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Here’s the Wild Idea

Aspen’s Wild Idea: To rebuild her mental and emotional strength by hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail, and her journey in the book, Girl In the Woods.

Editor’s note: This episode contains references to sexual violence and may not be suitable for all audiences.

After being raped her second night of her freshman year in college, Aspen Matis grew depressed and was shocked at how her school didn’t believe her, and how little they did to protect her.

She’d spent a lot of time in the outdoors in growing up, and knew that getting into the wilderness could bring her a sense of peace and healing. Instead of returning to school, she dropped out and embarked on a 2,000-mile journey to walk the PCT from Mexico to Canada.

She shared the story of her journey in the 2015 book, Girl in the Woods, which became an international bestseller. It’s a story that’s equally vulnerable and fearless, one where Aspen shares moments of magic from the trail and its healing power. It’s also a book I couldn’t put down and has resonated with many, including receiving praise from people like Lena Dunham, Cheryl Strayed, Oprah Magazine, and many more.

I talk with Aspen about her time on the PCT, her favorite things about the hike and how she made it through some of the most challenging days. We also dive deep into her gear recommendations, especially for those who like to go lightweight, and what she had with her. At the end, Aspen shares with us a book she’s working on now, the first time she’s shared this information with the world.

Presented by REI

Listen to this Episode if

  • You or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault.
  • You’ve ever wanted to hike the PCT.
  • You love geeking out about gear.
  • You think nature has magical powers.

Key Takeaways

  • 2:10 – The story behind Aspen’s book Girl in the Woods.
  • 4:10 – Why she decided to hike the PCT.
  • 9:50 – How her time on the trail was kind of like immersion therapy.
  • 12:35 – The trail helped her heal and realize she was not to blame for her rape.
  • 19:00 – The connection between mental strength and physical strength.
  • 21:50 – Aspen takes us to the trail and shares some of the magic.
  • 26:40 – Aspen (and Cheryl) have inspired more women to get on the trail.
  • 29:00 – Aspen’s advice for people thinking about hiking the PCT.
  • 31:50 – Digging into the best gear for the trail.
  • 38:00 – How many pairs of shoes Aspen went through.
  • 39:40 – What she ate on the trail.
  • 46:30 – Trail magic is the highlight of the PCT.
  • 47:15 – How the book opened doors for Aspen.
  • 50:20 – The statistics behind sexual assault.
  • 51:20 – Contact RAINN if you or someone you know has experience assault.
  • 52:45 – What Aspen is working on now (hint: it’s another book!).
  • 57:10 – Aspen would tell her younger self to be kind to her parents.
  • 59:20 – It’s no surprise Aspen’s dream party involves hiking and camping.
  • 1:01:15 – We are all one family.


The Girl in the Woods

Episodes to listen to

Florence Williams
Cheryl Strayed


The Nature Fix by Florence Williams
Aspen’s Modern Love essay
Rape Abuse and Incest National Network
Gotham Writer’s Workshop in NY
Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Gear Aspen loves

Ultralight Osprey backpack
Big Agnes Seedhouse
Western Mountaineering sleeping bag
UV water filter

Connect with Aspen




Wild Ideas Worth Living on Facebook
Wild Ideas Worth Living on Instagram
Wild Ideas Worth Living on Twitter