This will not be the first time seasoned hiker Josh Garrett will hike the 2,655-mile trail from Mexico to Canada, but this time he’s doing it for reasons extending beyond personal accomplishment.
Garrett, a 30-year-old track coach and exercise physiology professor at Santa Monica College, is taking to the trails to help support vegan diets, spread awareness, and raise funds for the organization Mercy For Animals, which is “dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and policies,” according to the website.
He will set out on the hike, called the Pacific Crest Trail, beginning June 10 and has the possibility of breaking the current 64-day speed record. In his previous hike, Garrett completed the trail in 88 days, but said it was at a leisurely pace. He still called it the most rewarding experience in his life thus far.
As a recently-converted vegan, Garrett said he hopes to advocate the benefits of his plant-based diet. Along the way he will be supported by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, who hiked a portion of the Continental Divide Trail with Garrett last summer. Mackey said he was “the strongest hiker I have ever had the privilege to hike with.” Garrett’s food, water, and gear will be provided personally by Mackey.
Although Garrett said he originally became vegan based on ethical reasons, he soon began to learn about the nutritional advantages that came along with the diet.
“Just two years ago I was a big meat eater, wild about dogs but not letting myself think much about other animals,” he said. “Over Thanksgiving 2011, I met two turkeys rescued by a friend. They were friendly and fun, and clearly conscious. Then I saw a Mercy For Animals undercover video where a slaughterhouse worker was using live turkeys, suspended upside down on a conveyor belt, as punching bags. I was sickened. And my own consciousness started to change.
“The more I learn about animals used in the food industry, the more I want to help,” Garrett said. “I walk because they can’t.”
He said he was unsure when Mackey first came to him with the idea. Even though he loved a challenge, he said he didn’t want to let anyone down if he was unable to complete the trail or break the current record.
“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 18 months ago, and have become more and more concerned about what’s happening to the animals,” he told Mercy For Animals. “Suddenly it hit me that I could use this hike as a way to get the word out on their behalf.”
The route Garrett will be following on the hike will take him within an hour of cities like Palm Springs, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Palmdale, Lancaster, Tahoe, Reno, Redding, Ashland, Medford, Bend, Portland and Seattle, according to the news release.
He said he will tweet via Twitter handle @VeganHiker to keep people informed about how the hike is going.
To break the record he will need to hike an average of 42 miles per day across terrain like the Mojave Desert and the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, all while carrying a 30-pound pack. Currently in training, he is hiking about 40 miles a day to prepare.
“When it comes to helping animals, Josh doesn’t just talk the talk, he literally walks the walk,” said Mercy For Animals executive director Nathan Runkle in a statement. “We hope that Josh’s selfless journey inspires others to take steps in their own lives to help prevent the horrible suffering of animals on factory farms by adopting a healthy and humane vegan diet.”
Visit the Mercy For Animals website to help sponsor Garrett.
Image courtesy Evolotus Public Relations