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Tales From the Pacific Crest Trail

Memoirist Cheryl Strayed offers tips and recommendations for hiking the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail.

Cheryl Strayed, author of Pacific Crest Trail memoir, in Portland, Ore., image
Photo caption
Cheryl Strayed steps out in Portland, Ore.


When she was 26, Cheryl Strayed spent 94 days alone on the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches 2,650 miles from Mexico through California, Oregon, and Washington. Strayed, now 43, wrote about the life-changing journey in her best-selling memoir, Wild, published this year.

Q Tips for Pacific Crest Trail newcomers? A Park your car at one of the many trailheads and start walking; in a few minutes you’re in the wilderness. The farther you go, the more its silences and mysteries reveal themselves. A favorite place is near Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon. Walk uphill a ways and you’re on the PCT. Keep hiking north and you get to this absolutely beautiful forest.

Q A memorable segment? A In California, where I began my hike near the Tehachapi Mountains, the desert is gorgeous—dry, but also teeming with life—and to the east you can see how the Great Basin stretches out flat. And then there’s the west side of the Sierra, these undulating hills that give way to the Pacific. But there’s also something about Mount Shasta. To me, it’s the quintessential majestic mountain.

Q OK then, Cascades or Sierra Nevada? A I have two kids and that’s like asking, which one do you love more? But if I had to choose, it would be the high Cascades in Washington. Not because they’re more beautiful but because you run into fewer people there.

Q Your favorite backcountry snack? A Hershey’s Kisses. They pack well. I’d say to myself, “This is painful and you’re tired, but go just one more mile and you can eat two Kisses.”

Photography by Joni Kabana


This article was first published in September 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.