Sunday, December 7, 2014

Part Seven of a review of "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail," Chapter Three, The Bullshit Gets Real

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

Part Seven: Chapter Three, The Bullshit Gets Real

Chapter Three is called "HUNCHING IN A REMOTELY UPRIGHT POSITION," because Cheryl doesn't understand the definition of 'hunching' and doesn't realize that this phrase is redundant.  She also thinks that this a very clever thing she's written (she probably thinks it's a profoundly clever thing because she's Cheryl Strayed and 'very' isn't a fancy enough word for her).  She insists on repeating this stupid phrase throughout the chapter (and again in future chapters) often enough that you'll eventually want to smack her upside the head.  We get it, Cheryl.  Your backpack was heavy.

Except you don't know how heavy her backpack is yet.  You're about to find out.
I own my sentence fragments.

Anyway, Chapter Three starts and she manages to go a whole paragraph without mentioning her dead mom, which caused me to flip the book over to make sure I was still reading Wild.  She does, however, refer to herself as "the woman with the hole in her heart" so we won't forget how fragile and damaged she is.

"I could feel myself disintegrating inside myself like a past-bloom flower in the wind.  Every time I moved a muscle, another petal of me blew away.  Please, I thought.  Please."
Exactly, Cheryl.  Please. 
She mentions how her brand new tattoo is scabbing-- "a blue horse on my left deltoid" (she has a maddening habit of using unnecessary words all the damn time; I guess just calling it her shoulder would be too commonplace for a great writer like Cheryl)-- and explains that she and her ex-husband had gotten matching blue horse tattoos in honor of their divorce AND YOU REALLY DON'T WANT TO KNOW THE SYMBOLISM OF THE HORSE, but you'll find out in Chapter Ten and then you will want to track this woman down and torture her to death.
It's nine in the morning on the day of the hike and Cheryl decides that now is finally the time to pack her fucking backpack.  I don't even.
Cheryl lists the contents of her pack in a series of run-on sentences, and I assume she does this for two reasons:  she is an awful writer, and she's hoping that maybe you won't notice how full of shit she is if she doesn't actually LIST the unbelievable amount of garbage she's supposedly carrying.  I will now go ahead and do you the favor of actually listing all of it in list form.  I have also taken the liberty to list the price of every single thing she claims to have packed because it should be taken into consideration that Cheryl was working as a waitress in the months leading up to her hike and I find it impossible that she could have afforded all of this gear.  She makes the mistake of saying that she bought the vast majority of this gear at REI, so I was easily able to look up prices.  Pour yourself a drink and get comfortable.  This is going to take some time.  Better yet, just start scrolling down and see how long it takes before you say something like, "Oh my fucking god, are you kidding me."
  • compass $13.00
  • book on how to use compass ("Staying Found") $14.95
  • first aid kit with case $30.00
  • roll of toilet paper in Ziploc bag $0.25
  • stainless steel towel with sheath (U-Dig-It) $13.49
  • shampoo $1.00
  • conditioner $1.00
  • soap $1.00
  • lotion $3.00
  • sunscreen $3.00
  • hairbrush $1.00
  • natural menstrual sponge $10.00
  • waterproof/sunblock lip balm $2.00
  • flashlight $15.00
  • metal candle lantern $25.00
  • votive candle (x2) $8.00
  • foldable saw $35.00
  • tent with green nylon bag $100.00
  • 32oz plastic water bottle (x2) $20.00
  • 2.6 gallon dromedary bag $45.00
  • nylon rain cover $20.00
  • Gore-Tex raincoat $120.00
  • batteries $10.00
  • waterproof matches $7.00
  • Mylar blanket $4.00
  • bottle of iodine pills $11.00
  • pens (x2) $1.00
  • 3 books $37.00
  • 8" x 11" 200-page sketchbook $10.00
  • Drivers license /
  • "small wad of cash" /
  • blue compression sack $20.00
  • fleece pants $50.00
  • Long-sleeve thermal shirt $30.00
  • hooded fleece anorak $40.00
  • wool socks (x2) $20.00
  • underwear (x2) $8.00
  • gloves $6.00
  • sun hat $10.00
  • rain pants $45.00
  • dry bag $35.00
  • food for 14 days ???
  • sleeping bag $60.00
  • camp chair $25.00
  • headlamp $15.00
  • bungee cods (x5) $5.00
  • water purifier $100.00
  • collapsible stove, aluminum canister and gas $50.00
  • pink lighter $0.25
  • large and small cooking pot with utensils $70.00
  • sport sandals $30.00
  • quick-dry pack towel $15.00
  • thermometer keychain $10.00
  • tarp $10.00
  • insulated plastic mug with handle $12.00
  • snakebite kit $17.00
  • Swiss army knife $20.00
  • miniature binoculars with case $50.00
  • coil of rope $5.00
  • sheaf of stamps $3.00
  • tiny spiral notebook $1.00
  • Minolta X-700 35mm camera with attachable zoom les, attachable flash, collapsible tripod and camera case $900.00
  • the backpack itself $100.00
  • her stupid boots $300.00


She also has 12 care packages that she prepared to have a friend send to her (each of which included at least $20 in cash), a plane ticket, four months of student loan payments she made ahead of time and a package of condoms that she inexplicably left off of her list.  I don't know how much her student loan payments were, nor how much she spent on the care packages or the plane ticket, but after making some estimates and calculating everything, she somehow was able to afford over THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS worth of stuff on a waitress' salary.
She says that it took her six months to save up enough to afford all this.  I don't know about you, but I make way more than a waitress and I don't have an extra $500 sitting around at the end of every month.  As I wrote in large, angry, sloppy letters in the margin of the book, "I CALL SHENANIGANS."

Let's move on.
She then talks about this store called REI (omg, have you heard of it?) and how every time she went there to make a purchase, the salespeople actually knew what they were talking about and were able to explain the pros and cons of every single item.
"These employees ranged in age and manner and area of wilderness adventure proclivity, but what they had in common was that every last one of them could talk about gear, with interest and nuance, for a length of time that was so dumbfounding that I was ultimately bedazzled by it."

She then writes the sentence fragment, "And their knowledge had a way of rubbing off on me."  I wrote-- again, in large, angry letters-- "NO, IT DID NOT."  She finishes this paragraph with the line, "I felt as if I'd become a backpacking expert," which prompted me to write, "YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE."
"It was only as I stood gazing at that pile of meticulously chosen gear on the bed in my Mojave motel room that I knew with profound humility that I was not."
Stop saying "profound."
 She takes an unnecessary amount of time to explain how she packed her backpack and stated, "When I was done, I sat on the floor, sweaty from my exertions, and stared peaceably at my pack," which had prompted my friend Jaime to write, "Packing is hard!" which made me laugh aloud.  Then Cheryl writes,
"And then I remembered one last thing: water."
THEN you remembered water?  GFY.
Blah, blah, blah, she says a bunch of crap I don't care about, and then she says that it would take her two days to reach the first water source, 17 miles into the hike.  Never mind that it should only take one day to cover this distance, but then again, a real hiker would have left before noon.
Cheryl then admits that she will be carrying 24.5 pounds just in water.  Add that to the seemingly endless amount of crap she has crammed into her backpack, and... ugh.  She eventually makes the claim that her pack weighs "half of her weight," and I have a hard time believing that Cheryl weighs 200 pounds.  If I'm being generous, her pack weighed at least 80 pounds.  Let that sink in.  80 POUNDS.
As I told you in Part Four, I am an experienced hiker.  When I made my San Diego to Los Angeles hike, EVERYTHING I was carrying weighed a total of 18 pounds, and this included water.  I will tell you that by the end of a 40-mile day, 18 pounds feels like a million pounds.  I will also say that in addition to being an experienced hiker, I am also an Army veteran.  I remember with extreme fondness the lengthy hikes we often made, and even as a soldier-- loaded up with a busting pack, wearing a considerably heavy bullet-proof vest and carrying an M-16-- I doubt I was carrying more than 35 to 40 pounds worth of stuff.  Cheryl is carrying at least twice that much and... no.  Bullshit.
Digression over.
She finishes packing, describes her backpack as "mildly adorable" (wtf?), and then attempts to lift it.
"It wouldn't budge."
She then repeatedly compares her backpack to a Volkwagen Beetle because again, she's profoundly clever.  She continues this comparison in future chapters because once she's written something she deems clever, she beats it to death.
"How could I carry a backpack more than a thousand miles over rugged mountains and waterless deserts if I couldn't even budge it an inch in an air-conditioned motel room?"
Don't you mean "a room with a vented white metal box in the corner?"
Volkswagen Beetle, Volkswagen Beetle, she manages to get it on her back and she's "hunching in a remotely upright position," and then she breaks the air conditioner.
"By the time I was standing-- which is to say, hunching in a remotely upright position-- I was holding the vented metal panel that I'd accidentally ripped loose from the cooling unit in my efforts."
"You gonna pay for that?" -- Jaime
No, she's not gonna pay for that.  She makes a half-assed attempt to fix it, gives up after about 0.5 seconds and decides to leave (take that, stupid front-desk lady).
Hopefully, she'll actually start walking now. 


  1. When I was fourteen, I took a Sierra Club wilderness skills course that lasted several weekends and ended with an overnight backpacking trip. It involved sometimes spending hours at a time listening to lectures on topographic maps, first aid, what a great material down is, and the importance of packing light. Even after all that, I *still* didn't feel like a "backpacking expert," because I'd never actually been backpacking yet. At least when it did come time for the overnight trip, I wasn't absolutely *shocked* to discover that carrying something heavy on my back was *awkward and uncomfortable*.

    As for her only just remembering water at the last minute? She was in the Mojave Desert. I know that she comes to the conclusion in the next couple of chapters that she doesn't really understand what a desert is, but you don't have to have an intimate acquaintance with the strange and marvelous quirks and moods of the desert to know the two things that literally everyone who has ever heard the word "deset" knows: it's HOT and DRY. I live in the California desert (Sonoran, not Mojave), and I wouldn't walk the six or so blocks from my house to the post office in June without carrying a water bottle. How on EARTH does ANYONE head out to walk SEVENTEEN MILES in the DESERT in June and almost forget to pack WATER?

    P.S. Thank you for your military service! :-)

    1. I'm so bad at noticing comments. You're very welcome for my service; it was my pleasure. I don't know how to answer your question-- I have no idea how someone as brilliant as Cheryl almost forgot about water.

  2. I think I can explain how she happened to leave the condoms off the list, by the way. I seem to recall she was keeping them in her first aid kit, which she does mention, without giving an inventory of its contents - because OF COURSE she had condoms in her first aid kit. What were you expecting, bandages and antiseptic ointment, a couple aspirin, sterile gauze, an instruction booklet, maybe some tweezers? Puh-leeze. There's emergencies, and then there's *emergencies*, right?

  3. Well, you know...when you're a heroin junky who has just quit shooting up and you've already procured your hasty abortion, you have to prioritize that shit. Out with the Tylenol, in with the condoms, as i....never say.

    They made this shit sandwich into a movie for all of the young women to idolize. I hate to be judge, but tuck that...I will take my nieces to meet Scamper and her crew in Independence (shout out!) before allowing them to believe in hiking the Strayed way.

  4. I find it far more likely that she spent most of her time in college playing Dungeons & Dragons (you know, pretending to be a different person) and that was the list of items her character, a level 69 half-elf-half-unicorn warrior princess named Guinevere "Horseslayer" Hardenedheart, carried with her on her magical adventures in Neverrealm. The only things missing are a halberd and caltrops.

    Hell, I'll bet you a fist-full of condoms and a Wilco t-shirt our Favorite Fraudulent Fraulein got kicked out of more than one Renaissance Faire because her back-story wasnt believable enough.

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  6. Maybe she got the money by turning "tricks."

    Just wondering if the REI prices are from today (it sounded like it) or from 1995?

  7. Its a strange list. The stainless steel towel with sheath got me all hot and sweaty thinking about programmable beach robots and sun screen. THAT's a feverish dream scenario only improved by fish; jumping out of the ocean at me prior to whipping back as if reverse hooked on some kind of elastic rope or line.

    Sorry for being a dick about typos. Or are they sicced from the book itself? I find a lot of mistakes when I read nowadays, mainly online stuff, but books too. Never happened last century. No one cares anymore.

  8. Minolta X-700 35mm camera with attachable zoom les, attachable flash, collapsible tripod and camera case $900.00

    and she somehow managed to not take ANY pictures!

  9. she is so full of shit. There is no way that an inexperienced nitwit retard heroin junkie like her could hike even 10 miles of this trail. She is truly a shit sack. I thank you for this blog you are a true american hero, or at least a better writer than Cheryl Shithead.

    P.S. I am a junior in High School and i had to read this over the summer for my AP English class and let me tell you there were several occasions where i threw this rag across the room in frustration.

    1. Wait a minute. You had to read this for *school*? For an AP class, no less? What the actual fuck. 1) Where exactly are you going to high school and 2) what fucking idiot assigned this to you? I have some choice words for your teacher.

      Sorry you had to read this piece of shit, Jack. If you have to write an essay on it, promise you'll send me a copy.

    2. For English class? Really!? This should not even be considered "real" literature in an academic point of view.

  10. Enjoying this blog way more than the book! Thank you!

  11. Thank you for this article, I also hated the book, and who the hell shoots a horse with a .22? She is horrible.

  12. Thank you for this article, I also hated the book, and who the hell shoots a horse with a .22? She is horrible.

  13. another person noticed HORRIBLE Logic errors in this chaper. Most notabley is CS claims to have purchased these items in Minnesota and flown with them to CA. DO planes let you check plastic bags full of loose camping equipment? how did CS carry the roughly 80 to 100lbs worth of items to the plane and from the plane without realizing it would be heavy?

  14. I am so in love with this blog! It took me 3 attempts to finish this book. It would have been much more enjoyable if I had found the blog earlier!

    Cameron - your comments are awesome!

    1. I mentioend the other day how much I hated her adn this woman said "Obviously you're jealous of her. There can be no other reason"

  15. I am reading Wild at the moment (I recently started hiking long distances and thought it would be cool - big mistake). I found your blog when I googled "Cheryl Strayed stupid" looking for a rant about her ridiculous backpack, because it made me so angry and I didn't have anyone to share it with. I also want to note that I am reading the spanish translation of the novel, and I was blaming the translator for the poor literary quality, and wondering if maybe I should read the original version, but thanks to you I know Cheryl is the only one to blame. Anyway, congrats on the blog, I am probably going to finish this book just so that I can keep reading, enjoying and fully relating to your posts!