When Cheryl discovers the guidebook to the Pacific Crest Trail, she says that the trip "was an idea, vague and outlandish, full of promise and mystery." Later, her soon-to-be ex-husband suggests she wants to do the hike "to be alone." What do you think her reasons were for committing to this journey?
In the beginning of the book, Cheryl's prayers are literally curse words—curses for her mother's dying, curses against her mother for failing. How does her spiritual life change during the course of the book?
Cheryl's pack, also known as Monster, is one of those real-life objects that also makes a perfect literary metaphor: Cheryl has too much carry on her back and in her mind. Are there other objects she takes with her or acquires along the way that take on deeper meanings? How so?
"The thing about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail...was how few choices I had and how often I had to do the thing I least wanted to do," writes Cheryl. "How there was no escape or denial." In what ways have her choices helped and/or hurt her up to this point?
"Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves," Cheryl writes her first day on the trail. She is speaking about her fear of rattlesnakes and mountain lions and serial killers. To defeat that fear, she tells herself a new story, the story that she is brave and safe. What do you think about this approach, which she herself calls "mind control"? What are some of her other ways of overcoming fear?
At one point, Cheryl tells herself, "I was not meant to be this way, to live this way, to fail so darkly." It’s a moment of self-criticism and despair. And yet, some belief in herself exists in that statement. How do the things Cheryl believes about herself throughout the memoir, even during her lowest moments, help or hurt her on the PCT?
Published on Jun 01, 2012