Outdoors: Pacific Crest Trail taking a beating from vegan hikers

Speed record for men, women likely broken today

Josh Garrett expects to complete his Mexico-to-Canada trek today.

August 8, 2013 - Updated: August 13, 9:13 a.m.

UPDATE Aug. 12: At about 9 p.m. on Aug. 8, 2013, Californian Josh Garrett set a record for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail with a time of 59 days, 8 hours, 59 minutes, averaging nearly 45 miles a day. He broke the record set in 2011 by Scott Williamson of 64 days, 11 hours and 19 minutes.

Heather “Anish” Anderson also broke the 2011 record before her mark as usurped a day later by Garrett. Still, Anderson holds the women’s record by completing the hike just before midnight on Aug. 7 in 60 days and 17 hours and 12 minutes.

The debate on how much the hikers were “supported” or “unsupported” continues.

Anderson clarifies that she had dropped her vegan diet for health reasons several months before starting the PCT, a decision that as unrelated to the hike.

Barring a broken leg, lightning strike or some other catastrophe, a 30-year-old California man is on track to set a record today by completing a supported through-hike of the 2,655-mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada in just 59 days.

Josh Garrett has averaged 44 miles a day since leaving the Mexico border on June 10, and about 50 miles a day through Oregon and Washington with at least one daily mileage of more than 70 miles.

GPS data indicates he hiked 48 miles on Monday, getting within roughly 150 miles of the U.S-Canada border.

While his endurance in such a brisk walk through the wilds of California, Oregon and Washington is astounding, he takes his energy from a different source than most long-distance hikers.

Garret is a vegan. Not a mile of this hike has been fueled by a cheeseburger or even a Snickers bar.

This is comparable to putting a man on the moon via solar panels rather than rocket fuel.

Another hiker, Heather “Anish” Anderson, 31, of Bellingham started June 8 and was on track to break a PCT speed record, too. In her most recent Facebook post she said, “And now, in the cold, foggy night I walk across the next to last hwy and into the wilderness. I will post again when I’m done.” That was Aug. 3.

She was hiking unsupported except by the moral boost provided by other hikers she’s met. Anderson said she’s motivated by the challenge. “I’ve never been athletic,” she wrote, noting when she graduated from high school she weighed 200 pounds.

Her “Anish Hikes” Facebook timeline indicates she’s survived on a crop of lentils she cooked and dried before the hike, as well as “staples” such as Oreo’s, hazelnut butter and jelly wrapped in a tortilla.

Anderson has been trucking to break the unassisted speed record of 64 days, 11 hours and 19 minutes set in 2011, but it appears that Garrett will finish in less time.

Garrett’s record may need an asterisk. Although he’s on his own five or six days at a time, he’s been getting support at the occasional PCT road crossings from an assistant provided by his sponsor, Whole Foods. John Mackey, the company’s CEO, inspired the Santa Monica Junior College track coach to challenge the PCT record in the name of the vegan lifestyle.

Garrett’s significant other, Karen Dawn, also encouraged him to carry the torch for animal rights.

“It’s the causes he’s representing that are keeping him going at this pace,” Dawn said Tuesday. She was driving from California to Manning Provincial Park, British Columbia, to rendezvous with Garrett today for the last few miles of his odyssey.

Anderson is a vegan, but relaxed her vegan diet in order to attempt a PCT record unsupported, Dawn said. However, through social media followers, she’s received food support at trailheads.

(PCT trail followers generally consider “supported” as having handlers who go along with the hiker, carrying gear. Neither Anderson nor Garrett had that kind of support, but the line is still blurry in the eyes of traditionalist hikers.)

While Anderson has left an online record of her hike, Garrett communicates mostly through updates to Dawn.

“He’s sleep-deprived and exhausted,” she said Wednesday after getting a cell-phone report from his final push. “He wants it over. The only thing keeping him going is thinking about the animals he’s representing.

“Josh doesn’t have the personality of a record breaker,” she said, noting that he’d hiked the PCT in 88 days in 2009, an effort more suited to his personality.

“Others might go after records for the challenge or to prove something, but he’s raising money for the animals.”

She said he’s about a third of the way to raising his goal of $26,550 through Mercy for Animals – $10 for every mile.

Every PCT hiker encounters drama. Anderson has reported two mountain lion encounters. Garrett suffered heat stroke in the desert on Day 3.

“That was his only rest day, if you can call it that,” Dawn said, recalling Garret vomiting and saying, ‘This is what it feels like to be dying.’ ”

Friends helped him off the trail to a motel room, where he recovered in an ice bath and drank liters of fluids. He was back on the trail in 25 hours.

“It would be daunting to resume after something like that knowing you have to make up the lost time to meet your goal,” she said.

His attempt to gain followers with Twitter failed in the first week after his last post: “Too beat to Tweet….”

“He’d never tweeted in his life,” Dawn said. Being on the trail from 5ish in the morning to after 9 p.m. each day left little time or energy for more than a quick phone report on the infrequent chance he had reception.

“Mostly I followed him from his daily GPS data via satellite,” she said.

Remarking on tips learned from his 2009 PCT trek, Garrett said he prefered long pants and long-sleeve shirts for protection from bugs and sun. He said he rarely suffered a blister because he hiked in the running shoes to which his feet were accustomed.

But he’s had considerable trouble with blisters this time.

“He was fine when he hiked 30 miles a day,” Dawn said, “but apparently you’re going to get blisters no matter what shoes you wear when you average more than 40 miles day after day.”

Garrett, a vegan for two years, hasn’t been able to enjoy most food offerings left by the legendary “trail angels” along the route. He won’t eat anything with dairy products because of what Dawn called “the cruelty involved in the dairy industry.”

Cheese, meat, and even chocolate, are off his menu.

But Garrett, who teaches exercise physiology, knows how to fuel his machine even though he doesn’t carry a stove or pot, she said.

“He gets plenty of protein and nutrition by eating plants – like a mustang or silverback gorilla,” Dawn said.

“He eats nuts and energy bars packed with protein, and it’s bloody wonderful when somebody can meet him with a bean burrito.

“The lifestyle suits him in some ways: he’s not much of a cook.”

Contact Rich Landers at (509) 459-5508 or email richl@spokesman.com.

More on the Outdoors Blog

Read Rich Landers’ blog post about the PCT record-setting speed hiker’s childhood as an overweight girl who dreamed one day of setting an athletic record.

Follow PCT leaders

• On Facebook search “ Josh Garrett and Annish Hikes.

• Pacific Crest Trail Association,  pcta.org


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