Many in the general public applaud Cheryl Strayed for her impressive feat of walking 1100 miles, by herself. However in the larger picture of long-distance hiking, her accomplishment seems rather…pedestrian.
Hundreds of men and women thru-hike the entire 2660-mile PCT every year. Others perform even more notable achievements. Just this year, Olive “Raindance” McGloin, finished a PCT yo-yo , hiking from Mexico to Canada, then turning around and hiking all the way back to Mexico. In 2013 Heather “Anish” Anderson set an unsupported speed record for men and women by hiking the entire PCT in 60 days. 5-year-old Buddy Backpacker completed the Appalachian Trail last year, and recently finished a thru-hike of the PCT at age 6. Many others have thru-hiked past the age of 70.
Another inspiring story is that of Wesley Trimble, a man living with Cerebral Palsy has also hiked the entire PCT. The video he made of his journey is stirring. Currently, as of this writing, two hikers, trail names Trauma and Pepper are nearing the halfway point of a wintertime PCT thru-hike over snow for most of the distance. There is also a quickly growing tally of hikers that have completed the ‘Triple Crown’ of hiking, by walking the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. Some have done all that in one year.
Every season, hikers seem to accomplish feats that were previously thought impossible. With all of these other notable achievements, it is easy to see why many thru-hikers are asking why Hollywood is not making movies about them.
An easy response might be that none of those people sat down to write a book. But that is far from the truth. There are dozens of books by people who have completed long distance hikes. Journey on the Crest by Cindy Ross is lauded for her outstanding descriptions and illustrations of her thru-hiking in the early 80’s. Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods stands near the top of the recommended reading, for being simultaneously funny, informative and insightful. (It is of note that Bryson, and especially his sometimes partner Katz, were also guilty of some outlandish and irresponsible trail behavior.)
Yet none of these superior works has been made into a movie. However many thru- hikers have filmed compelling documentaries of their experience. A standout example can be seen in As It Happens, a stunning feature length chronicle of a 2011 thru-hike, on a year with as deep a snowpack as Cheryl Strayed encountered. Add in detours to the summit of Mt. Whitney, a climb of Mt. Shasta and the beach, this is one extraordinary journey and film.