Have you read WILD? If you’ve been living under a rock, it’s the bestselling memoir by Cheryl Strayed, about her hike on the Pacific Crest Trail as a young woman recovering from heroin addiction, poor relationship choices and the death of her mother.
I’m over it.
Not that Ms. Strayed isn’t a good writer, because she is. And I have to admire a woman who took off into the relatively unknown world of the PCT before it became so well-trodden. Nope, no argument with that. What I am tired of is the genre of ill-prepared woman in the outdoors bravely learning her way.
It appears that the book has spawned similar tales of hapless women who discover their brave side in the wilderness. I am all for self-discovery, but I want to read about women who are already strong, who know what they are getting into, and who push the boundaries. Unfortunately, that stuff doesn’t sell.
When I first discovered wilderness, I didn’t need fixing. Well, maybe all of us need fixing in some way. I’m sure my ex-husband could make a case for that. But here’s the thing. You take out what you bring in. Yes, cold and rainy nights when you forgot your sleeping bag in the floatplane and everything is soaked build character (I guess) and you could make a case that it builds a strong steel core. I survived this, now I can survive anything! Roar.
But there’s this: a nice person will probably still be a nice person, no matter how many miles they hike. A jerk–probably still a jerk. You take out what you bring in, most of the time.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not inspired by stories about women who follow their husband’s dreams (another recent book about the PCT) when they really hate hiking, or women who go out to hike expecting unicorns and rainbows (yes, another one). In my admittedly limited experience, doing something repetitively for long periods of time, like digging fireline or hiking, reduces you to the most mundane thoughts at times. There’s a reason I saw a lot of thru-hikers this summer wearing headphones. You get incredibly bored with yourself after awhile. That’s what nobody tells you. Also? If it’s not your dream, you will hate it. Profoundly.
My problem might be that I grew up a pretty independent soul. I knew how to survive in the wilderness at an early age. That doesn’t make me special in any way, and I’m not bragging. I just want to know–where is my tribe? Where are the women who are quietly doing it out there without any special push from heartbreak or addiction? Those are the stories I want to read. To my surprise, many strong women I know will not camp solo. They don’t even want to hike alone. When I do see a woman on the trail by herself, I want to stop her and congratulate her for overcoming the constant questions from loved ones about safety, and fear, and bears. But I don’t. Because that would be deeply annoying.
What’s my point here? Oh, there it is. Go ahead and love the book. I don’t blame you. Everybody else does. I wish I could. I really want to, but it left a lingering aftertaste I can’t ignore.