Fire and floods have destroyed or made inaccessible many of the trails in our area. Read LPNF Alerts & Notices and SB County Road closure information.
Jump to main content

Santa Barbara Hikes

Diane's Big Adventures

Have you seen Wild?


I have been asked if I have read Wild a million times and once the movie came out, I knew I had to see it pretty quickly because I will be asked a million times if I have seen the movie. I suppose as a woman who solo-hiked the PCT I ought to provide some kind of review of the movie.

First, here is a far better review of Wild than I could ever write, from a solo woman PCT hiker named Patches who hiked this year.

Meadow Ed's Ruck at Walker Pass
Meadow Ed's Ruck at Walker Pass, Meadow Ed is on the left with the baseball hat, not that you can actually see anyone in this picture.

I thought it was an enjoyable movie. If you have ever gone backpacking, you will enjoy the movie. The movie portrays an authentic backpacking experience. She is fumbling with real gear that many actual hikers actually use. Her pack and her tent are both ridiculously huge. She brings all kinds of useless equipment that you'll laugh about because who hasn't been a beginner hiker bringing something equally as useless? (Please don't build a monument to your poop and toilet paper like she did. Bury it properly and for crying out loud, do not set your TP on fire. Thank heavens she didn't do that!) Her experiences dealing with wildlife are authentic to what it is actually like. Her experiences dealing with things like creek crossings or snow are accurate. The people she meets are pretty true to life. The old man she meets at Kennedy Meadows, whose name is Meadow Ed, still throws a party every year on the trail to feed hikers. But I never felt Cheryl was dirty enough. The amoung of dirt running off her in the shower was not even close to reality. She also never looked tired enough after hiking with such a heavy pack.

My feet and legs completely covered in dirt even though I had worn long pants and shoes
Here's how dirty you really get

Where she starts her hike was filmed on the actual trail. That location is the absolute hardest place anyone could begin a hike on the PCT. It is one of the hottest portions of the trail and it is also very windy. I give her a lot of credit for handling it with her huge pack and not quitting. From that spot you are 16 miles from the next source of water and further on there is a 35 mile stretch without water. You have to climb steeply and relentlessly without shade from the desert into pinyon pine and eventually into pine forest. It's a very long ascent. And almost as soon as you are happy to be out of the desert, you drop back into it again. However, the movie did not portray the climb, nor was it filmed on the PCT beyond the first few steps she took. Most of the scenes were filmed in Oregon. The portrayal of Kennedy Meadows was not the real place. The portrayal of Northern California was clearly near Crater Lake because there is the view I saw of Mt. Thielsen. But it's okay to take liberties when making a movie because it's hard to haul film equipment around. It's still a wonderful backpacking movie, very true to life.

Mt. Thielsen from near Crater Lake
Here's Mt. Thielsen from the road on the west side of Crater Lake. In Oregon.

My only real criticism was that the parts of the story with the biggest emotional impacts almost barely registered in the movie. The part about her mother's ashes seemed almost an afterthought and not disturbing. I didn't think it was made clear enough what was happening with the horse and when it did happen, very little was shown. The part with the horse was very disturbing in the book but it seemed confusing in the movie and not gruesome enough to have had the impact on her life that it did. You do understand when Cheryl vomits that she's finally purging all her demons but you don't feel like you also need to vomit, as you do reading the book. It all came off as sort of bland to me.

A more reasonable PCT hiker backpack
What a PCT hiker's pack usually looks like these days. Not quite as big as Cheryl's.

The movie is worth seeing. Most of it is fun and the movie seems more about the hike than the book did. Since we're all hikers here, this makes the movie a bonus to people like us. How often do you ever get to see a movie about backpacking that comes close to portraying what the experience really is like? How often do you ever get to see a movie about a solo woman adventurer that actually portrays the woman as a strong, solo, capable person? She never once was shown running from some predator, tripping and falling and needing a big strong man to help her up. That alone is worth the price of admission. The wilderness transformed her. The wilderness is a restorative force. That's why we all love it. Maybe after seeing this movie fewer people will think we who love wilderness are crazy.

Picture of me near Pyramid Lake in front of a Leaving Los Padres National Forest Sign
Solo women adventurers often succeed in reaching their goals. It is nice to see it on the big screen.