Have you read Wild by Cheryl Strayed? I just finished it last night – literally only a few days after I’d started it because I couldn’t put it down. The book is Cheryl’s story of hiking the Pacific Coast Trail – a 2650 mile trail that runs from Mexico to Canada. It found it riveting because of all the completely amazing things she did wrong which could have gotten her killed over, and over, and over again as she chose to tackle this monumental journey with close to zero experience. She also did it alone.
During and after my read of Wild, I started wondering how she was able to recall such detail about her experiences on the trail. She passingly mentioned having a sketchbook in her backpack but never mentioned writing in it. A quick visit to the FAQ on her website explains:
“I kept a particularly detailed one (journal) on my PCT hike, which I noted passingly in WILD. My journal was enormously helpful to me as I wrote the book, often providing me with details I’d have forgotten. I also researched facts and consulted others about their recollection and interpretation of some of the events I wrote about in WILD, but, like any memoir, WILD is based primarily on memory. I re-conjured moments, conversations, feelings, landscapes, and the people I met as I remembered them from my own point of view.”
I think about the dedication it must have took to detail her trip. Through the sweltering heat, the bitter cold, while hungry, exhausted and in pain, she still managed to write about it.