PCT Trekker Brings Home the People

I’ll admit that I am addicted to distance-trekking books, not because I have written a couple of them, but because good ones make me feel like I am back on the trail.

Rick Rogers’ Walking Home brought the Pacific Crest Trail to life like no other account I have read. It is more about the people than the 2,650-mile trail from Mexico to Canada. Rogers’ insights and descriptions about his fellow thru-hikers and himself are entertaining, insightful, and chuckle-worthy.

In his mid-60s, he begins his journey with a pen pal whom he had not met and ends in his home state of Washington with his son, a third-grader. Along the way he meets a plethora of personalities that keep the book moving along at a mostly fast pace. He avoids some people and eagerly walks with others, cleverly and bluntly giving the reasons for his choices.

A former climbing instructor, his gear choices are questionable, even poor. He finds his only pair of shorts at WalMart and he knows they are made for women, but buys them anyway, leading to some funny situations that made me laugh. Maybe I even laughed at him because he should have known better.

Along the way, Rogers sprinkles instructive words of wisdom about backpacking, walking, and choices in people. Traveling in 2018, he encounters so much snow in California’s Sierra Nevada that he has to skip north and reverse direction—a flip—to avoid disaster. He then drives a rental car to Oregon to pick up where he left off.

There were times I would have liked more observations about the PCT, but in the end, Rick Rogers made me feel like those who walked with him were better for knowing him, but they may not have realized it until they returned home.

13 Reasons Why: A Search for Answers

After a loved one takes their own life, family and friends are often left wondering. What did I miss? Could I have prevented it? They try to answer the big question: Why? Guilt and confusion sometimes accompany grief and even anger.

Before 17-year-old Hannah Baker commits suicide, she narrates 13 cassette-tape recordings on seven double-sided tapes. Two weeks after her death, Clay Jensen, her high school classmate who so badly had wanted to ask her out, finds a shoebox on his doorstep. Inside he finds the tapes with a note to pass them on to the next person who is addressed by Hannah Baker’s words.

In the young adult novel, 13 Reasons Why, author Jay Asher describes how each recording is aimed at a person or event that contributed to Hannah’s decision to take her own life. Her goal is to answer the question: Why?

The story alternates between her words and Clay Jensen’s thoughts and reactions as he struggles with guilt and anticipates what Hannah will finally say about his role.

The compelling story weaves depression and teen angst with scenes of bullying, rumor-mongering, stalking, lying, and a horrific crime. Clay Jensen realizes it’s not about what he did, but about his missed opportunities.

A New York Times bestseller for three years, 13 Reasons Why drew critics and demands across the country to ban the book and keep it away from impressionable young people. Some called Hannah Baker a “drama queen” who should have been tougher. Others questioned whether teen-agers really take “little” things so seriously. For Hannah, life is a snowball of painful events that spins beyond her control.

The reality is that suicide is the second-leading cause of death among 10-to-24-year-olds and the list of causes includes depression, substance abuse, sex abuse, social isolation and bullying.

Normally, I read the book before watching the movie or TV show. In this case, I watched all four seasons of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why a while back, then recently read the book. The first season’s episodes expose the recordings and Hannah’s life; the other seasons extend the story into the aftermath. During the first season, I was drawn to each episode, thinking the story would help troubled youths deal with difficult issues and even encourage some to reach out for help. Others might be led to realize how “little” comments or deeds can cause devastating pain.

Although I sometimes had trouble remembering that the italic font was Hannah talking, I found her story and Clay’s reactions realistic. My heart ached as Clay cried. I looked for words that would bring comfort for Hannah’s family and friends.

But, despite her recorded words, I was still left wondering about Hannah Baker’s death.

Why?