I was disappointed and was sorry I bought the Kindle edition because you can't sell that copy or return it. I live and guide along the High Sierra part of the trail. I wanted to read her description and tales of adventure and challenge with that part of the trail and felt ripped off when I learned that she skipped that part of the trail because it was "too snowy." The books title should be "Tantalizing Tales of Sex from a Mixed Up Young Woman" or something like that with a subtitle "On the Easier Parts of the PCT (No High Sierra)
Seldom have I been so annoyed by a book. The author sets out to hike hundreds of miles, in all sorts of conditions...without even packing her backpack first to see if everything will fit? Without taking a hiking stick? It doesn't get any better as she hikes, either. She consistently makes poor, impulsive choices. We are supposed to love this book because of all her growth and insights. What I took away from it was information any child could tell you: get shoes that fit, and don't whine for hundreds of pages because you didn't.
Thank you for your input. I was considering buying the book because I enjoyed the Barefoot Sisters Southbound (Adventures on the Appalachian Trail). Between your post and the post from Chris (Jan 5) I have decided not to waste my money on this ebook - if I ever feel the need to read this I will make sure to get it from the library. Thank you!
Chris, I couldn't agree more. What hubris. "I hiked the PCT and found myself.... except, I started in Mojave, hitchhiked from Independence to Truckee (missed those annoying Sierras), and stopped at a perfectly named bridge on the Washington/Oregon border." And also - I didn't really notice much along the way - no unbelievable night skies, no sunrises or sunsets, no pristine lakes, no vistas, no breathtaking snow-covered volcanoes...." Then, about 15 pages before the book ends, "Strayed" manages to work in some kind of spiritual awakening. Just in time for the Bridge of the Gods (gee, do you think she had ever driven that route before, living in Portland and moving a lot?). At least if they make a movie we will get to see some of the breathtaking East Side views that "Strayed" forgot to mention. I would love my money back.
I will say that her own story - the real one - would have made a beautiful and moving non-fiction essay or even a short memoir. But somewhere along the line, she was obviously convinced it wasn't enough. It's too bad that whoever gave her that advice - that there was a niche for women in the wild - failed to tell her to make sure she got hiking boots that fit.
This was a journey of introspection whose main features were her thoughts along a grueling walk. She does mention something of the scenery and I'm sure she noted it and was touched by it, but this was not a travelogue. The fact that she prepared for the journey in the most haphazardous way possible was actually part of the entertainment value of the book to me. It was indicative of the state she was in. It was funny. It was impressive that she did not quit, turn around, and resume her miserable existence off trail. I was also touched that she was so honest about her poor choices and relationship challenges. I read the book on a trans-Atlantic flight back from France and was not prepared for the depth of emotion nor the subject matter, having lost my own mother to cancer. I had to skip part of the beginning because I was wallowing at 37,000 ft between the napkins served with the meals! Almost I wish that I had undertaken such an arduous trek myself and found myself wondering if it's too late. I live less than 100 miles from the Continental Divide Trail. I can understand people being upset she skipped terrain (as others did that year) and didn't include poetic tributes to the scenery but I don't think it takes away from the book's true intent. As for the boots. Yes, if you realize that your feet swell when you walk that long you'd know to get boots bigger but if the guy at REI thinks they fit and doesn't really get it that you're going to be hiking 10 + miles / day for months , then an amateur taking the challenge isn't going to either. I used to help lead hikes in Texas and went with people who wore boots that hadn't seen a trail in over 10 yrs. I saw several soles peel off. Guano happens.
I wasn't looking for a travelogue - I was looking for something I could find credible. Strayed rarely mentions the world around her - once every 30 pages she'll mention the same trees. You don't get away with that in English 101. In addition, the title of the book (remember, "Wild") implies that we are in for some sort of adventure. Catching a ride from Lone Pine to Truckee could be considered an adventure of sorts, but certainly not one that builds much character, or spiritual depth. At the end of the day - I didn't buy her spiritual awakening (about 30 pp before the end of the book) because she didn't have much credibility - I didn't see an evolution. She was a day or so away from Bridge of the Gods and presto! she has a "come to Jesus" moment.
Again, the part of the book where Strayed writes about her mother, their relationship and her death is absolutely beautiful - and she evidently agreed, because it was just republished in the Sun, without the hiking boot problem or the idiotic water problem (she couldn't read a basic handbook? she'd never taken a day hike with a couple bottles of water?). But "Wild? And lost and found on the PCT? That's not the book I read.
Beyond the credibility issue - there's another one. If you're actually going to go into the wild (with or without a guide) show some basic respect for the journey - for the wilderness. Otherwise, you're just an unprepared hiker who is probably going to need a helicopter lift. It doesn't surprise me that this was an Oprah pick - her experience with wilderness seems to be limited to her Montecito estate.
I'm glad there are others who are as annoyed as I was about her boots not fitting and the weight of the pack that she hadn't lifted until she takes off and has to struggle with the Abrasions the heavy pack gave her. So very inexperienced - she could have found a very experienced hiker to help her pack and get references about who is good at fitting and choosing the right boots. And then to be careless and lose one? The Sierra Club has courses where you get totally prepared and experienced - even sleeping in the snow - before even starting on a hike of this kind and especially alone. I'm glad she is a happy person now and has profited from her mistakes but to write this kind of a book was very irresponsible in itself. From the very beginning I had no respect for her and finished it only because it was the book our book leader had chosen for us to discuss - probably got the idea from Oprah. To her credit at least she wrote and completed a book and has enough money now to go further with a happier life.