Some Thoughts on “Wild”
(Let me apologize in advance, this post will probably be long-ish)
I’ve been thinking a lot about “Wild”.
(As in the book + now movie about Cheryl Strayed’s 1000+ mile hike of the Pacific Crest Trail).
I’ve really struggled with Wild, partially for reasons that have nothing to do with the book or movie.
Rewind to sometime around 2012, when I was living in New York and a friend suggested I check out a book she had seen at Barnes and Noble. Since I constantly mentioned the idea of wanting to do the PCT, she thought it would be something I’d enjoyed. I’m not entirely sure how long I’d known about the PCT, or when my fascination with it started. Being someone who grew up in and frequently backpacked in California, I think I was always semi aware that there was something called the PCT. After moving to the upper west side of New York to attend Columbia for a year, this fascination only grew stronger as I slowly realized what I had done: Outdoorsy, small town me had moved to a huge city, without a car, and without immediate access to trails and mountains. While the call of public transportation + endless activities and restaurants was something I wanted to experience (and it was glorious, for a time), I was missing the west coast, the mountains and backpacking.
So, when I decided to pick up a copy of Wild, I was reminded of what I missed so much, regardless of the fact that the story isn’t really all about hiking the PCT. But for me it was. I found it at a time when I knew that I wanted to be outside more, in addition to doing more trips that took me to challenging places both mentally and physically. As such, the book was both inspiring and also incredibly sad for these reasons:
1. Great reason: It reminded me of why I’ve been obsessed with backpacking and the outdoors since I can remember. I’ve always found comfort and solace in the back country, where I feel like a different person who isn’t stressed or anxious about random shit in life. Compared to making life decisions, climbing switchbacks is simple.
2. Sad reason: The seemingly subsequent explosion of trails like the PCT and the JMT, partially inspired by “Wild”, has made me feel irrationally upset at times. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I think I’ve personally had this reaction for two main reasons. First, I feel like I was finally finding my way back to being a more honest version of myself, and backpacking has always been a big part of that. At times, I felt sad that this coincided with LOTS of other people suddenly finding that same thing. Second, I have very selfishly always felt that backpacking was mine, even though it never has, or never will be. As I said, I’ve found immeasurable peace and comfort in the outdoors since childhood (I remember sitting under a tree in my elementary school playground, playing with leaves and feeling like all was right in the world). Now, lots and lots of people were going to do “my thing” and as a result, it was somehow going to be different.
Since I’m into making lists tonight (I love spreadsheets and lists), I’ve come to some conclusions to why I’ve had this reaction to a book that I personally really enjoyed at times.
1. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had backpacking, much less outdoorsy friends. Backpacking has become this thing that “Lindsey likes” and that everyone else sort of gets, but doesn’t want to do. I’m not used to sharing that activity these days with anyone else as passionate as I am, and it feels weird at times to have joined a bunch of online communities and realizing that LOTS of people are like me.
2. Partially as a result of never having a co-planner (or really even an enthusiastic buddy to join me) I’ve struggled to make trips happen since moving back to California. The reminder that all these other people love backpacking now sometimes just reminds me that sometimes I’m too tired or uninspired to plan trips.
BUT, I think in the end this is going to be good, not only for me, but also for the hiking community as well. There will be more people donating to organizations like the PCTA, more people contributing to trail work, and more people embracing a healthy and active lifestyle. And also, I think maybe it’ll be good for me in the long run, because I’ve found that perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad thing to have a few backpacking lady friends to inspire and maybe help me plan more trips.