The Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind—and Almost Found Myself—on the Pacific Coast Trail

Dan White, Author . Harper Perennial $14.95 (374p) ISBN 978-0-06-137693-1

Traversing broiling deserts, snowy mountain passes and dank rain forests on its crooked way from Mexico to Canada, the Pacific Coast Trail is an epic challenge for die-hard backpackers. White and his girlfriend, Melissa, set out, late in the season and bereft of experience, to tread all 2,650 miles of it, leaving behind lousy reporting jobs and hoping to find self-definition and a deepened relationship. (They call their trek the Lois and Clark Expedition.) Hilarious greenhorn misadventures ensue—including the author's ill-advised chomp, while dizzy with dehydration, into a reputedly moisture-laden prickly-pear cactus—that tested their survival skills and commitment as a couple. The trail becomes less an itinerary than a world unto itself, full of squalor, discomfort and majestic scenery, and peopled by charismatic misfits and an austere cult of ultra-light speed-hikers, as the couple rely on arcane camping gear and bizarre gummy-bear-and-marshmallow diets. The wilderness authenticity the author seeks proves elusive; all journey and no destination, the story itself eventually trails off with the hero even more callow and confused than when he started. Still, White's vivid prose and hangdog humor make readers want to keep up. (June)

Reviewed on: 03/24/2008
Release date: 05/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 400 pages - 978-0-06-165273-8
Open Ebook - 400 pages - 978-0-06-165270-7
Ebook - 400 pages - 978-0-06-165274-5
Ebook - 400 pages - 978-0-06-173985-9
Show other formats
Discover what to read next