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It’s hard not to marvel at Josh Garrett. The 30-year-old track coach from Southern California recently backpacked the entire Pacific Crest Trail—2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada—in a record-setting 59 days. In the name of raising money for animal rights group Mercy for Animals, he hiked as quickly as he could, averaging 45 miles a day and sleeping just a few hours every night. How to fuel such an epic adventure? Below, Garrett gives props to his vegan lifestyle (he made the switch about two years ago) and the awe-inspiring critters he met along the way.
You didn’t pack a camp stove. What did you eat on the trail? Any foods you found yourself craving?
I ate a lot of PROBARS [a sponsor of the hike], peanut butter packets, vegan jerky, kale chips, and vegan cookies. I missed vegan doughnuts a lot—they’re one of my favorite treats. I definitely craved those as well as Thai food.
What’s your favorite “power” breakfast?
I love cereal. I usually have cereal with almond milk, and add peanut butter and maple syrup. This combination tends to fuel me for long periods. I stopped eating dairy long before I became totally vegan because of the way it would make me feel—lethargic and congested. Almond milk and soymilk work really well for me. I also enjoy whole-grain bagels with vegan cream cheese.
Has going vegan affected your hiking ability?
It sure has. On my trek, my body often responded incredibly well to 45- to 50-plus-mile days. There were times when at the end of a 50-mile day I would say to myself, “I don’t even feel like I did anything,” and then I’d wake up 4 hours later and do it all over again. I recovered very quickly from each day’s beating and even an episode of heat stroke. My body was less acidic as a result of not eating meat and dairy products, and lower acidity equals better performance and recovery.
Any memorable encounters with wildlife along the way?
Lots of snakes, elk, and bear sightings, and they were all memorable as they are all beautiful creatures. But my most memorable encounter came at 2 a.m. in the woods of Washington State. I was woken by a thumping noise that I was sure was a deer who got startled by my presence. I flashed my headlamp and saw the eye-shine. Sure enough it was a doe. I expected her to move along, but her curiosity got the better of her and she started walking toward me. I couldn’t believe how fearless she was. She ended up within an arm’s length of me, stared at me for a second with those bright, reflective eyes, and bolted. Pretty wild. I was so amped up afterward that I packed up my stuff at around 2:15 a.m. and embarked on what was to be another 50-plus-mile day.