Josh Garrett’s 2,655-Mile Vegan Journey

» June 10th, 2013

Imagine hiking 42 miles in a single day. Imagine doing it over the toughest terrain, be it vast stretches of merciless desert, cragged mountainsides, or raging rivers. Throw in a 30-pound pack and a few rattlesnakes to dodge. Now, if you can get your head around such a challenge, imagine doing this for 63 days in a row, over 2,655 miles, from Mexico to Canada. Ridiculous, you would think. Impossible. 

Not if you’re Josh Garrett, a 30-year old track coach and exercise physiology teacher at Santa Monica College. Garrett will not only leave sometime this week to hike the famed Pacific Crest Trail, but he will do so as a relatively new vegan aiming to break a relatively new record: the 64 days, 11 hours, and 19 minutes it took Scott Williamson to hike the trail in 2011.

Garrett is no novice. He has hiked the trail before, in 2009, and recalls the journey as “one of the greatest experiences of my life.” It took him 88 days. Between then and now, however, two experiences have braided into one to make his current record-breaking quest an inspiring reality.

First, he went vegan. This change was instigated in 2011 by getting to know a couple of turkeys rescued by a friend. After coming to know (and adore) these animals, he watched a Mercy for Animals undercover video of a slaughterhouse employee using live turkeys hanging from a conveyer belt as punching bags. “I was sickened,” Garrett explained, “and my own consciousness started to change.”  The fact that a plant-based diet had the added benefit of providing Garrett unprecedented reserves of energy was equally critical to his decision to reconquer the PCT.

Second, last year Garrett met a friend who also happened to be an avid hiker and vegan. This person recognized Garrett’s considerable talent and encouraged him to go after Williamson’s record, offering to sponsor Garrett by providing not only moral support, but food, water, and hiking gear. That friend was John Mackey, Whole Foods CEO. Mackey said, “Josh is not only a very nice person, but is also the strongest hiker I have ever had the privilege to hike with.”

Mercy for Animals, the organization integral to Garrett’s vegan awakening, is backing the venture as well. Through its website it will give updates on Garrett’s progress, a map of the trail, and opportunities for supporters to donate financially. Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy for Animals, said,  “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.” Garrett is eager to raise awareness of MFA’s mission.

For all his verve and optimism, though, Garrett recalls having “mixed feelings” when Mackey first floated the possibility of breaking the PCT record. “I loved the idea of the challenge,” he said, “but didn’t want to let anybody down if I didn’t make it.”

I think Garrett can rest assured on this one. The fact that he can even conceive of accomplishing a physical and mental feat that is beyond most of our imaginations elevates Garrett into yet another model of vegan compassion and inspiration for future vegans to follow. Plus, his motivation is, as Runkle noted, so “selfless” that, in a way, it’s beyond failure. “The more I learn about animals used in the food industry,” Garrett said, “the more I want to help.” He added, “I walk because they can’t.”

I for one plan to cheer him on the whole way. And beyond.


12 Responses to Josh Garrett’s 2,655-Mile Vegan Journey

  1. Carolle says:

    This is truly an inspiring a wonderful story. I will be cheering Garret as well. Thanks for some good news on a Monday!!

  2. markgil says:

    great story about an amazing athlete. i cannot imagine the effort that this requires, regardless if he beats the record or not. Mackey’s involvement is kind of a detriment though as Whole Foods is one of the largest sellers of animal flesh and Mackey makes a huge salary from the suffering, exploitation and death of non-human animals. it is a subtle point and Mackey may be on a plant based diet but i don’t think the term vegan should ever be applied to him.

    • James says:

      Since 2006, Mackey’s salary from the Whole Foods Co. has been $1 a year. His wealth comes from his control of stock in the company he built. Big difference.

      • markgil says:

        perhaps, perhaps not. i am not aware of the specific details of Mackey’s compensation but Whole Foods was built on the selling of “organic” and “humane” animal products and i dont think there is any doubt that he has greatly benefited financially from this.

  3. To your point about the Whole Foods angle: there have been some very interesting conversations on this blog lately about compromise and which compromises may ultimately help the cause. I do think this is one example of it. Whole foods, while continuing to sell meat products, has implemented humane standards for its suppliers. Also, this journey could really get the word out not only about the cruelty of an animal based diet, but the reality that one can be strong and athletic not in spite of, but BECAUSE OF, a plant based diet. Those are two messages which need to get out whether or not Whole Foods is involved in the effort. If it helps to move a few people towards veganism, that would be a good outcome. It might even get Mackey thinking, who knows? ~Linda

    • markgil says:

      “I do think this is one example of it. Whole foods, while continuing to sell meat products, has implemented humane standards for its suppliers.”


      imo, the “humane standards” do exactly the opposite and make people feel better about consuming animal products while making virtually no difference to the non-human animal victims involved. you may want to check out this article about this very subject and i would be interested to hear your thoughts about it (which, in addition, also says that Mackey admits to consuming eggs so is not even plant based):

      • markgil,
        Thanks for the link. If Mackey eats eggs then he is not vegan, no matter what he calls himself– that’s an easy one. As for the “humanely raised” animals and so forth, I personally am very conflicted. It is the AR/AW debate. At some level, I lean abolitionist. On the other hand, if there is an opportunity to support a company which obtains chickens kept in non-cage environments, I would prefer that that company do better financially than one that keeps animals more confined. The risk is, it certainly does make it possible for some consumers to think it is ok to continue purchasing animal products. Those that think the cows are really happy and so forth. The article you linked did mention something that struck me – the expense of these products combined with the mindset of many consumers means that we are talking about a small percentage of the consumer population -unfortunately, the same subset that would likely lean vegan if not for the “happy cows.” Although I can usually see the bigger picture, when it comes to animal suffering, I am much more of a right-now person. If there are animals whose suffering can be alleviated, even some, by these standards, then I tend to favor it (passing laws banning gestation crates and so forth). The bigger-picture (abolitionist) approach would likely not favor it. Although I do not consume any of these products, it’s something I continue to struggle with. ~Linda

  4. Patty says:

    I’m definitely cheering Josh on! I think what he’s doing, and what he has done by going vegan, is awesome! It’s people like him, who give me hope. I’ll watch MFA for updates, etc!

  5. Charles B. says:

    To those who are more interested in what Mackey has for breakfast than the amazing thing Josh is doing here, you’re.. simply misguided. The world will never be vegan, and even if it could, you aren’t helping your cause by nitpicking your well intentioned allies.

    • markgil says:


      there are many who believe that one of the main obstacles to the vegan movement is the idea that veganism is a personal dietary choice which is not for everyone, instead of a moral and ecological social justice imperative based on non-violence and compassion for all life. HSUS is a good example of this as they seem to promote a plant based diet and spearhead single issue welfare campaigns on one hand, while on the other hand they state they are in no way trying to abolish animal agriculture, pay a pig farmer who makes his living murdering thousands of pigs a year to be on their board of directors, promote “humane” flesh and other animal products and condone hunting and the use of animals for entertainment. this tactic is more about not alienating any groups of potential donors than it is about effecting any kind of lasting, social change. there is a great essay on about this here:

      this article is where is first saw this quote by Gandhi which bears repeating:
      “A principle is a principle, and in no case can it be watered down because of our incapacity to live it in practice. We have to strive to achieve it, and the striving should be conscious, deliberate and hard.”

      if i were a helpless, enslaved victim of domination and oppression, i certainly know which group i would want advocating for me.

  6. John Mackey says:

    Josh finished the trail and beat the previous record by a full 5 days–59 days and 8 hours. This is an amazing accomplishment and I’m very proud of him. It was an honor to provide the financial and logistical support for him to accomplish this.

    For the record–I stopped eating even pastured eggs from my own pasture raised chickens about 6 years ago, so I’ve been strictly vegan for 6 years now (vegan plus a few pastured eggs from my own chickens for 10 years).

    Sorry to hear that some of you don’t like Whole Foods Market (or me) very much. However, I challenge you to come up with another food retailer who has done anything close to what Whole Foods has done to educate people regarding the benefits of a plant based diet or who has done a fraction of what we have accomplished in lessening the suffering of billions of livestock animals.

    Oh, yes, I’m also on the Board of the Humane Society of the United States so I guess I’m guilty of more crimes against animals in my strong support for this organization both with my time and my money. I’ve been astounded over the past 4 years of being on this board with how much good this one organization actually does in the world for animals.

    It is easy to to judge and attack others for being less “pure” than oneself. It is far more difficult to actually make a real difference in the world and to really change things for the better. Best wishes in following your own heart’s path. I will continue to follow my own.

  7. [...] might easily miss it, but below is a copy of Mackey’s response to an older post about the heroic hiker Josh Garrett, who just set a new record for hiking the Pacific [...]

Leave a Reply