Two hikers with separate agendas and hiking solo, unaware of the other, set out to break the record for fastest time in completing the Pacific Crest Trail, a grueling 2,650-mile test for thru-hikers.
Heather "Anish" Anderson, a previously overweight high school student who dreamed of one day setting some sort of athletic record, and Josh Garrett, a dedicated vegan raising awareness for Mercy For Animals, both succeeded in their quests, and did so within a day of each other.
Late Wednesday night, Anderson, 32, reached Canada to complete her hike in 60 days, 17 hours, and 12 minutes, shattering the previous speed record of 64 days, 11 hours, and 19 minutes set by thru-hiker Scott Williamson in 2011.
On Thursday night, Garrett, 30, right on Anderson’s heels, completed the Pacific Crest Trail in 59 days, 8 hours, and 14 minutes.
So Anderson's record didn't last long, but it becomes the speed record for women—unofficially. However, it apparently also stands as the “unsupported” speed record. Anderson told GrindTV Outdoor that unlike Garrett, “I carried all of my gear the entire way. I did not have a crew of people meeting me. When I needed supplies, I walked into and out of towns, which added about 30 miles total to my hike.”
Since official records aren't kept, these are unofficial records, but as Jack Haskel of Sacramento-based Pacific Crest Trail Association told The Seattle Times, he respects both hikers and has no reason to doubt their achievements, though he didn’t address the unsupported record.
"I consider this to be leaps and bounds more physically trying than any other endurance sport I know of," Haskel told the Times. "It's just incredibly hard."
The Pacific Crest Trail stretches from the Mexican border to the Canadian border through mostly National Forest and protected wilderness in California, Oregon, and Washington.
Thru-hikers generally take anywhere from 120 to 180 days to hike from one end to the other, so these two hikers essentially completed the PCT in half the time of the fastest average hiker.
Anderson, who on Facebook detailed her life as an overweight child and how she undervalued herself and her body, wrote this just days before reaching the Canadian border:
When I was 20 I met something that would forever change my life. A Trail. Though my first few hikes were miserable as I forced my body to work, I was enthralled. Trails took me on the adventures I craved and to beautiful, wondrous, wild places. I lost my heart and soul … and eventually 70 pounds … to the trails.
Now, I am a few short days away from fulfilling my oldest daydream: setting an athletic record. I cry when I think about all the things I have overcome to get here, both on this hike and off. It makes me ever so grateful to that chubby girl who dared to dream big, audacious dreams. I am even more thankful that she grew up to be a woman courageous enough to make those dreams reality.
Her dreams came true at 11:43 p.m. Wednesday, reaching the Canadian border by averaging nearly 44 miles a day, much of it through the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Range.
"I have never felt an adrenaline rush like I did the last two miles," she wrote on Facebook. "I literally could not feel my body. All I heard was my breathing as I careened through thick brush and plowed through streams."
Meanwhile, Garrett averaged nearly 45 miles per day in reaching the Canadian border on Thursday at 8:14 p.m. in what was a hike he termed "much more than a personal quest."
"I'm vegan because I love animals, and they suffer so needlessly on factory farms and slaughterhouses, when a vegan diet provides everything we need for good health, strength, and endurance," he said, according to the Pacific Crest Trail Association. "As much as I would have enjoyed taking my time on this hike, I wanted to be a good example and make a point."
Two hikers, two goals, two incredible achievements.