Breaking News: Vegan Hiker Sets New World Record While Supporting MFA!
On August 8th, Josh Garrett—a dedicated vegan and proud Mercy For Animals member—smashed the previous held world record for thru-hiking the grueling Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,655-mile trek from Mexico to Canada, with an official time of 59 days, 8 hours, 14 minutes.
But Josh, a Santa Monica College track coach and exercise physiology instructor, didn't just shatter records; he also broke barriers by raising awareness of farmed animals and funds for Mercy For Animals along his incredible journey.
Want to be a hero like Josh? Support the life-saving work of Mercy For Animals by making a tax-deductible donation today!
We caught up with Josh before he set out on his mission drive adventure to get the scoop on his heroic hike.
MFA: What made you decide to embark on this hike?
I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail back in 2009 and it was one of the greatest
experiences of my life. About a year ago, I met John Mackey, the CEO of Whole
Foods. He is an avid hiker, who has section hiked the Big Three trails (Appalachian,
Continental Divide, and Pacific Crest). When we talked about the Pacific Crest Trail,
he was really surprised, I guess impressed, to learn that I had hiked it in eighty-eight
We got to talking and he had this idea that with the right support, I could probably
break a hiking record. He asked me if I wanted to give the Pacific Crest Trail record
a shot. I had mixed feelings. I loved the idea of the challenge, but didn't want
to let anybody down if I didn't make it. And I was nervous. Hiking the trail was
uncomfortable enough—painful sometimes—even when I wasn't trying to do it
within any particular time limit. But, I went vegan about eighteen months ago, and
have become more and more concerned about what's happening to the animals…
Suddenly it hit me that I could use this hike as a way to get the word out on their
behalf. So I teamed up with Mercy For Animals and now this is so much more than a
MFA: What can you tell us about the Pacific Crest Trail?
It is extraordinary. It goes through seven national parks and twenty-five national
forests, traversing some of the most beautiful places on earth. I don't think I can
describe how beautiful it is up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, how immense and
grand they are. And the trail is so diverse. You are looking out over the world from
13,000 feet up at the top of the Sierras, and then you are down at sea level at the
north end of Oregon a few weeks later. At the beginning of the trail, you are hiking
though the desert, parched, desperate for water. Before you know it, there is way
too much water—you are wading across streams, chest deep, trying not to get
washed away. It is a fantastic challenge.
MFA: This kind of trek calls for immense endurance. What have you learned
about endurance that people could apply to their own lives and workouts?
I've learned that sometimes you are going to feel absolutely terrible and wonder
what on earth you are doing. You are going to want to stop. But if you keep going,
soon enough you are going to feel better, and then great. It's really the same for all
MFA: What other words of wisdom do you have for hikers?
Long, light-weight hiking pants are important. A lot of insect bites can really put a
damper on things. I always wear a long shirt too, even when it's hot, to protect me
from insects and the sun.
And make sure you are really comfortable in your shoes. I hiked 2,655 miles
without a blister because I wore the kind of running shoes that I wear every day
for long runs. I think some people choose hiking boots because they think they
will be sturdy, but that usually means heavy. Some hiking boots are advertised as
waterproof, but when you are wading across a rushing stream, they don't keep you
dry. Your feet might get wet in running shoes but running shoes are porous and dry
MFA: Any other tips?
Invest in an ultralight pack, and take as little stuff with you as possible. I'm really
lucky to have Gossamer as a sponsor because they make ultralight hiking gear. I
also don't bring food that needs to be cooked (being vegan is going to help there)
because I don't want to be carrying fuel canisters, which are bulky and heavy.
MFA: If you won't be cooking, what will you eat on the hike?
A lot of vegan bars! Pro Bar is a sponsor. I will also be able to satisfy my peanut
butter addiction using those Justin's little packets of peanut butter. I'll eat nuts,
cookies, kale chips, corn nuts… That's all stuff I eat a lot of anyway.
Also, I am really lucky to have some support. A great lady who works for John
named Tish (whose perfectly appropriate trail name is "Ma") is going to meet me
at various spots where the trail crosses the highway. She'll replenish my bars and
water, and thanks to her, I'll even get some fresh fruit and vegetables now and then
along the way.
MFA: In general, what do you do about water?
There are parts of the trail where there are just no water sources and you have to
carry what you are going to drink. That will be particularly true for me because I
am leaving late, after most of the sources have dried up. There are people known
as "trail angels" who leave gallons of water for hikers along the way at caches, but
again, because I am leaving so late, the trail angels will be off duty. That's part of
why I chose to accept support on the hike.
On some parts of the trail you come across beautiful, pristine mountain streams
you can drink from. That is just one of the greatest pleasures imaginable—feeling
parched and tired and then getting to revive yourself with such a beautiful, natural
MFA: You've been vegan for about a year and half. What brought about this
My first introduction to the animal rights world came about when I
met two turkeys. It was November of 2011. Every year, Karen Dawn takes in two turkeys who would
otherwise be headed for Thanksgiving dinner tables. She keeps them with her over
the holidays and then retires them to a sanctuary. When I met them, I couldn't
believe how fun and friendly they were. I just loved them.
Karen put out this little YouTube video that showed them getting bathed and blow
dried, and then hanging with neighborhood kids, just lapping up the attention. But
then it also shows what happens to most turkeys at Thanksgiving. It includes a
section of a Mercy For Animals video in which some guy at a slaughterhouse is using
live turkeys, suspended upside down on a conveyor belt, as punching bags.
It made me sick to my stomach. My consciousness started to change. The final
straw was when I saw the movie Forks Over Knives, which lays out, mostly through
interviews with top doctors, how bad meat and other animal products are for you,
and how good a plant-based diet is. There was just no half-decent reason not to go
MFA: Did you find it difficult to transition to a vegan diet?
No. Not at all. I think the only way people manage to keep eating meat is by keeping
some sort of disconnect going.
It just isn't hard to have a seitan cutlet instead of a steak, or a veggie burger instead
of a Big Mac. And you can still go out and eat thai food and chinese. Just order the
tofu dishes. Indian, ethiopian, and italian restaurants also have plenty of good vegan
choices. Plus a lot of the food you already eat is probably vegan.
MFA: We are so pleased you are supporting Mercy For Animals and
encouraging others to support us. Why are you hiking for Mercy For Animals?
Well, the very first animal cruelty video I saw, the one I described about the turkeys,
was a Mercy For Animals video and it changed my life. I don't think there is anything
more effective than undercover work at slaughterhouses or factory farms, and
Mercy does so much of that so well. Mercy For Animals just gets so much bang for
the buck. I want to do what I can to help them get some more bucks to bang with.
MFA: Can we follow you on your hike?
I got talked into going on Twitter and was surprised and very happy to find that
the handle VeganHiker was available.