At the Library
It is important to have a plan. However, sometimes it is just as important to step off the path, to go forward with careless abandon without knowing what is to come. Some years ago my husband and I went on a hike in Estes Park, Colorado. I’d always been a walker and a short-distance hiker, so when we decided to hike to Flat Top Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park, I was confident and so was he. We took off with great joy and enthusiasm and youth. Little did we realize what this hike would actually require. I don’t recall that we had more than one bottle of water between us and we wore just our shorts, T-shirts, and hiking boots. The hike took about eight hours round trip, going from warm to downright cold by the time we reached the top. At one point we had to cross a snow field and I remember loving the adventure, with not a care in the world that we might lose the trail. A few years later my husband and I returned to Colorado to do the same hike, but more prepared with backpacks, snacks, lunch, lots of water, and warm layers, including hats. We were amazed that our younger selves had gone on that hike without all those extra supplies. Of course, we realized we had been awfully foolish and could have been in danger. Yet, to this day we cherish our impromptu adventure.
Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild reminded me of that hike, but at an extreme level. When she was 26 years old, Strayed’s life seemed to be falling apart. Her mother had passed away and her marriage had failed. So, she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail solo, taking this immense trip to get her life back on track. However, having no experience as a long-distance hiker she soon discovered that she was vastly unprepared. “The PCT … taught me what a mile was,” she admits. She faced not only endless physical obstacles like extreme heat, extreme cold, record snowfalls, food shortage, water shortage, and feet injuries, but also mental ones, loneliness, despair, and fear. Cheryl Strayed’s writing is wonderful in this memoir. She takes you along for the hike and you will be stirred by her determination and resilience. As worried as you are that she will not make it, you will feel the need to cheer her on as each chapter passes. There are times you think she should simply stop, get off the trail. But as you turn another page you realize that the only decision she can make is to go on, to keep on walking. It is an inspiring book that I think hikers and non-hikers alike will appreciate. It definitely proves that all the planning in the world cannot always give us what a few reckless journeys can. Wild by Cheryl Strayed is available for checkout at the library in the “Staff Picks” section.