Can Inspiration be Destruction?

As observed via the phenomena surrounding the story of Christopher McCandless in the book Into the Wild and the aftermath of the fame of Chery Strayed from her book Wild, readers of nature writing have a strong desire to go outside and relive the adventures they’ve read about.  In both cases, some form of detriment has been seen in regards to either the people or nature itself.

In the case of Into the Wild, and the story of Chris McCandless, readers sought to try their hand at his escape from society into the backcountry of Alaska.  Many times, the readers end up as Chris himself did, somehow stranded in the wild with not enough food and no way to contact anyone for help.  Inspiration, in this case, turns to the destruction of human life.  Instead of learning from his mistakes, people are so inspired by his story that they seek it out, only to tragically repeat it.

The destruction surrounding the story of Wild by Cheryl Strayed comes from misunderstanding and mistreating the nature that readers seek to become one with.  In the story of Wild, Cheryl Strayed hikes the easily accessible, but long and painful Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  This trail runs the length of California, Oregon, and Washington states.  While hiking, many outdoor veterans practice what is called Leave No Trace.  This means exactly what it says, that while in nature, you should leave it as you found it, if not better in case of other hikers being less diligent.  With novice hikers who are only there to try and recreate the amazingly inspirational story they’ve read, the PCT has seen an increase of trail trash from hikers who don’t know to practice Leave No Trace guidelines.

Readers of nature writing who are inspired to try these adventures out for themselves should do a good amount of research before going out into nature.  In general, everyone should remember that nature is harsh and unforgiving, but that we are too.  So, no matter what trek you might find yourself on, remember to respect that which you do not know, and try and know more than you think you do.


2 thoughts on “Can Inspiration be Destruction?

  1. Using two books that are fairly popular is really a great way of engaging us with your post. You also put an ew light on the books and their concepts. For years I always felt the need to defend McCandless, but as I’ve grown older I’ve found it harder to. The concepts of leaving no trace and inspiration being fatal are really great ways of introducing people to the topic of nature writing.


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