Cheryl Strayed was 26 years old when she decided to hike the 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Talking with Think Out Loud‘s Dave Miller, Strayed shared that her journey on the Pacific Crest Trail was a symbolic trek during a dark time in her life. “I was really saving myself from the sort of wild spin my life had taken at that point,” explained Strayed. Reeling from the sudden death of her mother, Strayed’s grief pushed her into a “self-destructive spin,” which eventually claimed her marriage.
It was when she came across a Pacific Crest Trail guidebook that she saw the promise of the hike as a way of redemption. “I thought it was, in some ways, a way of trying to get back to the woman that my mother had raised.”
Strayed took off on the historic trail with no prior backpacking experience. She writes about her experience on the trail in her new memoir Wild. The book chronicles her 100-day hike and the parts of her past she visits in her mind while she’s walking. Staying true to the messy nature of nonfiction, Strayed doesn’t tie her experience up with a neat little bow or claim the epic journey solved all her problems.
Strayed shared excerpts of her new memoir with a live audience at Literary Arts. Listening and sharing their own experiences were thru-hikers, people who hike long sections of large wilderness trails like the Pacific Crest Trail.
Before the broadcast, Arts & Life talked with a few Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers to find out what pushes individuals to seek this type of adventure.
Eric and Reed
Trail Names: Balls and Sunshine
Balls: “I was in the Army. After I got out, I was searching for something that was missing. It’s a related element of pushing myself to go farther and into the unknown.”
Sunshine: “I just like hiking and walking and being with my dad. He told me there was a trail and I hiked it.”
Whitnee and Ashlee
Trail Names: Good Karma [right] and Boyscout [left]
Good Karma: “When I was younger, I went on a month long backpacking trip… It forced me into exploring the wilderness and a part of my person. [When I go hiking] I am still searching for what I gained out of that original program; finding it only comes with living outdoors.”
Boyscout: “I was tired of being forced to work and pay bills. I didn’t want to wait until I retired to do something like [hike the Pacific Crest Trail].”
Trail Name: Lint
Lint: “It’s the most spiritual thing an atheist can do. It’s four months of walking and mobile meditation.”
Listen to the full conversation with Cheryl Strayed on Think Out Loud.
To learn more about Balls and Sunshine’s Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike, tune in to Oregon Field Guide on March 22 at 8:30pm.
To learn more about Lint’s ultralight hiking experiences, watch Oregon Field Guide online.
This article includes contributions from Think Out Loud’s Julie Sabatier.
Have you ever gone on a long trek like the Pacific Crest Trail? What pushed you towards this type of adventure?
Cheryl Strayed — Live at Literary ArtsView Slideshow »
- Cheryl Strayed Think Out Loud
- Pacific Crest Trail Oregon Field Guide
- Ultralight Hiking Oregon Field Guide