Book Club: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Last week, the book club I belong to, the Dewey Decimals, discussed Wild. From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed.  I had reserved it from the library, and was # 2 on the list (after 3 months!) and I did not get it in time to join in on the discussion, but I knew that I would read it because true-life adventure is my favorite genre.

I am now half way through, devouring every page, and I LOVE it.  It brings back so many memories of my experiences backpacking and camping in the backwoods and wilderness (there is a difference), first when I was a Girl Scout in high school on the Buckeye Trail and later after I married Jim and experinced some wonderful adventure vacations that included 5-day whitewater rafting trips, backpacking up/down Pikes Peak, and wilderness canoeing.

Below is a trailer that introduces you to Cheryl Strayed, that gives her background and shows photos from the trail.  As I look at the photos, I think about how I had seen and experienced that kind of beauty and that kind of wilderness – where there is a sense of awe, empowerment, respect for nature, and yes, fear of nature.

In my case, the fear was of bears.  Most people don’t put themselves in a situation to experience true fear.  I did not plan this and I did not expect the emotions I experienced once in that situation, but this is an experience not to be lost to our future generations and the experience would be lost if we shot and killed everything we were afraid of.  There is a beauty in the concept of wilderness and a strength that is gained in the emotional experience of that wilderness.

It was perhaps 20 years ago when Jim and I embarqed on a 5-day wilderness canoe trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area near Ely Minnesota.  It required a permit to limit the number of visitors.  No motors were allowed.  No planes could fly over.  I loved, and got strength from, the fact that there were no signs to follow.  We had only a map and our ability to read that map and match it to the land formations to find our next camp site or path for portaging between lakes.  It was a trip of challenges and triumphs.

We never saw a bear, but we heard others say that the bears would cleverly wait at one end of the path and get into your packs as you were portaging your canoe to the other end, later to return to find everything ravaged. I do remember, however, coming up to a less used campsite, getting out, and having a feeling that was not right.  I could smell danger.  I could hear danger.  We chose not to stay. I will never forget it, nor the mosquitos that ravaged our arms and legs unmercifully, regardless of bug spray.  I couldn’t wear nylons for a month afterward.

Below is an in-depth interview of Cheryl Strayed, where she talks about the psychological growth she went through on this journey – to better explain why this book goes beyond a story of a woman hiking by herself for 94 days on a trail that may only have 100 hikers in a year and the physical pain her body experienced as a result.

The other ladies gave it a 4 – 4.75 rating (out of 5).  I give it a no apologies 5.

Life is an Adventure