When Wild author Cheryl Strayed embarked on her 1,100-mile solo hike across the Pacific Crest Trail in 1991 following the dissolution of her marriage and the death of her beloved mother, she expected to face more than a few challenges. As she wrote in her memoir of the experience, Strayed encountered a rattlesnake, unsavory hikers and even a bear, but there was one truly terrifying moment that was far worse than all the rest.
When she sat down with Oprah to discuss Wild, a pick for Oprah's Book Club 2.0 in 2012 and now a film starring Reese Witherspoon, Strayed described exactly what it was that truly frightened her to her core.
"It was this very hot day and I had come to this pond, basically this oversized mud puddle," Strayed recalls. "I was so exhausted... I fell asleep on my tarp right next to the pond."
Suddenly, she was awoken from her slumber under the stars by a very strange sensation.
"I have this sensation that someone is touching me. Just little hands all over. Cool, wet hands," Strayed says. "I wake up slowly and I realize that I am absolutely covered... in little frogs."
The tiny creatures had been in the pond beside Strayed, and after the sun set, they emerged from the water. She was in the direct path of their migration.
"I'm covered with black frogs and I jump up shrieking. Shrieking! Running!" Strayed says. "As I'm going, I'm trying not to step on them and kill them... [But] of course I do. I've never forgotten the feeling underneath my feet... As I'm running, I'm screaming, stepping on them, trying to get them off, out of my clothes. And I also have to drag all my gear... And I'm dragging all these frogs with me. It was terrifying. "
Oprah squirms and shutters repeatedly as Strayed tells the story, visibly sharing in the author's squeamish fear over the incident. But not everyone who read Wild understood why Strayed had such a reaction to the small amphibians.
"It was the animal that frightened me the most on my hike. Without question," Strayed says with a laugh. "I'm glad to hear you're a girl after my own heart because everywhere I've been, they're like, 'Why were you afraid of those frogs?'"
"Oh, my gosh," Oprah says. "I think I would be forever traumatized by it."