The film "Wild," which opened Wednesday, tells the raw personal journey of Cheryl Strayed, who took off on a 1,000-plus-mile trek presumably to find herself. Where she chose to go, the remote and challenging Pacific Crest Trail, is a thrilling back-country destination little known to most travelers -- until now.
Reese Witherspoon portrays Strayed in the movie version of the book. For those who want to re-create some of Strayed's route, the Pacific Crest Trail Assn. has posted an online guide to hikes featured in the film and the book.
" 'Wild" is the largest media event ever for the PCT," spokesman Jack Haskel says, using the nickname for the hiking route from Mexico to Canada. "The trail has never received this level of attention."
But it should have.
The 2,650-mile dirt trail passes through the most stunning parts of the West, including the Sierra Nevada, Cascade Mountains and a slew of national parks and wilderness areas. It comes close to L.A. too, threading its way through the peaks of the Angeles National Forest.
Each year about 400 to 500 hikers complete it (Haskel says it's hard to tally because the numbers are all based on self reporting), and some hikers "yo-yo," meaning they walk from Mexico to Canada then walk back again.
Haskel himself has completed the journey, starting alone and falling in with a posse, completing it in five months and four days.
But back to Strayed's routes.
The "Hikes From 'Wild' " web page provides a sampler of what the trail is all about.
Each one includes directions, routes and maps for locations you'll see in the film (either real or re-created by Hollywood) and quotes from Strayed's book about her experience.
You can start out (where Strayed did) on the Tehachapi Pass about 12 miles west of Mojave. The recommended route is an easy five mile out-and-back to get a flavor of the desert.
Or you can walk or bicycle part or all of a 33-mile route around Crater Lake National Park in Oregon where Strayed was awed by her first views of the ancient caldera.
Haskel says the "Wild" web pages also offer a chance for people to learn how to prepare to set out in the wilderness. The association also introduced a hashtag -- #ResponsiblyWild -- to stress the safety factor.
"['Wild'] is not a how to hike the Pacific Crest Trail guide," Haskel says. "She made many mistakes, and it ended up being unnecessarily hard for her."