Ever hear of the Pacific Crest Trail, more commonly referred to as the PCT? These two memoirs are written by two very different women who hiked the trail from Mexico to Canada. Although both authors hiked the PCT for different reasons, it is interesting to compare their experiences, journeys, discoveries and relationship with the trail; a satisfactory companion read to experience the same place through similar, yet varied perspectives.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail – Cheryl Strayed

Cathartic. Unsentimental. Victorious.  

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone.” -Publisher

Girl in the Woods: A Memoir – Aspen Matis

Unrefined. Honest. Work in Progress.

Girl in the Woods is Aspen Matis’s exhilarating true-life adventure of hiking from Mexico to Canada—a coming-of-age story, a survival story, and a triumphant story of overcoming emotional devastation. On her second night of college, Aspen was raped by a fellow student. Overprotected by her parents who discouraged her from speaking of the attack, Aspen was confused and ashamed. Dealing with a problem that has sadly become all too common on college campuses around the country, she stumbled through her first semester—a challenging time made even harder by the coldness of her college’s “conflict mediation” process. Her desperation growing, she made a bold decision: She would seek healing in the freedom of the wild, on the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail leading from Mexico to Canada.” -Publisher

Notable Nuggets:

  • Grieving – Both female authors were, in part, inspired to hike the PCT in order to deal with a personal hardship. Although these hardships were different, death of a mother and being a victim of rape, both women describe their journey of emotional and physical grief. It manifests itself in a variety of ways and in unexpected moments. Grief and working to overcome it is an individual process and a very human experience to be respected. Throughout both books I found myself relating and empathizing with these women and accepting that it’s okay to grieve all types of losses in our lives.
  • ‘Flying Solo’ –  In a hyper-connected and communicative society we rarely find ourselves alone, or as I like to say, ‘flying solo.’ The author’s attempts to manage their grief prior to hiking the PCT are relatable and involved other people. I found it fascinating how each decided on their own to go it alone. I think it took bravery to make that decision, develop a plan and execute. Although being with and interacting with others is human nature, spending time with yourself can be just as fulfilling and meaningful.