Non Fiction An article about Strayed and distance hikers in general


2018 edition Camino Guides
#1
Ana Maria Spagna would probably label herself as an "Outdoorsy" individual. Her resume includes published writer, teacher, and ex-trail maintenance boss for the national parks system. Today she lives in a remote part of Washington state, only accessible by a daily ferryboat and with limited power and internet access.

Her meditation on Cheryl Strayed and the book Wild reflects her personal ambiguity about what defines "accomplishment". I think that this article covers a certain amount of the peregrino's mental landscape as well.

The part that resonated with me is the following:

"...Outdoorsy types took issue with her unpreparedness. Backpacking, after all, depends on careful planning. The sheer number of gadgets and tricks to reduce pack weight constitutes a regular OCD candy shop. Even if you lean sloppy, as I always had, it takes time and intention, as well as cash and ingenuity, to learn what you need to carry, what you don’t, and it takes time and commitment to get in shape for a long trek. Strayed, they said, hadn’t even tried. I tried to mention how often we saw unprepared hikers in the woods, every single day, and how none of them died. If they suffered, they brought home a good story. Just like Strayed did. "


Other views?

- Jason
 

Advertisment

Kitsambler

Jakobsweg Junkie
#2
The part that resonated with me is the following:
Oh you have really understated how 'remote' she is - Stehekin (stuh-HEE-kin) is a day-long ferry ride up Lake Chelan, and sometimes they have to evacuate the entire town due to forest fires. I suspect the polar icecap station has better communication with civilization.

Anyhow - what is the quote taken from?
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Donating Member
#5
About what? The essay itself - call it a meditation if you will - or the part you have quoted without context.

I think that this article covers a certain amount of the peregrino's mental landscape as well.
Only by some stretch of the imagination, but drawing analogies is what people do. It seems more likely to be analogous to the perspectives that a hospitalero might have as they reflect on the pilgrims they have served than an understanding any pilgrim might have of their own experience.
 

Advertisment

davebugg

Active Member
Donating Member
#6
Ana Maria Spagna would probably label herself as an "Outdoorsy" individual. Her resume includes published writer, teacher, and ex-trail maintenance boss for the national parks system. Today she lives in a remote part of Washington state, only accessible by a daily ferryboat and with limited power and internet access.

Her meditation on Cheryl Strayed and the book Wild reflects her personal ambiguity about what defines "accomplishment". I think that this article covers a certain amount of the peregrino's mental landscape as well.

The part that resonated with me is the following:

"...Outdoorsy types took issue with her unpreparedness. Backpacking, after all, depends on careful planning. The sheer number of gadgets and tricks to reduce pack weight constitutes a regular OCD candy shop. Even if you lean sloppy, as I always had, it takes time and intention, as well as cash and ingenuity, to learn what you need to carry, what you don’t, and it takes time and commitment to get in shape for a long trek. Strayed, they said, hadn’t even tried. I tried to mention how often we saw unprepared hikers in the woods, every single day, and how none of them died. If they suffered, they brought home a good story. Just like Strayed did. "


Other views?

- Jason
As one who has through-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and the Colorado Trail, with thousand of backpacking miles in the Cascades, Rockies, and Sierras, my comments are:

1. Strayed got very lucky. She decided on a whim to grab nearly 60 pounds of gear (of which 40 pounds was crap and discarded along the first miles), was nearly hobbled in a wilderness where she was days from help and then more miles to get to medical help, nearly succumbed to severe dehydration due to poor planning of being caught dozens of miles to the next possible water source after running dry, and on and on, etc.

2. If Strayed had done this on, say, Camino Frances, her lack of physical and practical preparedness would have quick bailout points all along the way, just a phone call away -- as long as cell service exists. Otherwise, the walk to the nearest town would be relatively short.

3. Two entirely differing sorts of walks. I do not see the analogy between Strayed's wilderness nonsense, and what a Pilgrim on Camino experiences.
 

C clearly

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Donating Member
#7
I found several aspects of her book to be so puzzling that I couldn't get fully invested in her story. One was the ridiculous lack of common sense in her preparations. I can only assume that it was a symptom of emotional breakdown, and/or poetic license for the sake of the book. In any case, I couldn't identify with it although I was happy to read it.
 

Kitsambler

Jakobsweg Junkie
#8
Oh come now. We - the readers of this forum - see this discussion quite regularly around here. Except in this forum, the label is, "Who is a real pilgrim?" It is a question of authenticity. And the answer often seems to be,"Not only do I get to define authenticity for myself, but I also get to define it - and therefore judge it - for everyone else." Ms. Spagna has fallen into the same trap.
 

JillGat

la tierra encantada
#9
Cheryl Strayed clearly described herself as a mental basket case. She did not recommend her actions to anyone else. She made spontaneous decisions and sometimes suffered the consequences for them. I didn't see anyone else being inconvenienced or put at risk for what she did. Her story was interesting to read.

Why the need to judge or one-up her?
 

Advertisment

davebugg

Active Member
Donating Member
#11
Cheryl Strayed clearly described herself as a mental basket case. She did not recommend her actions to anyone else. She made spontaneous decisions and sometimes suffered the consequences for them. I didn't see anyone else being inconvenienced or put at risk for what she did. Her story was interesting to read.

Why the need to judge or one-up her?
Judging what put Strayed at risk and why, so that others do not make potentially fatal mistakes is important. In the US, mistakes and accidents account for an average of 38 deaths and thousands of injuries and rescues of backpackers and hikers each year. Strayed is an important lesson for the novice backpacker of what NOT to do. The Strayed effect has also caused a pretty significant upswing in beginners trying to thru-hike the PCT. A lot of them never complete it (and, less frequently by ratio, some experienced backpackers also don't complete the thru-hike).

I have no problem judging a good thing or a bad thing. That's what helps most of us decide, where examples exist, what works for us and what doesn't. If someone was mauled by a moose for trying to pet the thing, I would have no problem judging that person's actions as dangerous, and then telling others that the person mauled was doing a dangerous thing.

Judging Strayed's actions is not a problem. What I haven't done is to judge Strayed as a person.
 
Last edited:

JillGat

la tierra encantada
#12
I'm an experienced backpacker and mountain climber, and yeah, I saw a lot of stupid things that she did. She pointed many of them out herself. She also had a history of drug addiction, careless promiscuity and obviously needed counseling to stop obsessing on her mother's death. There are a ton of books about and written by people like that. I guess it's okay to weigh in on her actions, and I'm sorry to hear that apparently there were a lot of people who didn't "consider the source" and tried to emulate her adventure. I hope they don't read books about serial killers next!
 
Last edited:

davebugg

Active Member
Donating Member
#13
I'm an experience backpacker and mountain climber, and yeah, I saw a lot of stupid things that she did. She pointed many of them out, herself. She also had a history of drug addiction, careless promiscuity and obviously needed counseling to stop obsessing on her mother's death. There are a ton of books about and written by people like that. I guess it's okay to weigh in on her actions, and I'm sorry to hear that apparently there were a lot of people who didn't "consider the source" and tried to emulate her adventure. I hope they don't read books about serial killers next!
Well, folks have emulated serial killers and murderers after reading about or seeing media coverage of their crimes. Strayed's personal history was never the issue, in my mind, other than making for cringe-worthy sadness at her attempts at personal destruction. You have presented some good points. Jill :)
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Donating Member
#14
I rather thought Ana Maria Spagna's essay was less about Cheryl Strayed and more about the nature of ambition and following one's own ambitions, not being jealous of someone else's. In this context, it might be suggested that someone like Paulo Coelho walked just part of the Camino to write about it, and it was unlikely he was ever going to complete it. In much the same way, Bill Bryson walked only part of the Appalachian Trail. Paulo Coelho's and Bill Bryson's ambitions are to write about things. In contrast, there are the many of us whose ambition is to undertake and complete a pilgrimage. Our ambition is not the writing, photography, videography and other social media engagement that helps us share the experience with our family and friends, and on this and other forums, with future pilgrims.

And to take Spagna's message one step further, being critical for example, of the inaccuracies of the movie, The Way, or that Shirley Maclaine's book is an unreadable ramble is simply an expression of jealousy. We confuse our own ambitions to experience the Camino and represent that completely and truthfully with those of artists and artisans whose ambition is the creation of a piece of art that represents the Camino, but doesn't have to be the Camino.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Donating Member
#15
I agree with what you say @dougfitz, with the exception of the conclusion that criticism of the inaccuracies is "simply an expression of jealousy" - there could be many other reasons. But you are absolutely right.

A landscape painting does not have to be realistic to be a good piece of art, and it would be foolish to confuse it with a map.
 
Last edited:

Advertisment

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Donating Member
#17
I agree with what you say @dougfitz, with the exception of the conclusion that criticism of the inaccuracies is "simply an expression of jealousy" - there could be many other reasons. But you are absolutely right.

A landscape painting does not have to be realistic to be a good piece of art, and it would be foolish to confuse it with a map.
Certainly there may be many reasons for valid criticism - my comments were cast in the framework created in the essay - itself a piece of art that does not need to reflect all of reality to make its points.
 
#19
I rather thought Ana Maria Spagna's essay was less about Cheryl Strayed and more about the nature of ambition and following one's own ambitions, not being jealous of someone else's. ...
Absolutely. Semantics re: "jealousy" aside, you hit the nail on the head. Thanks for clarifying.
-jason
 

Advertisment

Most viewed threads

Most liked threads