Completing the PCT

I’m so glad I hadn’t watched Wild prior to reading its text. Though I assumed Strayed would complete her journey (because why else would she be writing this travelogue), I wasn’t expecting myself to become so emotionally invested in her success. The final two pages of the memoir are beautiful. As a fellow English major, I’m in awe of the poetic language used to portray her lessons learned. Our final section of reading seems to encompass a theme of spiritual rebirth. As she begins the final leg of her hike she notes, “…the sky [was] the palest gray. It had stopped raining and the air had warmed up” (Strayed 238). In our earlier section, Strayed hiked through the winter snow. Typically, winter is a time of retreat in which authors detail their inner thoughts as opposed to any actions. Spring then becomes a period of reawakening. Strayed’s depiction of this particular day makes me believe she is in fact moving fast the “winter” of her own life, signified by the stopping rain. The clouds make way for the sun: “It was the middle of September, but the sun was warm and bright, the sky bluer than ever” (Strayed 306).

Strayed loses her bracelet soon after setting off from California. “The edge of the trail catches” her bracelet, and she obsessively searches the woods for her cherished item. I realize the bracelet is seemingly insignificant in the overall scheme of things. But, I view this moment as a test. How will Cheryl handle the troubles of life which she will encounter as she re-enters society? Will she again lose a sense of herself, just as she’s lost this bracelet? My question was actually answered later on. She is gifted her “Strayed” necklace and immediately sports it around town. She is letting go of her old self and embracing the self-worth she’s uncovered along the PCT. For me, this is evident on page 308. Staring into the Columbia River Strayed remarks, “the glimmering dark water was more beautiful than anything I’d imagined during all those miles I’d hiked to reach it.” Throughout her hike, Strayed has become one with nature. She is attune to her senses now more than ever. Nature offers her a means for self-reflection and self-communication. She is experiencing the transcendental moment of the Sublime. She is symbolically represented by the “glimmering dark water.” She may not turn back the previous years—she must live with the mistakes she’s made. Yet she’s able to not only move on, but learn from these misguided years. Like nature, she consists of the dark and the light—this is a lovely, aspiring quality. Her hike taught her something she couldn’t have “imagined during all those miles.”

Just prior to this insight, Strayed states, “On the other side of the river, I let myself think. And something inside of me released” (306). As much as she’d like, nature cannot answer all of her questions. Rather, she must also play a part in her journey. She hiked on, and she never retreated. She can interpret nature, but she’ll always remain physically separate from the natural world. She is undergoing the elements of the double consciousness. But, this in itself is an amazing outcome. She doesn’t need to continuously hike to satisfy her emotional state. She can take with her the spiritual side of the PCT. I believe she’s successfully found a balance between the wild and society.

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3 thoughts on “Completing the PCT

  1. I am also glad that I waited to watch the movie until I had finished the book. While I think that the movie producers and cast at least attempted to keep their version true to the original, I think there was a lot lost in condensing Cheryl’s journey to two hours. I felt very emotional while reading the book, but I did not feel the same while watching the movie. There are various reasons for this, but I think the main one is that I hadn’t spent enough time with her character in the movie to understand the scope of what she had accomplished (emotionally and physically) while hiking the PCT.

  2. I appreciate your insight on the seasons that Strayed went through. The seasons of the year/nature were definitely correlated with the season’s of her emotional state and moving forward from grief to acceptance. It is interesting that once she ends the journey she is able to move forward with her life and find balance.

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