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1-Page Summary of Wild
Cheryl Strayed is hiking in Northern California. She takes off her boots and accidentally drops one of them over the edge. She realizes that she cannot go anywhere without both boots, so she throws away the other boot to make room for a new pair.
It’s the summer of 1995, and Cheryl is on a 2,663-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. She’s twenty-six years old and has lost both her father and mother in separate incidents. She hopes to transform herself into someone else while simultaneously returning to who she once was as a way of coping with her grief.
Cheryl first heard about the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) while she was living in Minneapolis. She picked up a book about it by chance and read that it stretched from the Mexican border all the way up to Canada, along the crest of nine mountain ranges. The idea seemed crazy at first, but after enduring her mother’s death, a failed marriage, and several one-night stands with men who were drug addicts, Cheryl felt like she had nothing left to lose by trying out this new adventure on the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail).
Cheryl is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, but her experiences in life haven’t really prepared her for what she’s experiencing. Each day on the trail brings new challenges and Cheryl has to learn how to deal with them. She’s been hiking for six weeks now and although she misses having boots, she comes to terms with it because that’s just something you have to do out here. Her feet are bruised up pretty bad from walking all day long, but there isn’t any other option; you can only keep walking forward.
Cheryl was 22 years old when her mother died of lung cancer. The doctors told them that she had less than a year to live and they decided not to do any treatments as it would just cause more pain. Her mother went back home after the diagnosis and Cheryl visited her every day, bringing food for her stepfather Eddie who was also feeling down about this situation. One day, while Cheryl’s mom lay in bed, she said something that changed everything: “I’ve been thinking about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.”
Cheryl’s mother always told her she loved her and that the love was immeasurable. She compared it to all of the things in the world that can’t be named, like everything from Tao Te Ching. Cheryl’s mom got pregnant with Karen when she was 19 years old and shortly after married their father. He abused them for many years until he left them ten years later; they witnessed his abuse often.
Cheryl grew up poor, but her mother always told her they were rich in love. Cheryl’s mother eventually married Eddie, who was kindhearted and eight years younger than she was. Together they bought a plot of land in rural Minnesota with the settlement money that Eddie received after an accident at work. Cheryl’s family pitched in to tame the wild land and build a small house on it for them all to live on while Eddie stayed behind in the city so he could keep working.
Even though Cheryl and her siblings were complaining about their mother’s decision to take them on a hiking trip, she knew that they would appreciate the experience later in life. She encouraged them to not focus on the hardships of going without electricity or plumbing but instead think about how much they’d enjoy being able to go back into nature whenever they wanted. Many years later, Cheryl realized her love for nature was something she could never get enough of and decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
Cheryl’s mother was forty when she decided to go back to college. Cheryl had been accepted into the same school, so they both went there together. Her mother got cancer shortly after that, and Cheryl put her own life on hold in order to take care of her while Eddie paid the bills.