- Fritzi Newton
I’m a photographer. Since I carry some expensive equipment (AND I’m a woman), I’m leery about shooting by myself. But the best light is often around dawn and because Autumn has been so spectacular this year, I’ve seen more than my share of sunrises. One morning in particular, I decided to let my hardworking husband sleep in and I left to hike by myself along the Rappahannock River. Apparently no one else had the same idea. I found myself alone with the trees and birds for company. Or was I alone? The imagination is a powerful tool and, with every unexpected noise, I was certain I’d see a bad guy around the next corner. I forced myself to think of Cheryl Strayed and decided I’d just have to (wo)man up to enjoy my excursion. In Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Strayed, a novice hiker, walks eleven hundred miles (!!!!) SOLO from California to Oregon on the above-mentioned trail. Did I mention she was by herself??
Life had not been easy for Cheryl Her father was abusive and her mother, who eventually found the strength to take her children and strike out as a single parent, tragically died of cancer at the age of 45. Cheryl had married while still in college, and although she loved her husband Paul, she found herself on a destructive path of sleeping with different men and even dabbling in heroin.
Needing to make a life change, Cheryl set her sights on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. She waitressed to save money for her trip, but with ZERO long-distance hiking experience, she counted on REI employees to assist her in preparing for her pilgrimage. On the morning Cheryl planned to leave, she arranged the gear in her pack and hit the first of many obstacles. The pack was so unwieldy that Cheryl, literally, could not lift it. Certain she needed every last item, she somehow managed to find a way to get on the trail. But between the overstuffed pack and her inexperience, her original plan of covering upwards of 20 miles a day fell to the wayside. And, the strain of the weight took its toll on her body—her feet with blisters upon blisters were barely recognizable, and, at night, she could just manage to set up her tent before succumbing to exhaustion.
Though, prevail she did…through both unbearable heat and snowy, treacherous conditions; through the uncertainty of a hundred miles looming ahead and only two cents left for emergencies; and through the loss of her (absolutely necessary) hiking boot which unceremoniously toppled down an unreachable crevice. These are but a few of the trials Cheryl faced on her impulsive adventure, an adventure which was to help her overcome a lifetime of pain.