The Call of the ‘Wild’ on the Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650-mile hiking and equestrian trail that reaches from Mexico to Canada, has been called the Appalachian Trail of the West Coast. But that description does it a disservice, for the Pacific trail is longer, wilder, more punishing and also grander than its East Coast cousin.

Starting in desert chaparral near the Mexican border, the route climbs (and climbs some more) along the spine of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges as it pushes relentlessly northward. It crosses the western arm of the Mojave Desert. It traverses the lonesome high country of Sequoia National Park in California and Yosemite’s magazine-cover Tuolumne Meadows. It winds through stately Oregon forests near Crater Lake National Park and it skirts along the shoulders of volcanoes like Mount Rainier in Washington. Along the way, backpack-freighted hikers descend nearly to sea level (at the Columbia River) and tramp higher than 13,000 feet (at Forester Pass in the Sierra).

As a memorable character, the trail is perhaps second only to Cheryl Strayed, 45, the author of the memoir “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail,” which has sold more than a million copies since appearing in March 2012.

Since “Wild” has appeared, the trail has beckoned to many women who, like Ms. Strayed, needed a change in their lives and believed they might find it on this challenging, sometimes lonely route, seeking the combination of “promise and mystery” that Ms. Strayed described so enticingly.

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