Cheryl Strayed

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Cheryl began her hike from Mojave, California, planning to end it in Ashland, Oregon. The morning she was to begin her hike, she went to lift her pack for the first time. "It wouldn't budge," she says. "How could I carry a backpack more than a thousand miles over rugged mountains and waterless deserts if I couldn't even budge it an inch in an air-conditioned motel room?"

Here she is pictured 10 days into her hike. She eventually named her pack Monster.