Go Take a Hike! What You Can Learn From a 'Wild'-Inspired Journey

by Susan Hornik 1:17 PM PDT, March 31, 2015
Photo: Fox Searchlight

What does it take to walk 1,100 miles in the wilderness? If you missed Reese Witherspoon bring to life Wild, the much loved, bittersweet memoir from The New York Times best-selling author Cheryl Strayed, now is your chance -- the Oscar-nominated film comes out on Blu-ray/DVD today.

In the film, Cheryl (Witherspoon) is reeling from the loss of her broken marriage and the tragic loss of her mother (played by Laura Dern). She impulsively decides to embark on an oft-treacherous journey through the Pacific Crest Trail (or PCT) to deal with her life -- with no experience hiking and camping, and an enormous backpack.

It took Cheryl 94 days to hike the physically grueling trail through gorgeous landscapes, and the effects on her emotionally transformed her life.

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Want to have your own “wild” experience? ETonline talked to Anitra Kass, the Southern California regional representative for the Pacific Crest Trail Association, about the six things you can learn about yourself from hiking a big trail.

1. Dream Big!

"Regardless of whether you are doing a weeklong or a short day hike, it’s okay to dream big," Kass says. "Whatever your dreams are, they are yours. Don’t let other people’s thoughts or feelings influence your dreams. If it’s something that you feel called to do, you should explore it and go for it. In the film, Cheryl finds a book about the Pacific Crest Trail. She didn’t know about it nor had a lot of information on the trail, but she felt called to do it. She flipped through the guide book and put together a plan. Now as we see, the plan had some flaws, but she really went for it."

2. Bite Size Your Goals!

Kass says, "When you have a big goal in front of you, you don’t have to tackle the entire thing at once. A big goal might be, in the case of the PCT, hiking from where you are starting from to where you want to finish. If you break it down into smaller goals, i.e. ‘I am just going to get to the next place I am going to pitch my tent!’ eventually, you actually accomplish the big goal you want to get to! Cheryl certainly did that in the film; when she got to the Bridge of the Gods, she realized she had finally gotten there after a series of short treks."

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3. Express Yourself!

"In Wild, every time Cheryl gets to a new guidepost, she jots down her name along with an interesting literary quote in every guest register along the trail. It becomes a way for her to express herself creatively. So for anyone on a PCT hike, when you are inspired by the beautiful landscape or trail, you can express yourself too as you’re stopping by each trail head, with a fun quote, or sketch or poem. These registers are located almost anywhere along the trail; sometimes there’s a metal box with a notebook in it, or at the post office in a town."

4. Go Outside Your Comfort Zone!

"With flexibility, creative thinking and thinking outside the box, you can overcome obstacles that are in your way. Cheryl’s journey had tons of obstacles that she had to overcome. When she ran into a lot of snow, she changed her trip; she was flexible and calm no matter what her circumstances were. And even when Cheryl was done, there was still an opportunity for her to learn more."

5. Be In Nature!

"The long trek through the PCT was so healing for Cheryl [because] it gave her time to really feel her feelings and reconnect with life. Also, spending time in beautiful nature settings gave her the space she needed to discover herself and relax. As a result, she felt more capable of building an authentic life."

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6. Anything Is Possible!

"We really place limits on ourselves, but like Cheryl does on her hikes, if we can put ourselves in a situation where we have to push those limits, then we can all do amazing things."

Check out the PCTA website for more information on

Watch an exclusive deleted scene from the Blu-ray special features, during which Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) stumbles upon Greg, a friendly stranger along the trail who provides encouragement.