Cheryl lost her mother at an early age and spiraled into a hellish existence because of that. Losing what she loved, what she knew, what she depended on made her a little crazy. Most of us can relate to that. Our lives are made up of routine and habit. We don’t deal well with change, even when we choose it. So when tragic circumstances are forced upon us, we resist, we rebel, and sometimes
we go haywire.
But deep inside her the wish to be at peace led her to a miracle in the making: hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). It didn’t matter that she had no hiking experience or that the trail is over 2000 miles or that she planned to do it alone. [I know from my own experience that sometimes it’s better not to know what you’re getting into.] But as I turned the pages and read about her journey, both mental and physical, I found myself thinking no way, no way, no way would I hike the trail and I wondered how the hell she did it. My excuse is that I’m tall and thin and not athletic at all. I hate camping, I whine when my backpack weighs more than 10 pounds, and my body hurts even when I’m just sitting around. What kind of fool would attempt to hike the PCT for 3 months through all kinds of weather? Not I. But then again, I didn’t lose my mother when I was 22.
The intimate tone of Cheryl’s writing pulls you into her journey, through the grit and the pain, over desert and stony paths, through the rain and the muck, across snow-covered slides, up into the mountains and down into the valleys. You feel the agony of blisters and thirst and raw, bleeding skin. You see the beauty of fresh snow and pristine lakes and the ruffled fur of a fox. You ache as she hurts. You rejoice when she sees with new eyes. As Lance Armstrong wrote in his book, it’s not about the bike, and for Cheryl, it’s not just about the hiking. Putting one foot in front of another gave her the opportunity to push past her endurance levels, to test her body and her mind, and to give her heart a place to grow and expand and forgive.
I admired her fortitude, her determination, her drive to complete her goal. The PCT is not for the faint-hearted, and even experienced hikers have given up. I admired her for continuing even with extreme pain. I admired her for expressing her emotions as she hiked, for getting in touch with the truth of her feelings. I want to do that, but I’m often unwilling to get down and dirty with myself. I also greatly admired her writing. You will keep turning the pages. You won’t be able to put this down. And you will be the better for reading it.
[P.S. – A dear friend gave me this book last year and I don’t remember who it was. So if you read this, give me a shout so I can thank you, again.]
Picture courtesy of hotblack, morgueFile.com