thankful she is to be out and on the Pacific Crest Trail. The mentality it takes to get yourself through a day as a long-distance hiker is often more powerful that your physical strength and Cheryl really has the mental toughness to get herself through the 1100 miles with her own toughness. This tone is seen very few times throughout the book, but when it is seen, it’s refreshing.
In closing, I would not recommend this book at all. On a scale of 1 to 5 I’d rate it 1.5 stars. The major gripe I had about the book is the subtitle “From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” mostly because I don’t feel like this book even began to delve into Strayed finding herself at all. The book read more like a story to me and not like a memoir. I feel like she barely even began to say how she was healing from the loss of her mother, finding herself as a young adult, and coming into her own after her divorce. While all these things were mentioned throughout the book, only in the closing pages does she even really mention her hike being over and her feeling like a stronger or healthier person from her hike. The title alone is misleading.
If you’re looking for a story about hiking on the PCT and enjoyed Bill Bryson’s book “A Walk in the Woods” this book is probably for you. I’m very glad that the book is getting attention to the PCT and hopefully will help people become more active in trail maintenance clubs and fundraising. I, however, will not be seeing the film or recommending it to anyone looking for a good memoir of hiking.