I can’t stop recommending “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. “It is truly one of those books you can’t put down, at least I couldn’t. It is the summer of 1995 and Strayed sets off at the age of 26 to hike the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT). She has little experience hiking and none on such an arduous trail. She reads books and buys gear. But she over-equips herself so much so that she names her giant overstuffed backpack “Monster”. And just like her pack her life is too full – full of pain and grief to point of it all crashing down. Her mother died when she was 22 and a senior in college. Her father left the family years before. She no longer has much contact with her brother and sister and her marriage is falling apart. She cheats on, then leaves, her beloved husband, shoots heroin, has an abortion and adopts a new last name. “I looked [strayed] up in the dictionary and knew it was mine: to wander from the proper path, to be lost . . . to move about aimlessly in search of something.”
During the harrowing three-month journey that ensues, she starts to make sense of what she has lost. She traverses over 1,100 miles starting in the Mojave Desert. She is almost always alone. Her shoes are too small and she loses six toenails before she finishes. The weight of the pack causes palm-sized calluses to develop on her hips. As she hikes she sheds items from her overstuffed backpack and the grief and pain she has carried for years. By the time she reaches the Bridge of Gods on the border of Oregon and Washington she is lighter and stronger. While “Wild” is the story of Strayed hiking the PCT it so much more. It is the journey of Strayed’s redemption.