The movie Wild will soon draw many new day hikers, section hikers, and thru hikers to the Pacific Crest Trail. With the release of the movie, we decided to compare Cheryl Strayed’s hike to an actual Pacific Crest Trail thru hike from Mexico to Canada. Here are 10 ways the movie was true to our PCT thru hiking experience, and 10 ways it strayed from the path.
Wild was right about:
Adventure. One reason thru hiking is so great is that it’s a big adventure. Every day on the trail there are unexpected moments, surprising encounters with animals and people, or incredible new landscapes. The movie got this right — a thru hike isn’t always easy, but it’s exciting and new.
Trail angels. We’ve never received so much kindness from strangers as we did during our PCT thru hike. Called “trail angels” in the hiking community, these wonderful people offer free food, places to sleep, showers, rides to trailheads, and anything else a hiker might desire.
Hiker hunger. A thru hiker needs to eat about 4000 calories every day, which results in a ravenous appetite. Everything tastes good, and more of everything tastes better. We even started calling peanut M&Ms “magic energy gems”. After eating lots of dehydrated food, fresh fruit is an object of special desire. A ripe peach, as Cheryl was seen eyeing in Wild, will blow your mind.
Trail registers. Thru hikers use trail registers to keep track of each other, share wisdom, and leave a bit of laughter for those who follow on the trail. Some hikers leave quotes like Cheryl did, while others write whatever comes to mind.
Hitchhiking. Thru hikers have to hitchhike occasionally in order to reach towns where they can resupply. When we hitchhiked we met all types of people. As with the Hobo Times scene in Wild, it’s true, people do mistake thru hikers for homeless people.
Wildlife. Spend enough time in the wilderness and you will encounter wild animals. Rattlesnakes are no joke, but their distinctive rattle makes their presence known so you can scoot by at a safe distance, just as Cheryl does in the film. On our thru hike, we also saw several bears, many eagles and hawks, elk, mountain goats, a scorpion, a marten, and much more — but not a single fox, sorry Cheryl.