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Vegan Hiker Sets New Record On Pacific Crest Trail

Mercy for Animals. Pacific Crest Trail hiker Josh Garrett

Two athletes have separately set new speed records for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. On Wednesday, a Bellingham woman completed the long distance hike in 60 days. Then Thursday night, a California man topped her by accomplishing the feat in 59 days.

The Pacific Crest Trail starts in a desert on the Mexican border and stretches for 2,655 miles through national forests and parks, across innumerable mountain passes to Canada. Thirty-one-year-old Heather 'Anish' Anderson covered that distance -- alone -- at a blistering pace of more than 43 miles per day. She sliced more than three and a half days off the previous fastest time when she jogged across the northern border by the light of her headlamp.

But Anderson's record of 60 days, 17 hours and 12 minutes stood for less than a day. Santa Monica College track coach and exercise physiology instructor Josh Garrett averaged nearly 45 miles per day on his hike. Garrett's support team clocked him at the northern border in 59 days, 8 hours and 14 minutes.

"I had a couple of close calls," said a clearly exhausted Garrett via telephone from Manning Park Lodge in British Columbia. "One of my biggest problems was falling asleep while walking. I almost went over a ledge because I found myself in a dream state while I was still moving" on the home stretch in the North Cascades.

Much earlier in his journey, on Day 3 in fact, Garrett was briefly hospitalized for heat stroke, but resumed hiking the next day.

Garrett and Anderson described similar daily routines. Each hiker would hit the trail at daybreak and walk until well after dark, stopping only to eat or to gather water.

Neither hiker cooked on the trail. At one point, Anderson posted on her Facebook page that she was subsisting on Oreo's dipped in coconut oil and protein shakes for dinner. Garrett is vegan and says he gorged on energy bars, vegan jerky, peanut butter and licorice.

"We don't need to eat meat or any animal products in order to be healthy or in order to be strong," said Garrett. "So I just wanted to go out there and prove that. And I hope I did."

The 30-year-old Garrett used his hike to raise awareness and money for Mercy For Animals, which works to prevent cruelty to farm animals.

Anderson gave personal motives for pushing through chronic fatigue, sleep deprivation, aches and pain.

"I am doing what I was meant to do. What I was born for. Covering miles in the mountains where I feel so much joy," she wrote on Facebook. "I cannot think of another time that has happened or will happen again in my life."

These new male and female Pacific Crest Trail records are credible but unofficial. No independent entity sets standards or verifies long distance hiking records. The previous fastest known time on the PCT was set by Scott Williamson of Truckee, California, who hiked the trail north to south in 64 days, 11 hours in the late summer and fall of 2011.

On the Web:

Josh Garrett - Mercy For Animals 
Heather Anderson - Facebook 
Pacific Crest Trail Association - official site 

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.