WILD by Cheryl Strayed Book Review

WILD by Cheryl Strayed

(Or, how I know Cheryl Strayed is a fraud and her book is pure bullshit.)

Is this supposed to be a true story? Although the book-jacket blurbs are careful not to proclaim it thus, I think many are led down the Pacific Crest Tail of garden paths thinking they should be admiring the author for her fortitude. I see the Oprah Book Club blurb on Amazon is flatly crowing Cheryl is the protagonist, and all this crapola really happened. Not so. It’s absolutely impossible.

 Here’s my take on the nonsense. Unless you’re completely oblivious to how things work in the real world, how can you ignore the fairy-tale quality of this narrative?

 Cut to the chase. No, I’m not going to go into the heroin-shooting, stranger-banging or any of the other hipster bulldoody this author offers as proof she’s the real bad-ass but sensitive damaged soul that is so aggrieved over the death of her mother she just has to divorce her husband and wander off on a distinctly insane and incredibly dangerous quest as they say, to ‘find herself’ you know the drill, blah blah blah. A real yawning festival.

She flies to LAX and then ‘caught a ride to Mojave with the brother of a friend.’ As if friends with brothers that just happen to be driving from LAX to Mojave are just lying around. How convenient.

 Ok, so she’s delivered unceremoniously deposited in this shitbox motel room with all this equipment THAT WOULD HAVE REQUIRED SEVERAL SUITCASES and a steamer trunk, but appears as if by magic on the bed!

Seems it had all been inside the backpack and ‘two oversized plastic department store bags full of things.’ Which she schlepped all the way from Minnesota when she drove to Portland (along with the ‘dozen boxes containing dehydrated food and ‘more (more!) backpacking equipment). And which she must have carried on the flight from Portland to LAX. Who in their right mind would attempt to fly 1,000 miles carrying a backpack and two plastic shopping bags filled with loose camping junk? What airline would let you board a plane with or check as baggage two plastic shopping bags stuffed full of loose camping junk?

 And is now revealed, in all its unholy, shit-for-brains, backpacking-adventure-novel-via-online-sporting-goods website glory:  She takes all of this stuff out of the backpack (she’d already packed it once, after specifically saying she had not) and also dumps the bagged crap on the bed and has quite an amazing pile. (This in spite of telling us on the previous page she’d already ‘neatly laid out’ her camping kit before getting in the shower).

 The camera. A Minolta X-700. At the time, a 15-year-old design.

WITH “another separate attachable flash..”  what’s she mean “another?” the camera has no flash.

WITH a separate “attachable” (what other kind is there?) zoom lens
WITH a “tiny collapsible” tripod – all fitting into a case “the size of a football.” Yeah, right.

Of course, the wenchling then claims she’s not a photographer, and uses two flimsy excuses for specifically NOT  taking a picture when she set out on her epic jaunt, a time she points out would be ideal “I would have to find a place to prop the camera” in spite of having just told us she has a tripod, and “It would take too much time and effort to unpack” after she just told us the camera bag was strapped to the outside of the pack.
THIS IS THE LAST YOU’LL HEAR OF THE CAMERA, AND SHE NEVER USES IT, NOT ONCE. She’s carrying 10 lbs. of camera gear she never uses. I mean, even when other people are taking pictures of her, she never once reciprocates. Never once speaks of film or film processing. In all the mind-numbing months of spectacular natural beauty in which she walks, never takes a picture. Perhaps she forgot to buy film? Maybe she doesn’t know how to load the film? Maybe she really did take pictures but would never admit it because they don’t agree with this narrative? Your guess is as good as mine.

 .. the world’s loudest whistle (ok, I’m impressed. Why take chances on lesser whistles with all those mountain lions prowling about?)

.. a sheaf of postage stamps  (The only time she planned to be off trail was to go to a post office. What’s she going to affix the stamps to?)

.. a tiny folding stove.. 

“A tall aluminum canister..” Which she’d filled with unleaded gasoline. (page 67)

 On her second day outdoors, she discovers “I couldn’t get my stove to sustain a flame..” So she pulls out the ‘little instruction book’ She has the instruction book with her, on the trail, but she must have never looked at it before why would anyone think such a stove burned gasoline? In all the “countless camping trips with family and friends and alone” this dope has never encountered a white gas stove? Despite warnings all over the packaging, the container itself, and at the gas pump countervailing all laws, local, state and federal, prohibiting dispensing gasoline into unapproved containers (nyuk nyuk), this dumbass is carrying a Molotov cocktail around in her oversized shopping bags. After all those weeks she spent talking to the helpful folks at REI and they never once said to her, in the process of selling her a stove which would have been right next to the shelf with the red Coleman cans of white gas,  “DON’T FILL THIS TANK WITH GASOLINE, YOU STUPID BITCH.” And the anonymous clown that drove her to Mojave – wouldn’t he have said something when she had him pull up to the pump so she could fill her tall aluminum canister full of gasoline, like, “Hey! Your reeking gasoline-coated canister is melting your oversized department store plastic shopping bags and contaminating your food and clothing!” Or had she carried it full onto the plane?

 But hey, it’s ok! because according to the scabby-tattooed one, all it did was “clog the generator” (whatever the fuck that means) And “blackened the tiny pan with soot.” Soot from gasoline? New one on me. I would have thought she’d have no trouble igniting everything in sight, herself included, with her “little pink lighter.”
But she needed the damaged stove to foment a confangled, twisted, and completely irrelevant off-trail narrative episode we’ll visit shortly.

 .. Not one, not two, not three, but FIVE books, 3 of them hardbound

.. “a camp chair which can be unclipped and used as a sleeping pad” (She’s talking about ONE OF THESE, a huge thing to carry unless to a football game. It’s funny, because she rarely uses it, most times just sitting in the dirt. Cheryl is fond of sitting in the dirt, setting her pack down in the dirt, always with the dirt and the blood and the sweat. This broad’s a fucking horrorshow of bad habits.)

.. a headlamp “like the kind the miners wear”

.. a compass she doesn’t know how to use (this pointer-thingy points north, duh.)

    and a book she didn’t have time to read that will tell her how to use the compass. (“This thing points north.”)

.. NO MAP? In the days before GPS, we used maps. Some of us still like maps. Of course, if you’re too stupid to use a compass, a map might not help either.
.. sports sandals intended to wear “in camp” at the end of the day.

And on and on, votive candle lantern and binoculars and a snake-bite kit and, I shit you not, a stainless steel trowel to dig holes to shit in. (Could have gotten the Swiss Army knife with the hole-to-shit-in blade, but no, her REI consultants let her down again; collapsible saw, ditto.) And on and on, cooking pots and coffee mug, towels and ropes and thermometers and sketchbook (200-page, hardbound! Hint: she never mentions it again) and pens and deodorant and shampoo and conditioner and nail clippers (Swiss Army knife again, hello..?)

And a dromedary bag, and a
.. water purifier with “pleated glass-fiber filter element for increased surface area”

**Like this one in the 2012 REI online catalog: “The lightweight, reliable and easy-to-use design makes the Katadyn Hiker water filter a great choice for backpacking and trekking. Filter physically removes particles, protozoa, and bacteria down to 0.3 microns in size, including giardia, salmonella, cryptosporidia and others Glass-fiber element is pleated for increased surface area to handle silt and muddy water..”

..you get the picture? 2 pounds of shit in a one-pound bag, all right, descriptions ripped from the pages of the 2012 REI online catalog.

* No toothbrush or toothpaste. She just assumes we’ll assume she’s brushing her teeth, even though she reports with utmost clarity and regularity on her mostly-nonexistent personal hygiene. I’ve never met a woman as thoroughly and disgustingly unconcerned with ongoing but easily remedied bodily filth.

 Oh, and the tears and flapdoodle she has stuffing it all BACK into the backpack! It was hard!

BUT WAIT! She has no more room!
She had planned to hang all this OTHER stuff, the IMPORTANT STUFF on the outside, with (5-count’em-5!) bungee cords:

 tent (ever backpack a tent, ANY tent? Let alone a 1995 tent?)

 tarp (ever roll up even a small tarp?)
a sleeping bag “with snag-free zipper guards and face muff” (again with the REI catalog)

— bag containing all her food for two weeks. Which, I will remind you had previously required being packed in “a dozen boxes.”

Food accounts for about half the weight of a normal backpack in longer trips, and is the single most important item after water. Planning and packing dried food for such trips is an incredibly complicated task. Cheryl Strayed makes no mention of her food supply’s source except that at one time she learned to dehydrate tuna and make turkey jerky. A good general estimate for food required is 1 1/2 to 2 pounds per day. At that rate, the longest trip most experienced hikers would take without a resupply is 2 weeks. So, taking the low side, she would be packing about 25 pounds of food. Add to that 20 lbs of water and she’s already carrying 45 pounds not counting any of her other gear! Is this bitch crazy or is the reader of this book really that stupid? And that’s not even the worst of it: 8 days later, she still cannot eat any of the dehydrated food because her stove is broken –  and in all that time, it never occurred to the brainless twat she could build a fire from the exquisitely well-suited materials lying everywhere around her.

— bag containing all her clothing: fleece pants, shirt, a thick fleece anorak with a hood, two hats, “thin” gloves,  sandals, underwear, rain coat and pants, socks etc.

— the “camp chair that doubles as a sleeping pad”

But now, having unexpectedly stuffed the containment portion of her pack with unnecessary geegaws, she has to hang on the outside additional stuff like the coffee mug, sandals, the votive-candle lantern and the camera bag and all its accessories –  dammit!everything lashed to the side like Ahab waving from the whale-ride, like some ghastly, bastardized Joad-car or Jethro-drivin’ Beverly hillbillymobile with everything but the mattress and grandma riding up top. Whew! This also means that all the food and clothes and tarp and tent and sleeping bag and chair never fit in the backpack to begin with and must have been toted on a flight from Portland to LAX in plastic dollar-store bags. Right ho, guv’nor!

 WTF did she actually put IN the backpack “packed so absolutely nothing else would fit?” The way I figure it: the books, the toiletries and toilet paper. The water purifier and iodine pills. “Extra” batteries (heh). The “tiny” stove and the gasoline cylinder. The first aid kit. Natural menstrual sponge. Stamps. Knife. That’s it. Like I said, WTF?  Oh well, I dunno about you, but I can stuff more than that into a daypack, let alone a “Hybrid Gregory External Frame Backpack (sic).”  Almost every single thing she brought is hanging on or strapped to the outside of the pack. Picture that. This makes absolutely no sense. Nobody could see this as a logical arrangement unless they had never actually done it.

 BUT OH NOES! More drama! After an hour of futzing with this setup, she realizes she has forgotten somethingwater! ” and must disassemble the whole mess to get at .. The dromedary bagrimmed with webbing straps” which she had stowed at the bottom of the backpack, like a friggin’ idiot.

From the REI website 2012: MSR® Dromedary  10-liter hydration bag (she carefully designates its capacity as “2.6 gallons” because she knows her audience in the U.S. will refuse to comprehend “10 liters”) with its abrasion-resistant Cordura® nylon shell, is built to handle your outdoor needs! A clever addition for 2006 (oops!), a new handle around the opening makes filling the bag easier than ever and webbing straps down each side let you attach the bag to your pack or hang it from a limb (insert Aron Ralston joke here.)  She describes this item as if its some sort of animated, cantankerous jellyfish. “It flops on the floor!” Well, fuck me.

(And where were the “carefully researched” plastic 32 oz. water bottles all this time? Sitting on the bureau (chifforobe?) no doubt, staring like reproachful owls. Hint: she never mentions them again.)

 Ok. Everything is ready to go, but OH NO more drama AGAIN! She can’t pick the fucking thing off the floor! Can’t even budge the damn thing! I’ll be darned, didn’t she carry all that stuff from Minnesota to Portland to Mojave, California? What, does southern California have gravity like Jupiter or something, that things are twelve times heavier there? No.. after several minutes she’s able to not only lift the pack (breaking off the grille of the motel’s air conditioner in the process), but cinch the waist belt and walk out the door (and settle her bill and return the key, and did she mention the broken air conditioner grille she’d thrown on the floor?)

Now, think about this process of picking up the backpack. Think about this as if your defense attorney were demonstrating it to the jury of your peers that sit in judgment of your monumental stupidity: You sit on the floor with your back to the monster. Picture it. Put your hands through the shoulder straps. Now, you’re tenuously attached to a mass you couldn’t lift when you were standing with the full force of your body, flexed legs and glutes and all,  how in THE FUCK could you possibly do anything but roll the whole mess onto its side or its back? How in god’s name do you magically hoist yourself and that huge mass you couldn’t budge just moments before off the floor into a standing position? Right: you can’t. It’s impossible, what this woman is describing. Tenzig Norgay himself would not, could not lift that pack by that method. Yet, she uses the same technique over and over again, even in the desert, sitting down, in the dirt, with her back to the thing, then levitating everything into place for a “dead lift.” Makes no sense. It’s impossible. It’s like the guy that says his wife slipped in the bathtub and hit her head on the toilet, but the cops point out the toilet is 15 feet from the bathtub yet the poor schlub sticks to his story and goes through all sorts of gyrations trying to demonstrate how the impossible is possible.

 Staggering under the load of what I calculate is at least 100 pounds of gear and food and water, Cheryl managed to meander her way to a gas station (where she stands around interminably, wearing that godawful weight, assessing the passersby for their rapist potential. Take the pack off and set it down while I wait? Why, whatever for?) She begs a ride to the trailhead from a couple of dudes she “knew wouldn’t hurt her.” “Thank you,” she trills girlishly. OMG. Those guys would have to be made of stone to not bust out laughing at this idiot, and complete morons for letting her walk thus unencumbered with brains into the desert.

Rt. 58 and PCT – waypoint 567.7

 Never will the weight of this pack and all its unnecessary junk, even with the mind-bending implausibility of a lone woman actually walking on a gravel “rock” sand desert footpath carrying at least 100 pounds of gear up 2,000 feet of noonday sun – unbelievably desiccating mountainside without ever having backpacked before, never once does she just, oh, I don’t know.. throw some of that shit away? Nope! Chucked nary battery nor book. Up she goes!and within two pages, in spite of bleeding blisters (sunburn is never mentioned) on every available surface, and agonizing muscle aches, a litany of grief, in “eight days” she is averaging nine miles a day! I don’t know about you, but my wake would have looked like the debris field from the Titanic.

 And if you’ve ever hiked in such a forbidding landscape, you’ll know blisters are like barnacles that cannot be ignored. Period. Not this lass! She sails on, her shoulders, hipbones and back bleeding from abrasion; stabbing herself with bloody puncture wounds (shades of Aron Ralston cactus patch) on a handy Joshua tree (Hey, look out! tree!), mistaking a longhorned steer for a moose (Moose? In the Mojave Desert?!)  (which she magically disappears with her world’s loudest whistle), and launched into a flashback in which she casually becomes indoctrinated into the junkie lifestyle, then magically, without apparent distress, kicks that habit, then gets knocked-up, has an abortion, and then, just days before this trip, goes back to the same asshole and lets him shoot junk into her ankle. Hey kids, it’s fun and it’s easy! No problim-o with the heroin addiction-o, no jonesing! And at the same juncture gets a matching horse tattoo with her freshly-divorced and bewildered ex-husband  – to demonstrate their solidarity, don’tcha know? Classy.

 So at 4:00 in the afternoon on the first day, scarcely a mile from the road where she was deposited, Cheryl pitches her tent (ever pitch an unfamiliar tent in your backyard? Try it on rocks and desert scrub.) For this clueless hussy, that ordeal does not register – she just pulls all the shit out of her pack (which means she’d have to disassemble the bungees and webbing and clothing bag and food bag and water bag and camera case and votive candle lantern and coffee cup) and throws the toiletries and the shampoo and deodorant and the books and the sketch pad and the pens and the menstrual sponge and water purifier and tiny camp stove and the gasoline-filled canister inside (to keep the tent from blowing away, of course!) then throws the now-empty pack and the food bag and the clothes bag and the votive candle lantern and coffee cup inside too. Then she unfolds her camp chair and sits inside the tent (in the hot sun, in a desert) and paws through the incredible junk pile surrounding her for a book of poems. Oh, this is wrong on so many levels it defies description. She manages to sleep for 12 hours.

Waypoint ~571
2nd day: she wakes up and first notices “the silence.” “The irrefutable proof I was out here in the great alone.” Yeah? Bullshit! According to her account, she covered about three miles the first day (at 1 MPH). If so, she is actually less than one mile away as the crow flies from the same four-lane divided western highway with cars and trucks and motorcycles barreling along at 80 MPH she just left. Not silent. I measured everything in Google Earth, you can use street view to look at the exact point she entered the PCT.

 But never mind. That second day, in spite of her harrowing ordeal of just 12 hours earlier, the winsome lass quickly breaks camp (an hour! I shit you not! She re-packs her tent and jams all that crap back into the pack and reassembles all the webbing and extraneous bags and paraphernalia) and ascends another 2 miles up to 6,000 feet (how does she know that?)  “before noon.” Are you going to tell me someone as admittedly, nay, pointedly clueless about backpacking and geography is going to be able to accurately describe, 17 years later, her distance covered and altitude reached? Oh.. she says she’s able to keep track because of the detailed descriptions in her guidebook. Right. That’s more bullshit. This slut does not have map and cannot read a compass, but instead walks along, guidebook in hand, reading  “Let’s see, the guidebook says this rock is at 6,000 feet and is 5 miles from the Route 58 trailhead! And gee! Did you know mountain trails go up and down too?” Cheryl today has discovered this amazing fact for the first time.

 It suddenly grows so cold she has to put on her “thick fleece anorak with a hood” which has overnight somehow morphed into a “jacket.” Right- so she takes a two-hour nap, on her tarp, presumably on rocks. (So much for her “chair that doubles as a sleeping pad” that’s bungeed onto her pack right next to the tarp.) She awakens to rain. So far so good!  She continues hiking ALL DAY and into the evening in a 42-degree rain and dense fog, then snow, no problem. But the backpack frame squeaking is driving her crazy! Not the sodden anorak, nor the bleeding blisters nor the puncture wounds, nor the snow or the cold, it’s that damned squeaking.

OOPS! Now gotta shit! She spends so much time with her trowel hacking uselessly at the rock she’s drenched in sweat and fearing her “wrists would break.” What?! How fucking stupid do you have to be and how long would it take a reasonably outfitted with brains adult to realize a trowel is no match for rocks? Especially an adult with a turtlehead poking? Ah, fuck that! Whipping off her pants, she reveals, no unnerwears! Wha hoppon to unnerwears? Oh, small matter, she went commando yesterday when she realized it was aggravating the weeping, bleeding blisters on her hips.

 While struggling up and down in the rain and snow, Cheryl ruminates on the situation, realizing she “didn’t understand what a mountain was” (she’d always thought they were just “big hills.” Ha-ha! Joke’s on you! These are mountains, bitch!) Then she realizes she “didn’t really understand what deserts were” (she’d always thought they were hot, dry, sandy places, but NOW she understood that’s not what a desert is. She doesn’t explain what she thinks a desert is, but only asserts what it is not; i.e. hot, dry and sandy.)  Mountains and deserts, according to our newly-minted nature guru are “inexplicable and analogous to nothing.” Right.

 7 p.m. 2nd night: Thought she’d be at Golden Oak springs (583.5) (that guidebook must be pretty dog-eared by now), but nowhere in sight (GOS would have meant she’d walked 15 miles that day, ludicrous by her own reckoning.) She doesn’t eat (again). Mentions she’s saving the water that would have been used in food preparation, but does not allude to the fact she must be running low by now. It’s 42 degrees and she leaves her sodden clothes outside to freeze overnight. That’s clever. Ever try to put on a frozen shirt?

 3rd Day: Reaches Golden Oak Springs (583.5) “after several hours.” She’s covered 17 miles of tough, incredibly rigorous mountain terrain in 2-1/2 days. I wonder how many of us could cover that distance even on flat ground, without the blisters and sleeping on rocks and little food carrying all that shit? No problem for this superwench. She pumps water until exhausted (an hour, for 3 gallons of water!) and then lounges in her chair in the sun, hoping the intense ultraviolet will heal her abraded skin and “ever-increasing” weeping blisters: “I sat in the dirt examining them, knowing that there was little I could do to keep them from going from bad to worse. I ran my finger delicately over them..” Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t sitting in the dirt running your filthy fingers over fresh raw wounds kinda inviting “bad to worse”? And what happened to the superskin bullshit you bought specifically for just this eventuality? No, she has to fuck with the stove now. Can’t get it to work? No matter! Ha-ha she wasn’t hungry anyway! Tuna jerky flakes, water and bed by 6:15. It would be light for another 3 hours or so, but why waste daylight looking around when you can be sleeping on rocks in a tiny, cramped, crowded stuffy tent?

 4th Day (still 583.5)
Wakes up and finally uses the 2nd skin stuff “on the tips of my toes” (all of them?! How the fuck do you blister the tips of your toes? Don’t your shoes fit? Let me guess, you never wore those shoes before, either?) and her heels, and “over my hipbones and across the front of my shoulders and lower back.” Whoa now – I hope you bought that stuff by the square yard! Let’s get those socks on now, she has two pairs of socks, both filthy and infested with dirt and sand. Wouldn’t it have been grand if she’d used one of those cooking pots to dip some water from that concrete pond and washed those badboys so they could dry overnight? No, that never occurred to her. Neither did washing her hair or body or bad nasty, shit-stained ass. Why bring all that soap and shampoo and conditioner and lotion and deodorant if you’re not going to use any of it at the first place that presents the perfect opportunity? Let’s hope she never has to use the “natural menstrual sponge”! What a stupid book.

 Ok, let’s set off. 1st up? FALLING FACE FIRST on rocks with 100 pounds of camping shit on her back. PINNED facedown for a full minute! Huge, “fist-sized” knot on the shin and gash “weeping copious quantities of blood.” (Is that anything like bleeding profusely?) Again, no problem. Wipe the sand off and dab with gauze (must have taken ½ hour to dig that out of the pack, and she couldn’t be bothered with an actual bandage because they’d all blown away the first time she opened the damned case yesterday.) Time for a drama series: Mountain lion tracks and “deep, swooning desire” for the long-lost 18-dollar hotel room in Mojave, downed tree crossing. Now come the longhorned bull/moose encounter and the blowing of the magic whistle, which resulted in the scraping removal of “all the skin on the top of my index finger” against a Manzanita branch in her frenzied plunge into the thorny brush. Bloody hell, this day is not going well. She walks on unfazed.

 Day 5, 6 & 7 “Nine miles a day” and happy to have it. Nothing else to report.

 Day 8: (610) Cheryl reports she’s less than halfway through the 135 miles to Kennedy Meadows (702), where her resupply box awaits, and she’s already devoured all the ready-to-eat food. She still hasn’t figured out she could easily cook on a small campfire, and I ain’t gonna tell her, so she’s shit-outta luck starving until she can get that fucking stove repaired. Which means, of course, that she must “veer off” the Pacific Crest Trail onto one of the nameless, unmapped “jeep” roads that crisscross the area. Of course, why didn’t we think of that? She wanders off “..reasoning I’d eventually find civilization in the form of a highway that paralleled the trail approximately 20 miles to the east.”  WHAT!? You’re gonna walk 20 miles (which will take 2 ½ days!) to an unknown, ethereal road which may or may not offer any of the usual trappings of civilization nearby? Hey wait, HOW DO YOU KNOW there’s a road 20 miles east? Do you have a fucking map you’re not telling us about?

Ohhhhhhhhh.. now I see! She’s using a map and a compass. A map has materialized! What ho! Dashing! But wait, after four hours, she has to pull out her book on how, exactly, to use a map and a compass! I hate to tell you, sister, but if you’ve been wandering for 4 hours on an old uncharted road and didn’t know how to before, learning how now ain’t gonna help. “I studied the sun.”  Oh fuck me – you’re lost, fucking lost, and the only saving grace is you can follow that road back to the PCT where you at least know how long it will be before you starve to death, dehydrated cornucopia uneaten, teeth unbrushed and stinky foul armpit cheese reeking in the sun, eyeballs pecked out by crows!

 But I digress. Cheryl has now decided to abandon her pack as well. Well, I’ll be darned! Immediately around the next bend, there sits salvation in a pick up truck, three blokes consisting of one white, one black and one Latino. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. “It took perhaps sixty seconds for me to reach them on foot.” No shit. On foot? Why didn’t you use the bicycle or the zipline? Gah! This prose is abominable, like the script of a bad porn movie from the 1970s where people still had pubic hair and didn’t routinely spit on each other’s genitals. Really, is this the best you can come up with?

 These gents are just sitting in a pickup truck in the middle of nowhere, apropos of nothing, staring out the windshield. And here comes this crazy, wild-eyed, blood-clotted, wild-haired, filthy apparition wandering out of the Styx with nothing save the clothes on her back. Uh-oh, this could get interesting! But alas, it’s not to be.

It turns out it’s just Walter and Carlos and Frank, and after they tell her they are going to blow up the mountain, the three of them commanded she get in the back of the truck because they had decided to take her to Frank’s house.

 But wait, first we have some serious finagling to do. They drive our hapless heroine to yet another pickup truck parked apropos of nothing in the middle of nowhere, and Carlitros and Walter decant into it and vamoose, leaving Cheryl alone with Frank, who then has her sit in the cab of his truck while he drives a tractor back and forth, “grading the road.” She takes the opportunity to root around in his personal belongings, discovering a gun and a bottle of whiskey.. hey, is she channeling Hunter S. Thompson now?! Of course she couldn’t resist stealing some of his whiskey .. too bad she didn’t take the opportunity to shoot herself in an unimportant and little-used aspect of her anatomy, like her head. Oh, what will happen next!?

 After some playful banter in the cab of the yellow pickup wherein Frank inquires into “what kind of woman” Cheryl might be? “Lying, stinking, adulterous, promiscuous, thieving, fetus-destroying drug-addict cheese-crotch” could have been her honest reply, but instead Frank just decides call her Jane. Jane takes the opportunity to make up a cock-and-bull story about her husband following along on the trail, but Frank ain’t buying it. He “adjusts his big metal belt buckle” and eases the seat back and tells her “There’s something else I like to relax with after work..” The implication being, of course, he’s wanting a little chin-music and it ain’t Cheetah he has in mind. But no, ha-ha! He’s talking about whiskey and red licorice whips, darnit! And they share a laugh and “I devoured about six feet of Frank’s red licorice as he drove..”

 .. to Frank’s house (actually, a trailer out in the desert, think Bud’s trailer in Kill Bill) where Frank’s wife  fixes her a plate “piled high with of barbequed ribs, canned corn, potato salad and a plastic cup of cherry Kool-Aid.” (“It was so good I almost fell out of my chair!” she exclaims) What is this, a fucking Hardy Boys novel?! I shit you not, this tableau includes our heroine refusing to wash her hands before eating because “I feared doing so would delay dinner” or maybe it didn’t matter whether her hands were clean, but settles on the fact she simply could not remember if it was necessary. As if she’d just been fired out of a cannon or something. (Frank had mysteriously bolted for the bathroom whence first they’d arrived, and had not reappeared.. by this time, I’d be asking myself “where the fuck did Frank go?”) but Cheryl ‘scuse me,  Jane takes no notice.

 Frank’s wife takes the opportunity to inquire, “You a college girl?” And Jane’s first instinct is to lie, once again with the lying: “Yes I graduated four years ago.” To cover the fact that no, she’d dropped out four years earlier, one paper shy of her BA. She couldn’t write a fucking paper, or hire someone who could because she was so grief stricken over her mother’s death she had to flush all that 4 years of college education down the fucking toilet and never bother going back, even once in four years to write that little shitty 5-page paper to graduate. Fuck! I might lie about something as stupid and inexplicable as that -especially if I’d piled up the “huge college loans” Jane had, in 1995!

 Ok, this is getting too ridiculous and too much like work. Franks drops her at the local crossroads and tells her to find a ride to wherever she’s going, he disappears. Of course she right away found someone to fix her stove so that plot device was not in vain. The rest of this vignette is just more fucking around driving and begging rides places, and nonsensical conversations with assorted local dingbats and homeless creatures, or wandering around inside a grocery store “dazzled by the mountains of food” and holing up in the local B’rer Rabbit Motel where Bud the nightman insists on washing her clothes (Don’t forget, she’s still schlepping this 100-lb. backpack with the bags and bags and cases and all the shit hanging off and has not bathed in more than a week, never washed her hair or her hands or her face, far as I can tell. What a slob.) while they fill two pages with inane conversation centered on a fucking POW-MIA bracelet.. oh, god, everybody was just sick to fucking death of those bracelets 30 years ago, give it a rest!

 The next day, Jane manages to magically manifest a BLM employee to schlep her sorry ass back to the PCT, this time to Walker Pass (652). She has just serendipitously avoided about 40 miles of hiking, which put the plotline back on track for the portentous rendezvous with the box containing the ice axe at Kennedy Meadows.

 But first more plodding plodding plodding.. rock slide.. plodding.. backpack squeaking again.. more rock slides.. fall to one knee in a rock slide, knee bleeding.. 7000 ft. hot, cold, hot HOT, fuckin’ hot Oh god I can’t go on. It’s too much reading all this blather about this imaginary woman on this imaginary trip. I don’t believe any of this shit. It’s too fucking whacked out. Oh.. her tent has a “mesh ceiling.”  Oh boy, she now has a guru Greg who will probably shepherd this dumb bitch the rest of the way. Sigh! I haven’t the strength and I’m going to bail! ARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHhhhhhhhh someone please shoot me.

*I was going to continue, but if you don’t get the picture by now, you never will. This piece of shit that passes for a book has bamboozled millions of ignorant people, on top of which pile sits the Queen of Literature, Oprah Winfrey. I carefully skimmed the rest of the book just to make sure Cheryl never strayed into anything actually intelligent or thought-provoking and was heartened to find it was all pretty much the same useless, boring, inane and wholly unfathomable blather. The fact this crap became a best-seller speaks volumes to the ignorance and unconnected-to-reality quality of today’s “reading” public.

She’s laughing all the way to the bank.

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