It’s What Crosses Your Trail that Counts


While reading Cheryl Strayed’s stunning book about her arduous solo journey along the Pacific Crest Trail, I kept asking myself, What would I do if I were stripped bare of everything — money, job, community, even family and love? Thoreau once siad, ‘In wildness is the preservation of the world.’ For Strayed, it is clear that in wildness was the preservation of her soul. She reminds us, in her lyrical and courageous memoir of what it means to be fully alive, even in the face of catastrophe, physical and psychic hardship, and loss.” — Mira Bartok, author of The Memory Palace.

In the wake of her mother’s death, and the further tumult of a life suddenly adrift, Cheryl Strayed challenged herself to hike eleven-hundred miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, from the Mojave Desert to Washington State. And to hike that route alone.

The life-changing terrors and pleasures of that trek are told in Cheryl Strayed’s beautifully written and incredibly honest new book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Here’s more from the author herself:

Here’s one of our favorite passages from Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. In the middle of the night, two trails cross, somewhere along the Pacific Crest Trail:

“I woke two hours later with the vaguely pleasant sensation that tiny cool hands were gently patting me. They were on my bare legs and arms and face and in my hair, on my feet and throat and hands. I could feel their cool weight through my T-shirt on my chest and belly. ‘Hmm.’ I moaned, turning slightly before I opened my eyes and a series of facts came to me in slow motion.

There was the fact of the moon and the fact that I was sleeping out in the open on my tarp.

There was the fact that I had woken because it seemed like small cool hands were gently patting me and the fact that small cool hands were gently patting me.

And then there was the final fact of all, which was a fact more monumental than even the moon: the fact that those small cool hands were not hands, but hundreds of small cool black frogs.

Small cool slimy black frogs jumping all over me.

Each one was the approximate size of a potato chip. They were an amphibious army, a damp smooth-skinned militia, a great web-footed migration, and I was in their path as they hopped, scrambled, leapt, and hurled their tiny, pudgy, bent-legged bodies from the reservoir and onto the scrim of dirt that they no doubt considered their private beach.”

Unexpected encounters are the mileposts of all the trails we hike. Here’s three more trailside readers — excellent companions for Cheryl Strayed’s Wild:

rexrothboth trailside readers
In the Sierra: Mountain Writings by Kenneth Rexroth. Kim Stanley Robinson has edited this fine collection of Rexroth’s (1905-1982) prose and poetry, set in the High Sierra. Robinson describes Rexroth’s tumultous San Francisco life: “Rexroth always had an enduring island of calm, located on the other side of the state: the Sierra Nevada of California.” Also pictured above: For more adventures, and lessons learned along the trail, the Land Library recommends a wonderful two-volume set: The Pacific Crest Trailside Reader (California, Oregon & Washington). Both books feature “boot-tested stories” spun by real PCT hikers, along with selections from well-known wanderers such as John Muir, Mark Twain, Mary Austin, Wallace Stegner, Barry Lopez, William O. Douglas, and Jack Kerouac, among others.


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