Explosion of Interest in Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail by Bill Walker
To be honest, I was a bit shocked. Yes, I know that wilderness and an outdoor orientation seem to actually run in the American DNA. But I didn’t expect this.
As part of the Amazon KDP Select Program, I decided to run a two-day special offering free upload on Kindle of3outdoor narratives, Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail (2008), Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail (2010), and ‘The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago’ (2012). I couldn’t believe it when I turned on the computer today. Midway through the second afternoon (40 hours after beginning), 3,521 people have uploaded Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail. That’s an average of about 95 people per hour uploading this onto their Kindles. At this rate, the two-day total should reach well over 4,000 people.
That’s not to say I’m unhappy with the results of the other two books. Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail has seen 754 uploads to this point (about 19 per hour) and The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago has had 293 uploads (a little over 7 per hour).
But the question remains, why the huge interest in Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail? I reckon there are two reason. First, Appalachian Trail hikers are turning their attention west. After having gotten the journeys of their lifetimes on the famed AT, they hanker for more adventure. And one thing they have heard is how different the AT is from the PCT. Indeed the AT is a deep wilderness adventure through the world’s greatest remaining hardwood forest, running for 14 states (Georgia to Maine). The Pacific Crest Trail offers a vastly different landscape, starting with 703 miles of desert, heading into the highest mountains on the entire American mainland (High Sierra), across the volcano-ridden landscape of interior Oregon, and finishing in the ruggedly bleak Northern Cascade Range of Washington State. The PCT is famous in the hiking community for its stunning beauty. So it is no surprise that word has travelled fast in the hiking community about this gem of a national scenic trail.
However, there is probably another more basic reason for the popularity of this trail narrative. Cheryl Strayed. If you have looked at the New York Times Bestseller List in recent months, you may have spotted her Pacific Crest Trail Narrative, ‘Wild-From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail’. This is the story of a 26 year-old woman recovering from divorce, loss of her beloved mother, and even heroin addiction. She heads off alone into the vast expanses of the Pacific Crest Trail seeking recovery. She quickly learns what has intoxicated mortals throughout the ages–outdoor journeys on foot are brilliant at filling human vacuums.
This book is a great hard luck story and I recommend it to any and all. I appreciate that Mrs. Strayed has replied to this blog to the effect that “There is room for more than one book on this great trail.” All trail narratives are different. Mine is told from the point of view of a middle-aged person of average abilities attempting to accomplish something that most people would simply never even consider doing. Having lost 43 pounds along the way, and committing countless rookie blunders, it proves to be one helluva’ struggle. But I will never forget the awe-inspiring geography of the West nor the amazing cast of characters (Uber Bitch, Shit Bag, Serial Killer) that I encountered.
The Pacific Crest Trail is the best way I can imagine to experience the great American West. And hopefully this narrative, Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail will inspire more readers to head West on their lifetime journeys.
Loved all three of your books! And FYI – your book led me to buy “WILD” (Strayed)! Your honesty about your abilities, feelings and experiences along the trail is wonderful. Keep hiking and writing!