Strayed’s ‘Wild’ odyssey unconventional hiker’s tale

WILD. By Cheryl Strayed. Knopf. 311 pages. $25.95.

On the first page of the prologue, Cheryl Strayed tells of clumsily knocking one of her sole pair of hiking boots off a cliff and into the trees far below.

She is 38 days into her 2,000-mile Pacific Crest Trail hike, miles of rugged peaks away from civilization and days away from her next resupply stop.

She watches her boot bounce into oblivion as she clutches the other boot, then heaves that boot after it.

So right from the start, it’s clear that “Wild” is not going to be your usual trek-through-the-wilderness saga of conquest.

The portrayal of Strayed’s 1995 odyssey, as a lone, female, newbie through-hiker at 26, is as much her story of coming to terms with her demons and the death of the mother she worship- ped.

Unlike the usual hiker bible, its intimate details include heroin use.

Lugging the pack, “Monster,” is a tale of its own. The pack is so heavy that veteran hikers flinch as they lift it. The inexperienced Strayed has to set it on a rock and wriggle under to get it on.

Interspersed with stepping past rattlesnakes, ice fields, coyotes and bears, she recounts disturbing episodes from her life to the moment she first saddles up Monster in the Mojave Desert.

“Wild” might have read as one of those self-absorbed confessions-of-an-unconventional, but Strayed’s raw honesty and sharp writing carry the weight of the introspection right along with her.

Take this hike. Save a couple of dollars for the famously large ice-cream cone at the end. It’s sweet.

Reviewer Bo Petersen, a writer for The Post and Courier