Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Part Nine of a review of "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail," Most of Chapter Five: How Things Work

A review of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed

Part Nine, Most of Chapter Five: How Things Work


Admittedly, I lost patience when reviewing Chater Four, so I should go back and review the last few pages before starting on Chapter Five, just to be fair.

Her awful abortion flashback ends just as clumsily as it began and *bam* we're back on the PCT.  She manages to walk THREE WHOLE HOURS on the first day of her hike (are you fucking kidding me) before deciding to quit for the day, and upon taking her pack off, she starts wandering around and immediately stabs herself on some Joshua trees because she doesn't understand how Joshua trees work.  When she goes to grab a Band-Aid, they all blow away beause Cheryl doesn't understand how wind works.

Get some tissues ready to cry a river for her, she's so tired!  She retrieves her guidebook from her pack-- The Pacific Crest Trail, Volume I: California-- and I assume she only brings this up to make it seem like she was familiar with its text, though it's almost instantly clear that she probably only skimmed it before starting on her "hike."  She refers to it as "my bible.  My lifeline."  Um, except:

"There were things I'd overlooked, I saw now, such as the quote on page 6..."
Lost interest by page 6 in her "bible."
 
She compares her backpack once again to a Volkswagon Beetle and then-- brace yourself for the shock-- HEY, DID I MENTION HOW MY MOM DIED?  LET ME TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT.  I know.  I could hardly believe it, myself.
 
Blaaaaarrrrrggggggghhhhhh, and then she finally gets into to her tent for the night.
 
"Then I rummaged through my things to find a book: not The Pacific Crest Trail, Volume I: California, which I should have been reading to see what lay ahead the next day,"
Because of course not.
 
"and not Staying Found, which I should have read before starting the trail,"
Why learn how to use a compass?  You'll be fine.
 
"but Adrienne Rich's book of poems, The Dream of a Common Language."
I'm sure THAT will be helpful.
 
 
 She then claims that she had read this book of poems so often "that [she'd] practically memorized it," which... why even carry it, then?  It is unnecessary weight.  Just... stupid.  And then, this:
 
"It was true that The Pacific Crest Trail, Volume I: California was now my bible, but The Dream of a Common Language was my religion."
So really, you know your bible about as well as Christians know theirs.  This might actually be a fair comparison.
 
 
 
And that was the end of Chapter Four.
 
 
It just sunk in that I still have all of Chapter Five to review today and this is how I feel about that:
 
 

 

 
Ugh.
 
Chapter Five.  Someone just kill me now.
 
 
Chapter Five starts out with Cheryl claiming that she is "technically fifteen days older than the Pacific Crest Trail," which I guess is supposed to cause us to be somehow even more impressed with her.  She then pretty much copies and pastes everything she could find about the PCT from Wikipedia to make it seem like she's some sort of expert, and then describes the trail as such--
 
"It felt ancient.  Knowing.  Utterly and profoundly indifferent to me."

-- because everything is profound, everything is all about her, and everything is a goddamned sentence fragment.  God, I hate her so much.

She wakes up after sleeping twelve fucking hours and instead of getting up and starting the day as soon as possible, she decides to just chill out in her tent for a solid hour because of course she did.  So tired!  She states that she is still thirteen miles away from the first water source on the trail, so let me do the math for you: SHE WALKED FOUR WHOLE MILES THE FIRST DAY AND IT TOOK HER THREE HOURS.  Are.  You.  Fucking.  Kidding.  Me.  I can stand still faster than this woman can walk.

After wasting an hour sitting in her tent, she then admits, "It took me an hour to break camp and set off."  I-- I.... just... what the fuck.  So (two hours after getting up), when she finally gets her shit together and heads out, she sees some animal scat and Ranger Cheryl immediately concludes that it must be from a coyote or a mountain lion because she is clearly an expert on this sort of thing (except the opposite of that, and she's only bringing this up to make her story seem more dramatic-- oooohhh, *dangerous animals*).

She walks for a little bit without getting eaten by all the beasts, has lunch and then falls asleep for a couple hours and, oh jesus, I feel like I'm going to give myself a stroke if I keep violently rolling my eyes like this.  She wakes up and starts walking again and holy shit, there are hills and mountains and stuff, who would have imagined.  I guess her bible didn't warn her about that.

"As I ascended, I realized I didn't understand what a mountain was."
Yeah, that sentence happened.
 
Blah, blah, blah, mountains are hard!  She keeps climbing until she reaches the top of what I imagine was only a moderate hill-- "I knew it was the top because there was snow"-- and then just vomits out a whole mess of confusing ignorance:
 
"I hadn't expected it to rain in the desert, and I certainly hadn't expected it to snow.  As with the mountains, there'd been no deserts where I grew up, and though I'd gone on day hikes in a couple of them, I didn't really understand what deserts were."
What DO you understand? 

What the crap was all of that.  First of all, it *didn't* rain when she was in the Mojave desert, nor did it snow.  She's supposedly in "the mountains" now, which is a decidedly different place than the desert, and yet she is still seemingly bewildered by the reality of snow in the mountains.  And who on the face of this planet doesn't understand "what deserts are."  What the hell.  I just... want to... throttle... ugh.

"What a mountain was and what a desert was were not the only things I had not expected."

No kidding.

"But I hadn't factored in my lack of fitness, nor the genuine rigors of the trail, until I was on it."
Her editor needs to be shot in the face.
 
 
She starts walking again and her gigantic backpack starts squeaking, so genius Cheryl tries *swabbing it with some lip balm* and you're not gonna believe this: that didn't help anything.
 
Suddenly, nature calls, and I can't even believe I'm going to have to describe this.  First of all, she modestly refers to it as having to "use the bathroom," which I don't understand in the least because in the same exact sentence she describes what she has to do as "shit in a hole."  I just-- ugh.  So she gets out her U-Dig-It trowel to attempt to dig a shit hole.  She tries to dig a hole in what was clearly solid rock:
 
"Only a jackhammer could've done the job.  Or a man."
Such a feminist.
 
She couldn't manage to *dig through rock,* so instead of looking for a more appropriate place to dig, she gave up and took a dump right in the middle of the trail because that's what hikers do.
 
"Afterwards, I limped around gathering rocks and built a small crap cairn, burying the evidence before hiking on."
Did you shit out a Volkswagen Beetle?  Why are you limping?
 

Cairn: noun.  A heap of stones set up as a landmark, monument, tombstone, etc.

Only Cheryl Strayed would build a monument to her own pile of shit.

Suddenly it's seven o'clock at night and she STILL hasn't reached the next water source, so she decides to camp for the night.  We're blessedly spared any details about her night or her reading material, but she does mention how she draped her sweaty clothes over a bush to let them dry overnight.  Guess what happened.

"In the morning, I had to force them on.  Rigid as boards, they'd frozen overnight."
I didn't understand what 'freezing' was.
 
She finally reaches the water source "a few hours" into her third day (my brain is about to explode right now, I'll have you know), and upon finding it, she tries to use her water purifier, only to come to the grim realization that it was much easier to use back in her kitchen sink right after her no-big-whoop abortion.  It takes her an hour to pump enough water to replenish her dromedary bag and water bottles.  She then states that the next water source is nineteen miles away, which, at this rate, should take her about a thousand years to reach.  With that knowledge in mind, you'd think that she'd be off and away as soon as possible, but no.
 
"I had every intention of hiking on that day, but instead I sat in my camp chair near the spring.  It had warmed up at last, the sun shining on my bare arms and legs.  I took off my shirt, pulled my shorts down low, and lay with my eyes closed, hoping the sun would soothe the patches of skin on my torso that had been worn raw by my pack."
Nothing heals wounds like sunburn!
 
She says hello to a lizard-- "Hello, lizard"-- and then makes a big stink about the bruise on her ankle.  It's there because big old super heroin-addict Cheryl had shot heroin right before going on this hike because no she didn't.  This is just another example of her trying to make her story more dramatic and I refuse to play into it.  Again-- YOU DO NOT BECOME ADDICTED TO HEROIN AND THEN GO ON A 1000-MILE NATURE WALK, IT JUST DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY.  I can't wait to see how they play up this absolute bullshit in the movie.
 
She *spends the day* not hiking and trying to figure out how a compass works.
 
"I found north, south, east, and west."
I hate you.
 
Blah, blah, clearly she won't be hiking today.  She attempts to make herself a hot meal for the first time,
 
"...but I couldn't get my stove to sustain a flame, no matter what I tried.  I pulled the little instruction book out,"

NOW you read the instructions?
 
"read the troubleshooting section, and learned that I'd filled the stove's canister with the wrong kind of gas.  I'd filled it with unleaded fuel instead of the special white gas that it was meant to have, and now the generator was clogged, its tiny pan blackened by my efforts."
Where are you now, REI employees?
 
 
She "wasn't hungry anyway," and ate her abortion flakes, instead. 
 
We'll finish Chapter Five tomorrow.  I know, I can't wait, either.
 
 

16 comments:

  1. The lies! They burn!
    Strayed did this hike in 1995. I called bullshit when she talked about snow on the first few days out. Because, holy crap, would you believe that there were these things called weather stations in 1995? "The hell!", you say? Oh. Believe it. California is a drought ridden state where people have, quite literally, killed over water. Precipitation is our mother fuckin' heroin. We document the shit out of rain and snow.

    So, what does the old record say about June, 1995, on the trail? I'll even be generous and throw in a couple of peaks that are visible from the trail, if not on it. The record shows that 1995 was kind of a dry year for that part of the Sierra. Two years prior, there were record floods and snow, but at the elevations Strayed was at at this point in her journey...snow doesn't last two years. In fact, though the area did experience a colder than average June on the trail, the lowest low for June was 65 degrees. Shit. Their are people in Alaska who pull out the bikini for 65 degrees.

    But, ok. She's not a mountain girl...or desert girl...or, really, an outdoors girl. Could she have seen snow one her second morning out, after only traveling 3 hours on day one? Nope. No fucking way in hell. I'll buy the Joshua Tree biting her. She was in Joshua Tree land. But, seeing snow? Bullshit. The closest visible peak, three miles from her point of entry to the trail would be in a pretty nice valley with a few visible peaks. The only problem with her whole, "OMG snow!" shock...? She would've crested over the highest peak she could see about a half mile before her campsite....and that particular peak was well below 5,000 feet in elevation. For reference, snow rarely sticks to that area in June below 7000 feet. There are, of course, odd years when it sticks longer and lower, but 1995 wasn't one of them.

    Ok. Ok. But, what if she was just broadly describing scenery and not a particular location? That's cool. But, then own it. Own the fact that the only snow capped peaks she could've seen in JUNE OF 1995 would've been significantly further along on the trail! There's so much fucking beauty out there to comment on and I don't doubt that, after a 90 degree Mojave (which, truly, the locals consider to be a cool day), a night in a tent at 65 degrees might be chilly, for some. But, stop over dramatizing it. There's NO EARTHLY WAY her boots froze overnight on that second night. It just didn't happen...unless she had a freezer or dry ice. The weather beacon recorded, for all of June, for that range of the trail, a monthly low of 40 degrees. That's including everything between Tehachapi and Walker pass. Bull to the shit on frozen boots.

    As for her lack of water, she's completely contradicting her 'it was cold and wet enough to have snow and frozen boots" story. I think she did lack enough water and I'm sure it was tough to find some potable water. But, then again, if you're smart, you prepare for it by rationing what you have or carrying water instead of books. You plan ahead. And, if all goes to shit, there are places, if you could read a topo map and use a compass, where you, in an emergency, could leave the trail and find water from ATV camps and the little hidy holes locals know about.

    This whole chapter pisses me off because it's almost like she's trying to die one the trail and force Kern or Inyo County to bare the ridiculous cost of recovering her body. Fuck her in the fucking neck for not fuckng preparing. You don't shoot up heroin and go hiking you fucking cow. (Sorry. I think I channeled Penn Jillette for a moment.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is a top-quality comment.

      Delete
    2. Your level of research inspires me. I've come across this blog late. But god, its cathartic to have my bullshit spider sense vindicated.

      Delete
  2. Huh, I thought she said in the same paragraph where she had the abortion that she'd read the guidebook "a dozen times." I guess she started on page 7.

    I bet she found the four cardinal directions carefully, one at a time, just the way she makes it sound.

    "Only Cheryl Strayed would build a monument to her own pile of shit." I think I just strained a muscle convulsing with laughter.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I just saw the movie today with friends. What a load of bollocks and codswollop it was. They don't show the ankle bruise from heroin use, or I'd have gotten up and left immediately. She really expects us to believe she went through withdrawal from heroin ON THE TRAIL? Your blog is wonderfully entertaining BTW.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. BAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA LMAO

      Delete
    2. Another hilarious but deleted Talking Snake comment. Reading this blog without these comments feels like, I dunno, doing a big hike and skipping big sections that you think are too hard or something.

      Delete
  5. About the laziness thing, perhaps you are being too hard on the young girl? From what I've read here you are an ex-army badass, but Strayed was a water-fat college druggie in her early or mid twenties. When I was in my early 20s a chick and I took some time off from bush-doofing to go hike around Tasmania. We hitchhiked to a mountain, smoked a joint and set off on a trail. Saw some beautiful stuff, made a campfire on the edge of ravine, slept on a bed of moss... it was three enchanted days before we emerged from the trail back at the starting point. We then saw the sign we missed on the way in, that informed us the trail was a 3-hour estimated day walk (camping prohibited). Some people at some points in their lives just lazy as fuck.

    ReplyDelete
  6. About the heroin thing, I think its entirely possible that Strayed injected heroin, and that she even got a bruise from it, it happens. But just cos you inject doesn't make you an instant addict. Heroin is made out to be a fatally irresistible drug, addictive from the first hit, but in reality it takes some time of sustained use to become hooked, and only a small percentage get instantly attracted to it anyway. All this hyperbole about its danger makes its appealing to rebels and the self-obsessed, but in effect its really a bit meh for most.

    So what I'm saying is that Strayed strikes me as the type who would be attracted enough to its dark glamour (and the dark glamour of injecting it too), but not the type to go hard on it to the point of addiction. She is however probably the type to self-obsess about her propensity to get addicted, and maybe thats what motivated her PCT stroll.

    Anyway, its not like going cold turkey from heroin is that onerous, unless you've got a bad habit. It just might make you a little bit sluggish when you're about and about.

    ReplyDelete
  7. About the heroin thing, I think its entirely possible that Strayed injected heroin, and that she even got a bruise from it, it happens. But just cos you inject doesn't make you an instant addict. Heroin is made out to be a fatally irresistible drug, addictive from the first hit, but in reality it takes some time of sustained use to become hooked, and only a small percentage get instantly attracted to it anyway. All this hyperbole about its danger makes its appealing to rebels and the self-obsessed, but in effect its really a bit meh for most.

    So what I'm saying is that Strayed strikes me as the type who would be attracted enough to its dark glamour (and the dark glamour of injecting it too), but not the type to go hard on it to the point of addiction. She is however probably the type to self-obsess about her propensity to get addicted, and maybe thats what motivated her PCT stroll.

    Anyway, its not like going cold turkey from heroin is that onerous, unless you've got a bad habit. It just might make you a little bit sluggish when you're about and about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm with you on just about everything else you wrote but ct withdrawal from heroin is definitely that "onerous". Its more than a little debilitating. that shit ain't no fuckin joke. Calling it a little bit sluggish is like calling my Everest a bit of a hill. And one more vote for
      "You absolutely could not be detoxing from a heavy IV habit or even a smaller IV habit and hiking this fuckin trail at the same time." Fuck her I hate wannabe pretend junkies why would you ever want to be in that club it fucking blows trust me.

      Delete
  8. About the laziness thing, perhaps you are being too hard on the young girl? From what I've read here you are an ex-army badass, but Strayed was a water-fat college druggie in her early or mid twenties. When I was in my early 20s a chick and I took some time off from bush-doofing to go hike around Tasmania. We hitchhiked to a mountain, smoked a joint and set off on a trail. Saw some beautiful stuff, made a campfire on the edge of ravine, slept on a bed of moss... it was three enchanted days before we emerged from the trail back at the starting point. We then saw the sign we missed on the way in, that informed us the trail was a 3-hour estimated day walk (camping prohibited). Some people at some points in their lives just lazy as fuck.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I am extremely late to this party and blog. Stumbling across it just today. I can't with you because you are making me snort sounds I have never heard come out of my mouth. You are hysterical. "Did you shit out a Volkswagen Beetle? Why are you limping?" Dead. Done. I can't wait read the rest of your review. A friend just bought me this book and I just finished reading it. Love your review and all the comments.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm late to the party too and having a hell of a good time reading your reviews, so thank you! I laughed so hard at this one.

      Delete