‘I couldn’t give up’: Grueling hike for man on a mission
California hiker and track coach Josh Garrett reached the border of Washington and British Columbia on Thursday night, staking a claim to the fastest time ever recorded on the 2,665-mile trail Pacific Crest Trail.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The lowest point in Josh Garrett’s 59-plus-day hike of the Pacific Crest Trail — when he didn’t know whether he could go any farther — came just three days into the trek he began at the Mexican/U.S. border June 10.
“I suffered heat stroke and just collapsed. It was 100 degrees and I fell, shivering in a fetal position. I honestly thought I might not be able to keep going ... but I couldn’t give up on the animals.”
The animals Garrett refers to are those raised in factory farms.
Garrett, a vegan for two years, is using his trek not just to stake a claim to the fastest hike on the 2,665-mile Pacific Crest Trail, but to solicit donations to Mercy For Animals, a group opposing conditions under which animals are raised for food.
In his lowest and most painful moments — when he realized he hadn’t taken a pain-free step in six weeks, hitting the trail by 6 a.m. each day and often hiking past midnight — Garrett reminded himself he was still better off than the animals he had seen in Mercy For Animals videos.
After his heat stroke, he needed to rest for 24 hours, taking in water and food, and his strength returned.
His conviction propelled him to hike an average of about 45 miles a day at roughly 3 miles an hour through California, Oregon and Washington.
And it got him to the Washington/British Columbia border Thursday evening, recording an elapsed time of 59 days, 8 hours and 14 minutes.
The completion of his hike came less than 24 hours after a Bellingham woman, Heather Anderson, is reported to have completed the same hike in 60 days and about 17 hours.
Both hikers surpassed the previous record of 64 days, 11 hours, and 19 minutes set by distance hiker Scott Williamson in 2011.
But speed-hiking records are essentially claims, and often a subject of disagreement.
Unlike world-record attempts in some events that are closely observed and monitored, hiking speed records typically rely on information provided by the trekkers themselves, or their backers.
Among hikers, there is disagreement about what conditions should be considered in a record attempt, such as how much support the hiker receives from others along the way.
And some outdoor enthusiasts say speed hiking misses the point of being in the wilderness.
Jack Haskel, trail information specialist for the Sacramento-based Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA), treads a middle ground.
In a blog post Friday, he reported the accomplishments of Garrett and Anderson and congratulated them. “We’re in awe of their achievements and applaud them both,” wrote Haskel, who said he has no reason to doubt their reports.
Still, Haskel noted that speed-hiking claims in general are “fraught with arguable points and are difficult to authenticate,” and are neither verified nor validated by the PCTA.
The group’s website notes that even if it could closely monitor speed-hiking attempts, that would take effort away from “the important work of preserving, protecting and promoting the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail.)”
Garrett, 30, a Santa Monica track coach and fitness instructor, ate energy bars and other vegan foods on the trail. He hopes his journey will show that a vegan diet can deliver sufficient nutrition to perform even a herculean task.
He was backed on his trip by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, who provided some of Garrett’s food.
Mackey, who has hiked with Garrett, said in a prepared statement that “Josh is not only a very nice person, but is also the strongest hiker I have ever had the privilege to hike with.”
Anderson’s trek was more low-profile. On her Facebook page, she called the hike “absolutely the hardest, most beautiful thing I have ever done.” Even though her mark was bested by Garrett, it still is believed to be the fastest time for a woman on the trail.
“I reached the Canadian border alone,” she wrote. “I have never felt an adrenaline rush like I did the last two miles. I literally could not feel my body.”
Garrett said he kept the PCTA informed about his trip, but he realizes that other hikers, and the general public, need to have faith in his integrity to recognize the record.
“I saw so many hikers along the way, and they showed me nothing but love and support and encouraged me to keep going,” he said. “So I think they will accept this.”
Jack Broom: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-2222
Information in this article, originally published Aug. 9, 2013. A previous version of this story gave the wrong name for the Pacific Crest Trail Association.