Pacific Crest Trail Having Record Year–Cheryl Strayed Effect?

Posted by on June 10, 2013 in Appalachian Trail, Bill Bryson, Cheryl Strayed, El Camino de Santiago, Pacific Crest Trail, pacific crest trail books, Skywalker--Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail, Skywalker--Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail | 0 comments

The following article:   is very good news. The number of hikers who filed for PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) thru-hiking permits has almost doubled to 1,004. Some worry. Donna Sauffley, who runs the most renowned hiker hostel on the PCT, worries about the impact on the environment, as well as the crush of hikers that will arrive at the same time at her trail-famous hostel. Points well made. However, I look at it from a different perspective. We live in a country in which 30% of our denizens are obese–not to be confused with merely overweight or fat. Perhaps more ominously, our young people’s lives have been overtaken by cell phones, computers, iPads, electronic gadgets, etc. How healthy can that be? Meanwhile, what could be healthier–or more exhilarating–than heading out on a 2,663 mile trek from Mexico to Canada in which one is exposed to the widest possible geography imaginable, from the implacable desert to the ethereal majesty of the ‘High Sierra’?

One question people are asking is what accounts for this surge in traffic on the PCT. People are discussing the ‘Strayed effect’. This refers to Cheryl Strayed, author of the wildly popular narrative, Wild–From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. It has spent over a year on the New York Times bestseller list. Some have drawn the analogy to Bill Bryson‘s renowned Appalachian Trail book, A Walk in the Woods, which led to a surge in traffic on the Appalachian Trail at the turn of the century. It is probably a good comparison for this reason. Both authors were well-known prior to the publications of these trail narratives, and thus brought in a whole new set of readers. In fact, up until the publication of Wild, my narrative, Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail was probably the bestselling PCT book. But objectively, most of my readers were hikers. Cheryl Strayed, like Bill Bryson, has created interest in our great national scenic trails on the part of non-hikers. My attitude is kudos to them. I have communicated briefly with Mrs. Strayed and congratulated her on her feat. In fact, I’m probably her biggest fan as she also boosted my sales by creating more interest in the trail. I can’t wait until Reese Witherspoon’s movie based on this book comes out!

The best news though is simply that many unsuspecting souls can expect to have their lives enriched. Whether they know it or not, once the idea gets in their head of the possibility of taking the journey of their lifetimes, they can expect to find themselves at the Mexican border pointed north. Yes, this is all very exciting.

Bill Walker is the author of Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also the author of Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail, The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago, and Getting High–The Annapurna Circuit in Nepal.

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