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Wild: Chapters 11-12

Welcome to the comments and discussion of the Young Adult Cancer Book Club!  We are reading Wild, by Cheryl Strayed.  Read our participants’ reactions and follow along with us each week as we read through the book!  (Caution! Spoilers below!)

Week 6: Chapters 11-12, pages 175-205

By Kristy H.

Wow, so these were such great chapters! I am really starting to feel immersed in Cheryl’s journey, like I am right next to her on the trail in too tight boots. Chapter 11 starts with her splitting up with Stacy & Trina and hitchhiking on her own to the next stop. A man pulls over, not to offer her a ride, but to interview her for the publication he works for, The Hobo Times. This entire exchange was so comical to me as she continued to reiterate to him that she was not a hobo but a PCT hiker. It was even funnier when he then gave her a hobo care package and she was worried he would believe her and take the goody box back. After this exchange, she enjoys the spoils of the box, a beer and snacks, and then continues on hitchhiking. Soon she is picked up by a woman, her fiancé, his brother, and their dog.

There is some chit chat on the journey along the way amongst all of them but I found the conversation she had with the woman (Lou) about her son dying and how it took the “Lou out of Lou” to be incredibly poignant. I feel like that was exactly how Cheryl felt with her mother passing and part of the reason she started the PCT excursion in the first place– to put the Cheryl back in Cheryl the best way she could without her mom. Those words really hit home with me as well. Being only a few months out of active treatment, I’m still trying to put the puzzle pieces of my life before and after cancer together to create a whole new picture. After getting dropped off at the next stop she links back up with Trina and Stacy for a night. This chapter wraps up with a phone call to her ex-husband. They spend an hour catching up and it is at this point she realizes that while she misses her old life or life pre PCT, she doesn’t want to go back to it. I love how she said she started this journey with a hole in her heart and while it was still there, it was getting smaller.

Chapter 12 starts with Cheryl continuing on to the next stop alone. By this point the temperature on the trail is rising and she has to conserve water until she gets to the water tank at her next checkpoint Hat Creek Rim, fifteen miles away. As soon as she sees the water tank, she guzzles her remaining water. It is only when she gets to it, she finds that it is empty. Now the fear sets in and she consults the guidebook that mentions there is a questionable reservoir five miles up the trail that may or may not have water.

She makes it to the reservoir and is relieved to see that it does in fact contain questionable water. The rest of her day is spent purifying water, guzzling it down, and repeating. She makes camp for the night, not bothering to pitch her tent due to the heat, and is awakened by hundreds of tiny frogs climbing all over her on their trek from the reservoir. She sets out late the next day and because of this only makes it to Cassel, short of her goal McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. Here she meets a fellow PCT hiker, Rex, and they camp together for the night and then make their way to the state park together.

While complaining about her boots, he lets her know that if she contacts REI, they will ship her a free pair. When they make it to the state park, reuniting with Trina and Stacy, she contacts REI and is elated to find they will overnight her a pair. Her feet’s excitement is short lived when they don’t show up and she finds out they can’t ship to the state park. I felt all of her frustration and despair when she realizes due to her food supplies, she has to keep moving and have them ship the boots to her next checkpoint, eighty-three miles away. It’s while weighing this decision that she recalls a reading she had with an astrologer who told her there would come a time when she would need to ride into battle and she would hesitate and in order for her to heal her wounds she would have to keep going. These words are what spurn her on reluctantly but determined. I think by the end of this chapter Cheryl is 100% committed to finishing the PCT. She has given herself over to it completely. I’m excited to see what the trail brings next!

By Shannon G.

Chapter 11

In Chapter 11, Cheryl first meets Jimmy Carter, a reporter for the Hobo Times. This interaction amused me, as he was insistent she was a hobo. It is also the first time she notes herself to be an “expert hiker” and a month into her PCT hike, I’d have to agree with her. What makes us an expert? Time and experience. She undoubtedly had both at this point. She than bravely accepts another ride from strangers. I can’t help but think about all the dangers that involves and she even seems unsteady about this decision at first. However, it leads to meeting Lou. The Lou who lost her son Luke at 8 years old. As a mom, I cannot and will not imagine losing my children. If there is one thing scarier than my cancer returning, it is that. The words Lou used to explain her loss were poetic… ”it took the Lou out of Lou, and I ain’t getting it back.” I remember after I completed breast cancer treatment and my hair was growing back, still a short style at the time, I had lunch with an old friend. After our lunch we were texting with one another and he noted that I “lost my sparkle.” That was the meanest thing anyone had said to be about battling through cancer. You lost your sparkle. I was devastated for days… weeks… maybe months. But after a time, I realized I had lost the me that was me prior to cancer, but that was ok. As Cheryl noted in this chapter, she missed her previous life but she didn’t want to go back either. She was healing and finally ok being alone and this is something I can strongly relate to. I think most of us can.

Chapter 12

Foot speed with Monster taught Cheryl what a mile was. This made me think about a mile in distance, how different it is on foot versus transportation. Cheryl noted foot speed made her more humble. We often take modern advancements for granted. Cheryl has conquered many fears though her journey but running out of water is by far the scariest! I always worry about this when hiking, as I know the dangers this can present. When she stumbled across the mucky water and used her purifier with iodine, I was relieved and terrified for her. The small slimy black frogs would have certainly sent me over the edge at that point!

The astrologer who read her natal chart at age 23 mentions her father seeming like a Vietnam vet, later clarifying that he was mainly wounded. Pat, the astrologer, explains how fathers pass along their unhealed wounds to their children. She goes into details about how a father teaches his child to get on a horse and ride into battle and if they fail to teach this warrior element to their child, the child has to go through this feat alone. The most interesting part of this conversation is she specifically notes it is not about strength. I can relate to this, as I come from a wounded father who did not heal his wounds. Even though I did not grow up around him, I somehow carried some of his traits into my adulthood. As I’ve reached my 40s, I am learning to face my own demons, something he was not able to accomplish successfully in his adulthood, that I know of. This is impactful and made me think about how it takes so much more than simply strength.

By Krystina N.

Chapter 11 – Lou out of Lou

The chapter opens up with Cheryl being left alone waiting for another ride to her next stop as the two women she was with, Stacy and Trina, hitched a ride with the last car that stopped but said they only had room for 2 people. Cheryl finally catches a ride with a women names Lou, her fiancé Dave, and his brother spider. Spider also had a dog named Stevie Ray Vaughn. On her ride, as Spider was talking, he grazed Cheryl’s knee with his hand which she secretly wished he would do again. Cheryl noticed a picture of a boy hanging in Lou’s rearview mirror. Lou mentions that it is her son Luke who tragically had died at the age of 8 while riding his bike he was hit by a truck. Once Cheryl reaches her destination, Lou mentions that when Luke died she knows she needed to keep pushing forward in life but that his death took, “the Lou out of Lou.” Cheryl may feel at this moment that knows she needed to push forward on the trail, despite all the challenges she had faced thus far, knowing that it was ultimately going to change her in a huge way.

Once at her campsite, she realizes she is ready to start on her novel that she has always dreamed about writing and she feels her journey on the trail has just begun. Cheryl finds a payphone and decides to call Paul, who speaks to her for an hour. Although she misses him, she is starting to see her situation as being what it is. She reframes her thinking to see the decisions she’s made have brought her to this very moment, hiking the PCT by herself.

Chapter 12 – So Far

Cheryl sets off from camp on the PCT with only 64 oz of water, as she was assured back at camp that a reservoir on the trail was filled with water. It is extremely hot on the trail and Cheryl does everything she can to conserve her water. Just as she sees the reservoir in sight, she finishes the last of the water she has. However, as she gets closer, she notices tons of notes reading, “No water,” all typed to the outside of the tank. Cheryl is completely devastated and for the first time on her journey, she realizes this is the most life-threatening dangerous situation she has put herself. She begins to question whether she is capable of actually taking care of herself and getting through the trail alive. She references her guidebook that mentions there is a pond with water that is, “questionable at best.”

Cheryl reaches the pond which is filled with muddy, black sludge water. She uses her purifier and fills both of her water bottles full and adds in packets of iodine that is supposed to kill bacteria. She finally makes it to her next destination and is able to collect her box of supplies. While at camp, Cheryl meets another hiker, Rex, who makes her aware that REI will mail her new boots for free due to their satisfaction guarantee. Cheryl is beyond excited at this news as she knows her feet may not be able to take much more. After waiting a day and half with no sign of her boots, she calls REI back only to find out they were unable to overnight the boots to a state park and would have to have them shipped through the standard mail. Feeling defeated, she has them mailed to her next location instead as she knows she cannot waste more time waiting as they would not arrive for 5 days. Before starting on the trail, Cheryl is faced with a decision to either where her camp sandals that she knows aren’t exactly durable or put her small boots back on. As she thinks about this, she is reminded of a time when she had an astrology reading done by a woman who said that Cheryl’s father was a wounded man.

Consequently, her father had transferred wounds to Cheryl by not showing up for her in her life, and in order to heal the wounds from her father, she would need to get on the horse and ride into battle. The astrologer said when it was time to go into battle, she would hesitate but pushing on was the only option. At that moment, Cheryl decided to put her sandals on and forge on to the PCT.

We’ll talk about a few chapters each week until the book is done. Join in the comments every week!  Also, there will probably be spoilers, so read along with us!

Once we finish the book, we’ll have an online book club discussion on Zoom to talk about general feelings from the book and anything else you’d like to discuss on Monday, May 23rd.

Excited about the next book club?  Have any suggestions for future reads?  Let us know by emailing!