LIKE MANY PEOPLE, I’m sure, the Pacific Crest Trail entered my radar screen after reading the bestseller Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed. In it, Cheryl recounts her time in the summer of 1995 hiking over 1,100 miles on the PCT, from the Mojave Desert in California, through Oregon, and into Washington State. She did it alone and she did it without any training or experience (she’d never backpacked before). She’s drawn criticism for this, for her “irresponsibility,” but given the circumstances in which she undertook what many people would probably call a suicide mission, I’d consider it perfectly understandable. A few years prior she’d lost her mother to lung cancer; her family scattered; her marriage fell apart. As the title suggests, she was lost. (She later discovered she was also angry.)
Her unpreparedness is a big part of what makes the book so entertaining and relatable. It’s a big part of what makes it such a great story, and one that will be relayed to the big screen when the movie version of Wild is released later this year, with Reese Witherspoon playing Cheryl. What I’m most excited about is seeing the scenery and wilderness, shown below, in motion picture adaptation.
The Pacific Crest Trail—which passes through California, Oregon, and Washington—spans from the Mexican border in the south to the Canadian border in the north. It traverses 25 national forests and 7 national parks, while having an elevation range from around sea level to just over 13,000 feet. Photo: Carissa Rogers
Left: Cheryl 2 weeks before starting the PCT / Center: Cheryl 10 days into the trail / Right: Cheryl at Crater Lake, Oregon
Kearsarge Pinnacles, Kings Canyon National Park, California
Photo: Linda Rostad courtesy of Pacific Crest Trail Association (All Rights Reserved)
Snoqualmie Pass, Washington
Photo: Connie Davis courtesy of Pacific Crest Trail Association (All Rights Reserved)
Mojave Desert, California
Photo: Aaron Doss courtesy of Pacific Crest Trail Association (All Rights Reserved)
Mt. Adams, Washington
Photo: Nick Legg courtesy of Pacific Crest Trail Association (All Rights Reserved)
PCT in Washington
Photo: Richard Wirth courtesy of Pacific Crest Trail Association (All Rights Reserved)
* * *
Editor's note: Since 1977, the nonprofit Pacific Crest Trail Association has championed permanent protection of the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. This great icon of the American West contains some of the nation’s most pristine and spectacular wilderness. Each year, the PCTA trains and marshals hundreds of volunteers, including youth groups and senior citizens, to ensure that the trail remains open and available for hikers and horseback riders. PCTA staff and volunteers are a voice for the trail, establishing and maintaining relationships with decision makers, including federal land managers and members of Congress. From trail maintainers and backcountry cooks to horse packers hauling in gear, the Pacific Crest Trail Association is preserving the trail experience and upholding the ethic of environmental stewardship for future generations. To join, volunteer or donate, visit the PCTA's website: www.pcta.org.