Cheryl Strayed was 26 years-old when she set off to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in 1995. Still grieving her mother’s untimely death from lung cancer and her own failed marriage, Cheryl arrived at the Mojave Desert trailhead with a heavy backpack and a heavier heart. Although she had never been backpacking before, she set off on an adventure that would change her life.
More than a decade later, Strayed published Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. This deeply vulnerable memoir about her 1,100 mile odyssey became a New York Times bestseller. Be warned, Strayed holds nothing back in relating just how broken her life had become before she set off on her nearly yearlong journey toward healing. Her story gained in popularity when the film adaptation of the book was released in December 2014 with Reese Witherspoon playing the part of Strayed.
Strayed’s story has certainly resonated with a broad audience. Since the release of her book and the subsequent movie, Google searches for “hiking the PCT” have increased six-fold. More people, including many more women, are expected to hike the Pacific Crest Trail this year than in previous years. Strayed’s story has inspired lots of people to believe they can do more than a day hike at a local park.
Kara Richardson Whitley is another woman with an inspirational story. At 30 years of age Whitley’s weight had ballooned to nearly 360 pounds. Frustrated, she decided to start hiking. Her hiking adventures initially led her up mountains in Vermont, then to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up, and finally to Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. She has climbed Kilimanjaro three times. Whitley shared her inspirational story in her book, Fat Woman on the Mountain: How I Lost Half of Myself and Found Happiness and in her latest book entitled Gorge: My Journey Up Kilimanjaro at 300 pounds.
Sasha Cox is another woman with an inspirational story. After the death of her mother, Cox read Strayed’s story and decided to embark on a journey around the world. While backpacking in the Bolivian Andes with her fiancé, she came up with the idea of providing opportunities for women to have outdoor adventures. As a result, she founded Trail Mavens, billed as a “skills-based outdoor adventure group for extraordinary women.” Cox leads women on adventures that help them to find a greater sense of fulfillment by confronting and overcoming challenges in the great outdoors.
Roz Savage’s inspirational story is one of my personal favorites. Years ago, Savage wrote two versions of her obituary — the one she wanted and the one she had. The obituary she wanted was one that reflected a life of adventure. The one she was actually heading for reflected a nice, normal, and comfortable life. Savage concluded she was totally on the wrong track, left her corporate job, and “through a bit of a leap of logic, decided to row across the Atlantic Ocean.” Savage accomplished her dream of rowing across the Atlantic in 2005 and has since rowed across The Pacific and Indian Oceans.
I applaud each of these women for having the courage to go beyond and, in the process, for inspiring others to believe that they can do far more than they ever imagined.
Happy Birthday, Jonathan. Thanks for inspiring me and inviting me to join you on some truly cool adventures in the great outdoors. Love you and proud to be your Dad.