Thursday, January 1, 2015

Part Twenty-Six of a review of "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail," Chapter Twelve, Part Two: Cheryl Says More Things That Make Me Want to Punch Her in the Throat

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

Part Twenty-Six: Chapter Twelve, Part Two: Cheryl Says More Things That Make Me Want to Punch Her in the Throat

Cheryl wakes up at 8:30 in the morning and makes a big stink about how this is so uncharacteristic of her. "Eight thirty was late for me, like noon in my former life," and let's be honest, she's only gotten up early exactly one time so far on the trail, which happened the day before.  She's such an amazing expert-hiker, I can barely contain my awe.

She leaves camp and seven sentences later,

"Within an hour, I almost stepped on another rattlesnake, though it too warned me off politely with its rattle."

JUST STOP IT.  YOU ARE NOT ALMOST STEPPING ON RATTLESNAKES AND HOW MANY GODDAMNED TIMES ARE WE GOING TO BE FORCED TO READ YOUR OVERLY DRAMATIC BULLSHIT ABOUT (not) ALMOST STEPPING ON RATTLESNAKES.  I've covered this so many times now.  There's nothing else I can say unless I just try to come up with new and exciting ways to call her an idiot and this is getting old, even for me.  Also, "though it too warned me off?"  In addition to what?  Nothing else happened in that paragraph.  I've been mentally junk-punching her editor for the past 197 pages and I think it's finally time to give our first official shout-out to Cheryl's editor, Robin Desser.  Way to go, Robin.  This is a real masterpiece.

By late afternoon, she decides that there's no way she's going to make it to her next destination because of her "late start," her "throbbing and blistered feet" and "the staggering heat."  She leaves the trail to head to Cassel, where there's a general store, and I don't know what she hopes to accomplish by doing this seeing as she only has seventy-six cents to her name and won't be able to buy anything.  Then again, this is Cheryl, so she likely assumes that upon her arrival, people will shower her with money and food because that's how the world is supposed to work if you're Cheryl Strayed.

As soon as she gets to the store, Cheryl has a complete meltdown.

"I counted my money, on the verge of tears, knowing that no matter how much I had, it wouldn't be enough for a Snapple lemonade."

First of all, that doesn't make any sense.  You have exactly seventy-six cents, so I don't understand what this whole "no matter how much I had" nonsense is all about (Cheryl probably doesn't understand prices because they're not listed in "bits").  Also, really?  You're going to cry over this?

I feel bad for you this much.
She goes into the store just to torture herself by looking at all the bottles of Snapple lemonade:
"They were like diamonds or pornography.  I could look, but I couldn't touch."
Cheryl doesn't understand how diamonds and pornography work. 

What the hell.

Anyway, of course this happens: the lady at the counter feels sorry for Cheryl because she saw her pathetically "counting her pennies" before she entered the store and sells her a Snapple lemonade for exactly seventy-six cents.  After Cheryl makes sweet, sweet love to her Snapple lemonade, she goes full Cheryl again while watching people walk in and out of the store:

"I watched them for an hour in a post-Snapple bliss that felt more like a drugged-up haze,"

and this is when we know beyond a doubt that Cheryl has been completely lying about her hard-core heroin problem because Snapple doesn't work li-- OH, LIKE I EVEN NEED TO FINISH THIS SENTENCE.  Goddamnit.  I wonder how many of her idiot fans immediately went to the store after reading this and tried to get Snapple-wasted. 

A PCT hiker named Rex shows up and we can only assume that he's white because we don't get much of a description other than, "he struck me as the kind of person who gave a lot of bear hugs," and oh, jesus.  Cheryl says that "he lived in Phoenix and held a corporate job he couldn't properly make me understand" because Cheryl can't understand anything.

Like a toddler with a boo-boo, Cheryl immediately shows Rex her feet and that's when Rex explains how REI works-- that they will replace her boots-- and I don't understand how she was unaware of their Satisfaction Guarantee if she had been shopping there for a million years in preparation for her pretend hike. 

Even though Cheryl has tried to convince us that her feet are pretty much bloated, seeping bags of awful just barely hanging onto her legs by threads at this point, she "raced faster than ever" the next day over the twelve miles of the trail to McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, where her next resupply box is waiting for her.  She picks up her box and calls REI.  I will spare you the boring conversation she has with the REI woman and blam, they're going to overnight her a new, slightly larger pair of boots to the Park.

" it was official: I loved REI more than I loved the people behind Snapple lemonade."
She will probably go try to freebase her boots to get REI-wasted.
Rex shows up because apparently we're supposed to believe that she beat him there, and then Stacy, Trina and the dog show up because of course they do.  Trina has decided to quit the trail and suggests that Cheryl should join Stacy for the rest of the trail and Cheryl has a super-legit excuse for declining the invitation-- she's waiting for her boots and can't leave and isn't that convenient.  The four of them go blow a bunch of money on "hot dogs and jalapeno poppers and nachos with fluorescent orange cheese" and I wonder how much money Cheryl has left now.
She wakes up the next morning and she's all alone because everyone else has moved on.  She reads "half of A Summer Bird-Cage in one sitting" and I'm so impressed, except I'm not.  Her boots haven't arrived yet and she throws herself a pity-party while she's walking over to see Burney Falls.  This happens:
"I sat on a bench and watched a couple feed an entire pack of Breathsavers to a gaggle of overly familiar squirrels who darted around a sign that said DO NOT FEED THE WILDLIFE.  It enraged me to see them do that, but my fury was not only about how they were perpetuating the habituation of the squirrels, I realized.  It was also that they were a couple.  To witness the way they leaned into each other and laced their fingers together and tugged each other tenderly down the paved path was almost unbearable.  I was simultaneously sickened by it and envious of what they had.  Their existence seemed proof that I would never succeed at romantic love."

Yes, again.
Okay.  First of all, it's a dray or a scurry of squirrels, not a gaggle, you stupid asshole.  Second, I know that you like to use three-dollar words, but "perpetuating the habituation of the squirrels" does not quite make complete sense, but good try.  Finally, no one feeds Breathsavers to wildlife, but I love how you make that claim in order to make these people seem terrible because what you were really upset about was how two people were seemingly in love and you once again have to make everything about yourself.  Please die.
She goes back to camp to examine her feet and goes full Jeff-Goldblum-in-The-Fly by easily ripping two of her toenails off because that's how that doesn't work.  She now has six toenails left.  Sure.  Whatever.
The next morning she goes back to the store to see if her boots have arrived and they have not.  She spends hours loitering outside the store and reading Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita because she's super smart, and this supposedly happens:
"People came and went in waves, sometimes gathering in little circles around me to ask questions about the PCT when they noticed my pack.  As I spoke, the doubts I had about myself on the trail fell away for whole minutes at a time... Basking in the attention of the people who gathered around me, I didn't just feel like a backpacking expert.  I felt like a hard-ass motherfucking Amazonian queen."

Get ready to hear about her being a "hard-ass motherfucking Amazonian queen" repeatedly for the remainder of the book, never mind that she clearly has no knowledge whatsoever of the mythical Amazons because she is quite possibly the farthest thing in existence from an "Amazonian queen."  I really was planning to give a brief, yet insightful history lesson about the Amazons, but I'm spent.  Maybe I'll do it tomorrow.  Or maybe you could Google it.  I've had enough for today. 


  1. I had the general feeling while reading the book that she was full of shit. But it's only when reading your countless specific examples that I realize just how full of shit she is. Nothing she says adds up. Out of all the details of her hike that she recounts one wonders if there is anything at all that is actually true.

    It is quite convenient that she always has some excuse for why she can't hike with others.

  2. I love this blog. Thank you for exposing her tome about hiking the PCT as complete fiction.


    1. Russ, thank you. I originally started this blog for the purpose of amusing myself and a few of my friends and it has turned into something much bigger than I ever could have imagined. I'm so grateful to learn that there are so many other people in the world who question her claims and I'm indescribably glad whenever I see a new face.

      Thanks for reading. Cheers, friend.

  3. The IMDB board for the movie has a few amusing discussions about how bogus Cheryl's story is. I especially liked the ones about all the product placement in both the movie and the book.

    You might want to post a link to your blog there, because the world needs to know. (I think you have to set up an account with the site though.)

    Keep up the great work :)

  4. All these mentions of Snapple. I'm kinda thirsty.... I think I'll go get Snapple-wasted!

  5. In the movie, I think it was Greg who offered to buy her a drink and a snack, maybe at Kennedy Meadows? Out of anything she could have, she (of course) ordered a Snapple! Every chance possible, Snapple was there. I mean, I know they were the shit in the PNW at that time, but seriously? I am sure Snapple must have paid her for the product placement.

    1. I was thinking about this too, but couldn't figure it out because what company pays for product placement in a book written by B-rate author with only one prior published book? Then I read about how she is married to a filmmaker, and sent a script to Reese Witherspoon well before the book was published. I'm suggesting that the Witherspoon connection jumpstarted the book to screenplay process and cemented the Snapple/REI sponsorship from the beginning. Or that was book was developed to be a proof of concept to win the contract from Snapple/REI. It would be tremendously contrived for a "literary" work if true, but as this blogger shows us, revealed in the reading.

  6. I love this blog!!! Oh thank you :) I have just reached chapter 4 & I'm puking and pissed! I'm mad as hell that people are buying this book and the NYT gave it a good review. WTF? Cheryl is a big fat liar and a really terrible person. She even reminds me (in appearance and actions) of someone I know who is a big attention hog and all about self-promotion. I am so happy this blog is here...Yay :)

  7. I was blissfully reading this book uncritically until I got to the part with Jimmy Carter and my BS meter kicked in. So I googled looking for critiques and found this blog. Thanks for opening my eyes to just how bad this is. As I read on, the BS just gets worse and worse. Though I am not a long-distance hiker, I have been on backpacks as long as 11 days and done things as challenging as climbing Kilimanjaro (a six day trek). I've dreamed of hiking the PCT since I heard of it in the 1970's, when it was still fragmentary and the part near me was still called the California Riding and hiking Trail. I could never do it, but I try to absorb books about it, and I thought, at first, this would do it. nope. I am so glad you took this on!

  8. Another great post. And sorry for littering your posts with all my inane comments months after publication, but your detailed analysis of this book is fascinating.

    I struggle to understand why the book is so popular when the writing is so bad, but it occurred me that it is actually because Cheryl is such a deluded self-obsessed materialist. People can relate to her. Her self-centred veiw of the world is not repellant to most because self-centred materialism is now the default psychological position.

    Also she is honestly stupid in some of her revelations, like how she admits to not understanding the corporate guys job, and I bet thats also appealing to a lot of her audience. Yes I know thats a smug and dickish thing to say, sorry!

    Not sure what to say about the fact that she is also dishonestly intelligent, though.

    And by the way, I actually quite like her line about diamonds and pornography. It kind of works, in that they are base objectifications of cravings for security and love. Like Snapple! ;)

  9. "though it too warned me off politely with its rattle."

    Nope. Former park ranger here who has actually caught rattlesnakes atop a cinder cone where I staffed a lookout tower. There is NOTHING polite about a rattlesnake when it's rattling. When that rattle goes off, there is something primal about your reaction. When they start rattling, they are pissed the fuck off that you are even nearby. I mean, they are the most pissed off creature you can imagine. Sheryl is so full of shit.

  10. "People came and went in waves, sometimes gathering in little circles around me to ask questions about the PCT when they noticed my pack. " Does anyone else think it really weird how EVERYONE reveres CS with such awe? Wouldn't a PCT hiker in Cassel CA be a really common occurence?

  11. Amazon Queen is a slot machine game. Perhaps, Cheryl meant that ... there are similarities.