The first eight days that best-selling author Cheryl Strayed hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, she didn't see another human being. She felt entirely alone. Behind her, back in the real world, Strayed's ex-husband still loved her and her mother was dead. As ill-prepared mentally and physically as she was, she continued down the trail, walking away from it all. She would eventually meet people, wanderers like herself, some who would change her outlook on life.
Throughout the experience, she walked 1,100 miles from California to Washington. Nearly two decades later, she wrote a book, Wild, about the trek she took back in 1995. Last year, Reese Witherspoon played Strayed in a film version of the book. Laura Dern played her mother.
Strayed has inspired a whole new generation to hike the PCT, in what is being dubbed the "Wild effect." It's now nearly impossible to go days without running into another person. Prior to the memoir's release in 2012, about 300 hikers would take out permits annually; now it's closer to 3,000.
Strayed has inspired others in more than just communing with nature. Her book Tiny Beautiful Things, a collection of advice columns from her days as "Dear Sugar" for The Rumpus website, has redefined the genre. Each answer is told in a story format, where Strayed pulls from an incident in her own life that applies to the question. In an understanding and dynamic way, she challenges readers to stand up for themselves.
Next Thursday, Strayed comes to inspire Spokane as the guest speaker for the YWCA Women of Achievement luncheon. The event honors six local women working to better this community: Artist Louise Kodis, K&N Electric CEO Janet Schmidlkofer, Kauffman & Associates President Jo Ann Kauffman, Umpqua Bank Executive Vice President Marty Dickinson, Spokane Falls Community College physics professor and author Asa Bradley and Peg Currie, chief nursing officer at Providence Health Care.
YWCA Women of Achievement luncheon feat. Cheryl Strayed • Thu, Oct. 1, 11:30 am-1:30 pm • $125 • Spokane Convention Center • 334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. • ywcaspokane.org/womenofachievement • 326-1190