The Wild Effect

With award season in full gear and Oscar buzz for the movie Wild, I began wondering what effect this will have on the Pacific Crest Trail next year. Will the serene woods be filled with new hikers who became inspired to look beyond the world they know? Or will there be an epic number of inexperienced hikers all trying to escape their painful pasts. Instead of the usual bearded and dirty thru-hikers will it be crying, divorcee's carrying condoms? Don't get me wrong, I definitely felt the Wild effect! I first read the book A Walk in The Woods by Bill Bryson about his hike on the Appalachian Trail (a soon-to-be movie that will have it's own effect) and fell in love with the idea of thru-hiking. After that I read Wild and man was I hooked! I began following the people currently on their thru-hikes, reading their stories, and being inspired by their journeys. I even pitched a show to production companies to follow some of these hikers. It seemed every time my husband and I got into an argument I wanted to strap on my boots and go! Run away, test my limits, grow as a person, and take in the beauty. I was ready to take on the trail until I did the 14-mile Point Mugu hike where the sun went down, I had no headlamp, and ran into some mountain lions. I realized I had no business going out there unprepared! I've never even camped alone! Suddenly the idea of leaving the world to trek into the wilderness by myself had a hard dose of reality; you can die out there!

I came to the realization that, while I still plan to hike the PCT someday, I need to be prepared for what I'm doing. Simple things like having a headlamp and a knife and knowing what to do when you spot a bear or a mountain lion can mean the difference between life and death. I love nature and I love enjoying it's beauty but I'm learning to have respect for ALL that's out there. I'm planning to start with small backpacking trips, harder climbs, and eventually the John Muir Trail before attempting the AT and PCT thru hikes. I'm not suggesting this is the way to go (clearly I'm no expert); I've heard of successful hikers who just went straight for the PCT and good for them! I just know that my own enthusiasm brought on from the book and the movie combined with reality has made me realize that I want to go out there for the right reasons and when I'm ready, not running away.

I posed the question to John Muir Trail and PCT hikers and there were mixed reviews. Most seemed to agree that while the movie was set on the PCT, it was used more as a backdrop for the story of Cheryl Strayed's life. Seeing as most of the hikers drop out within the first few weeks, even if the number of attempts are higher, the amount of finishing thru-hikes may not be affected much. I personally think it's great publicity for the Pacific Crest Trail Association, national parks, and backpacking in general. If Wild can introduce people to the wonders that the wilderness has to offer and inspire new hikers, it's great for everyone. Let's just hope those peace-seeking divorcees bring their big girl shoes (two pairs in Strayed's case) and protection other than a condom.

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