Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Part Twenty of a review of "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail," Chapter Ten, Part Two: More Men, More Bullshit, and Way Too Much Information

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

Part Twenty: Chapter Ten, Part Two: More Men, More Bullshit, and Way Too Much Information

Cheryl wakes up "in the woods somewhere outside the Whitehorse Campground" the morning after those two mean old people forced her to leave when she thought she was too fucking special to pay the camping fee.  Boo-fucking-hoo, I feel so bad for her, except the opposite of that.

She studies her guidebook as she eats breakfast and-- I hope you're sitting down, because this will come as a shock to you-- SHE'S GOING TO BYPASS THE TRAIL because there's a remote possibility of snow in the next short stretch of the trail.  "The idea of [snow] spooked me," and are you fucking kidding.  She comes up with a super brilliant plan to walk along "a jeep road" around all the snow to get to Three Lakes and tries to justify this by saying that the "jeep road" and the PCT trail section covered "about the same distance"-- fifteen miles, she says-- so it's not like she's cheating or anything.

"I packed up my camp, walked back down the trail I'd come on the night before, and strode defiantly through the Whitehorse Campground."
Take that, mean old people!
Cheryl spends all morning not hiking the PCT and that's so weird because I thought this book was supposed to be about her epic journey on the PCT, but I guess not.  As she's walking, she can't stop thinking about her next resupply box in Belden Town and how she's gonna immediately blow the $20 in the box on a bunch of stupid shit, especially Snapple lemonade, and she's going to bring up Snapple lemonade about 1000 more times before the book is over because she desperately wants to be a paid spokesperson for as many companies as possible (see: REI).
She spends the next half of a page telling us something that 1) we don't need to know, 2) would never want to know and 3) adds absolutely nothing to the book.  I am fighting my dread and disgust so that I can share all of the awesomeness with you.  You're welcome in advance.
"Midafternoon, I felt a familiar tug inside me.  I was getting my period."
This is happening.  Brace yourself.
She whips out her "natural menstrual sponge" and,
"I attempted to wash my hands with water from my bottle, dousing the sponge as I did so, and squeezed it out, pulled down my shorts, squatted on the road, and pushed the sponge into my vagina as far as I could, wedging it against my cervix."
For the men who are reading this: This is not how it works, and I am so sorry you had to read that.
As soon as she's done with this awful business, she hears a truck approaching and is super grateful that she had already finished stuffing that dirty sponge up her cooch because omg, men.
"'Howdy,' a man said, and reached through his open window.  I took his hand and shook it, conscious of where mine had just been."
Big racist Cheryl feels the need to tell us that the man was white (and "handsome and clean-cut"), as was the man sitting beside him, as were the two boys in the back seat, and uh-uh, there was also a non-white person in the vehicle, so let's be sure to point this out.
"The other man was Latino and long-haired, a hard round belly rising before him."
They're all heading to Three Lakes-- the place 15 miles away from Whitehorse, where Cheryl is heading-- but their truck is too packed for them to give her a ride, and that's when Cheryl says, "That's okay.  I like to walk," even though she clearly would rather hitch a ride and then claim to have hiked the distance because she assumes that anyone reading this piece of shit is an idiot who won't notice (and she's mostly right-- have you read the 5-star reviews on Amazon?).  The men tell her to meet up with them when she arrives because they'll be having "Hawaiian screwdrivers" and Cheryl doesn't know what the fuck those are but concludes, "they didn't sound all that different from Snapple lemonade," because she is a tool.
She arrives at Three Lakes and we can only assume that she somehow miracled her dumb ass there because there's no way she just walked fifteen miles in one day, but whatever, there she is and we're not supposed to question this.  She again needs everyone to be constantly aware of her vagina because,
"I set up my tent and ducked into the woods to squeeze out my sponge and put it in again,"

and I so don't want this mental picture, but thanks so much, Cheryl.  Enjoy your yeast infection.

Cheryl doesn't understand how bathing works, splashes some water on her face and *boom* all clean.  And here we go about her goddamned toenails:

"When I rubbed them, another blackened toenail came off in my hand,"

and no, that's not quite how that works, but okay, Cheryl, whatever you say.  You're so hardcore.

She goes to meet up with the men and boys from the truck and I'm so confused, none of them get to have names except the Latino man, who she decides to call "Paco," I'm assuming because it rhymes with "taco," you know, because he's Latino and she's an asshole.  The nameless white guys at least get to be firefighters.

Yet again, the men are super impressed with what she's doing and I can't believe that people on the PCT are so surprised and impressed with someone (supposedly) hiking the PCT as if the concept had never occurred to them before and Cheryl is the first person in the history of the world to be doing this, but if we're to believe Cheryl, they just couldn't even believe it.

"'You've got to be kidding me!  You've got to be kidding me!" the firefighters took turns exclaiming when I explained to them what I was doing and showed them my battered feet with their eight remaining toenails."
She is kidding you. 
They ask her "question after question while marveling and shaking their heads" because of course they did, and then the most racist sentence of the entire book happens:
"'Women are the ones with the cojones,' said Paco as he made a bowl of guacamole."

I mean, jesus. 

Apparently the white men are not interested in her because she never brings them up again, but she has a whole ridiculous interaction with Paco.  He asks if she wants to smoke a joint with him and of course she does, and then Cheryl confuses him with a Native American-- they're the same, right?-- because this supposedly happens:

"'You're on a spirit walk, aren't you?' Paco said, staring into the fire."

Paco gives her a Bob Marley t-shirt and we're supposed to believe these words actually came out of his mouth:

"'That is a sacred shirt,' Paco said as I studied it by the firelight.  'I want you to have it because I can see that you walk with the spirits of the animals, with the spirits of the earth and the sky.'"
That must have been the best fucking weed in the history of weed because otherwise, no.
Cheryl, admittedly drunk and stoned at this point, stumbles back to her camp and starts asking a series of stupid questions to no one in particular.
"Did I walk with the spirits?  Did my mom?  Where had she gone after she died?  Where was Lady?  Had they really ridden together across the river to the other side?"
No, no, nowhere, nowhere and no.
Thank god, she goes to sleep at this point and we can stop reading for today. 


  1. 15 miles in one day....lol. Isn't it great that she wasn't on the actual PCT during all of these miraculous super sprints she's suddenly able to do? I mean, if she were on the trail where other hikers might notice her super strength, she'd be all accountable. Lol.

    I read this bit with the scene from the Beevis and Butthead do America in my head. You know, the scene where they blaze up and have a spirit journey. You'd think someone recently strung out on heroin wouldn't be as affected by pot as she is.

  2. Are there any people who met Cheryl on the PCT back in the day who, now that she is famous, have come forward to talk about it? I would looooove it if someone did. Thanks for this series!

    1. You are so welcome, and thanks for reading!

      In all my research, I could only find one anonymous post on a PCT-related website from someone claiming "to have hiked with Cheryl" and I'm pretty sure it was Cheryl because the post went something like, "All the men on the trail wanted to bang Cheryl and she never complained about anything." I'm paraphrasing, but seriously, that was the sentiment expressed. I'M ONTO YOU, CHERYL.

    2. I have spoke to people who hiked the PCT that season. The reality is, since she didn't become part of the community (by all accounts, her own included, she actively avoided the community), not many people recall her and the trail registers that she did sign were all accessible without thru hiking.

      Let's put the question another way: if you were any of the people Cheryl so vividly and fondly recalls, why aren't the coming forward? Where's Greg? What about the Eagle Scout-father-son duo? Why is it that the woman who put her up for days outside of Grass Valley hasn't stepped forward to confirm the story? Paco? The fact is, even with a 19 year delay, someone should be able to confirm her hike. What does it say about Cheryl where, in a community where I exchange Christmas cards six years after hiking with someone and can't name a state of the republic where I don't know a hiker.... that she's not better known? I'm not trying to be mean, honestly...It's just fishy.

      I've talked with someone who thinks they remember Cheryl at Kennedy. They hiked the PCT in 1995 and had a scrapbook full of proof to date their trek (like a Whitney Summit permit and such from June 95)...they paint an extraordinarily different picture of the unprepared woman who waltzed into camp.

      I think Cheryl purposefully avoided giving specific dates and didn't create relationships beyond fuck buddy simply so no one COULD contradict her tale.

    3. Califohioan, I'm pretty sure this is the post you must have seen. It's a comment posted on the blog of Carrot Quinn, a respected blogger who hiked the PCT twice. The entry was made by a poster named "CJ", and here it is verbatim:

      "I hiked with Cheryl Strayed in ’95, she could have fucked her way up the trail, she was 26, blond, pretty, funny, and a lot of the men we ran into did want to get into her pants, but she definitely exercised discretion. She also cracked jokes, washed her hands (most of the time), and didn’t complain out loud much. I didn’t realize how bad her feet were until she showed me her purple and blue toes at Burney Falls, I was amazed she made it to Castella with her feet in that condition, and then her only complaint was she had lost her cool Bob Marley t shirt. I’d like to see the Cheryl Strayed haters hike section O in duct tape sandals with a 50 lb. pack."

      Now that is an awful lot of specific first-hand knowledge. This "CJ" must have spent many days hiking with Cheryl to have formed so thorough of an assessment. Somebody who hiked with her that long surely should have made it into her book, but I didn't see them in her story.

      Or maybe, as you postulate, Cheryl made that post.

    4. Facilman, that's the one I read. I just don't seem to remember anyone in the book "hiking with her" for any meaningful amount of time-- certainly not long enough to know any of this garbage.

    5. You'll also notice that there isn't a speck of new information provided in that post. Everything CJ mentions comes straight out of the book. Strange that somebody who spent a lot of time hiking with her would make an off-the-cuff post in support of Cheryl, but one that doesn't manage to mention anything they personally noted that couldn't be gleaned from the pages of the book.

      The greatest hits are all there - the 50 lb. pack, the duct-tape sandals, the Bob Marley T-shirt, and even the glowing evaluation of Cheryl's personal characteristics. You'd think if this person went to the trouble to pop out of the woodwork they could manage to offer something we haven't heard before.

    6. My husband and I ride a motorcycle ride called Three Flags, which starts in Mexico and ends in Canada.... with about 325 riders. It lasts 4 days only, and so of course we cover a lot of ground. Some riders are fast, some are slow and most are somewhere in between. Even so, we see the same motorcycle riders over and over again who ride at our pace. We pass them; they pass us, and many times we chat or have a meal together, or meet at the banquet at the end of the ride. And I still remember them and their names to this day.

      And because of these experiences, I find it impossible to believe that Cheryl didn't form that camaraderie and connection that we did, since I assume she would have similarly been at the same pace as other hikers.

      If she did indeed meet so many, wouldn't they come forward and join in on all the revery?!?!

    7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    8. Has anyone seen 'Greg's' (ne Roger) blog of the PCT site? I didn't waste my time reading it all because I have already lost enough brain matter on WIld. Is (1) this blog legit (2) he was paid by Cheryl or (3) it was Cheryl writing it.

      Oh and PS - Roger seems to have a shitload more pics of his hike!

    9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I even love the comments section of this blog !

    1. As do I. There are a lot of awesome people on here.

  4. Greg (aka Richard) responded to my post on another Wild blog. I had said I believe she is a liar and 2 days later, I rec'd an email with his response. The blog is by some guy named Mags who posts a bunch of smiley faces & loves cheryl. I copied & pasted Greg/Richard's post under part 33 (before I arrived here). Please take a look (he claims to be Greg in the book but his real name is Richard & he loves cheryl and how dare I call her a liar.

  5. Here's the blog: http://www.pmags.com/that-book-cheryl-strayeds-wild

  6. >'Women are the ones with the cojones,' said Paco as he made a bowl of guacamole."

    >I mean, jesus.

    No, you mean "hay-soos".

  7. Okay, long time reader now able to post! I have wondered about the following: When were sponges invented or (excuse the pun) become mainstream. When was lemonade Snapple available in California? Not finding a lot of info on either but it could make or break her story.

  8. Excellent point. Some actualy PCT hikers pointed out that state laws actual prohibtied selling drinks in glass bottles (Snapple was only available in glass bottles at the time)within a certain distance of hiking/camping areas.