Wednesday, August 3, 2016

If I falter, let me know.

July 19th, 2016:

It's my birthday, just after midnight. I tried to force myself to fall asleep early, and it almost worked, but my brain will not. fucking. turn off.

I can't sleep. I read an entire book. It's good, it distracts me, but now it's done. It's now five in the morning. Light is creeping in through my blinds. I'm fucking losing it. Not knowing what to do, I pack up some things and leave the house, fill my car up with gas, and head to Indian Peaks Wilderness.

I get there at around seven. The weather is shit. It's overcast and raining and at 12000 feet that's kind of an issue. Whatever, I don't care. What's the worst that could happen? I could die. Big deal. I open up my umbrella and start walking.

My brain still won't stop and about the time that I hit treeline, the clouds start to part and by the time I hit the Continental Divide the sky is filled with puffy, dark clouds, but it's mostly clear. But I know thunderstorms are on their way... I look over Arapahoe Pass and down at Caribou Lake, see some tents in the early morning light.

My mind still won't quiet, but endorphins are on my side and they're like little warriors, going to fucking war with my darkest thoughts, countering them in ways that I would never be able to.

I take one last look at the dark clouds coming over the Divide, damnit, and turn around.

I'll be back.

Exactly one week later:

Fight with a ranger at the forest service about getting a permit for Caribou Lake. "You won't make it on time." It's about 2:30 p.m. at the time of this conversation. The trailhead is an hour away, the hike is four miles, 2000 ft up, 1000 ft down. I'll fucking make it. She reluctantly gives me the permit and tells me, "You know you need to let someone know where you'll be."

I look at her and smile, "I just told you. See ya."

What I don't tell her is that I plan on going over 20 miles the next day, climbing the Continental Divide twice, over 5000 ft of elevation gain.

Park at the trailhead. It's about 5:00 pm. Start cruising. The weather is brilliant. Much better than last week.

Wildflowers everywhere. Waterfalls. Snow banks clinging precariously to the sides of the Divide in the waning summer heat.

I pass a group of backpackers. Huge packs, maybe eighty pounds each. The last one is carrying a rope in her hands. Not on her back, not in her pack, but in her hands. Weird. It's not paracord or any sort of nylon, nothing so reasonable, but like heavy duty gonna fuckin' climb some shit rope. So I ask, "I gotta know... what's the rope for?"

She looks a time and says, "Oh, bear bags."

I think about it for a half a second... camping at 11,000 ft there aren't exactly any bears, but I guess there are chipmunks and pika and marmots... but there's no trees, at least certainly not one big enough to hang a bear bag in a way that it's supposed to be hung. But I say nothing, smile and move on.

6:30 p.m. and I'm at Caribou Lake. "You won't make it on time," yeah, fuck you too. 6:45 and my tent is up and I'm eating dinner. Chips and a Tasty Bite... a Colton classic thruhiking meal. About this time I realize that Caribou should more accurately be called Mosquito Lake.

I walk to the far end of the lake and watch the last of the day's light play a show against the mountain backdrop and hop from rock to rock in my clunky maximal trail runners. Meanwhile the "backpackers" I passed earlier are tiny specks against the switchbacks leading down to the lake. They should be here soon.

I'm wrong. It's 10:00 p.m. and a line of headlamps make their way past my tent as I read a China Mieville book on my phone. "What is that?" "I think it's a tent." "No way, it's weird." "It's too small." "Is someone in there?" "If they were they'd have said something by now."

I listen to this go on for a minute then surprise them all by popping out from under my tarp. "Hi yeah, there is someone in 'here'. Y'all looking for a campsite?" They are. Since it's dark as fuck out I inform them that there's a few small sites up ahead. They're not pleased, they inform me that they are all going to camp together so several small sites won't work. I shrug, not too terribly concerned and crawl back under my cuben fiber home and try to fall asleep.

I spend the next seven hours laying awake in my tent. This is not an exaggeration. I cannot sleep. My stomach is fucked. My head is on fire (altitude sickness, ha). Remember the fucked up sleep schedule? Well, I guess being outside doesn't miraculously fix the problem. Occasionally I go lay on the ground outside of my tent and stare at the cloudless sky. The Milky Way is just visible behind a dense blanket of stars, and I try to feel lucky. I can't. My mind. It is fucking torture.

"Where were you when I was lonesome,
Locked away with freezing cold,
Someone flying, only stolen,
I can't tell this light so old..."

In a house (I say A house and not "home" because I don't really have any sort of home right now... I sleep at my dad's most nights, pretty cool huh?) when I can't sleep and my brain is going a million miles an hour, I can open up a book or turn on a tv or channel my thoughts into any number of distraction activities. Out here, there is nothing. I need to save the battery on my phone, so I don't read. Periodically I put my headphones in, turn on Moby - When It's Cold I'd Like to Die, and do my absolute best to just. not. think.

"I don't want to swim the ocean..."

It's fucking futile. I can't stop it. What makes it worse is that being in my own mind, especially whilst hiking/camping has always been something I enjoy. I used to love having so much time to just think and focus on thinking. I have conversations with fictional characters, I talk to myself, I think about my goals and aspirations and all manner of future adventures.

"I don't want to fight the tide..."

Not tonight.

Tonight my thoughts are in control and they go to some dark places. Places I don't want to talk about. Places I don't want to think about. I dive deep into despair. And suddenly I feel alone. Betrayed and alone. And I'm mad. I'm mad at my friends, at my family, but mostly I'm mad at myself. I'm so fucking mad that I'm sick. I fight nausea and the urge to throw up. My stomach contracts in violent muscle spasms and I convulse on the ground. Alone. On the spine of the world.

"I don't want to swim forever..."

I want to scream. I want to scream at the sky, at the mountains, at myself. I want to scream at everyone and no one. I just want to fucking scream. But I can't, it would make me look, ha, crazy? Right? So instead I cry. Feeling more lost and alone and afraid than I ever have in my life, I lay in the moonlight at 12,000 ft and just fucking cry until I pass out.

"...when it's cold I'd like to die."


7:00 a.m. and I hear people walking around. I look out of my tarp and see the other campers getting water. They'll be there for the next hour and a half, presumably getting water for their whole party, whilst I pack up and eat. I made up my mind at some point last night that I would hike the four miles back down to my car, drive to my dad's, go to sleep, and try to forget about what a fucking miserable failure this hike was.

I start climbing up the switchbacks out of basin that Caribou Lake sits in, and before I make it to the top of the 1000 ft climb something happens.

It might be endorphins, but I think it's familiarity. I realize I love what I'm doing right now at this very second. I realize that walking straight up a fucking mountain is my thing. I realize that pushing my body way too hard across way too many miles is my favorite thing in the world. And I haven't had it in so long...

So I change my mind and I find myself going over Caribou Pass, rather than back down to the car. I'm on three hours of sleep. I feel like total shit. I don't know if I'll make it. But fuck it, what's the worse that could happen? I could die. Like I said before, who fucking gives a shit. Is suicide by overexertion a thing? I'll have to look into it. 

But I have a destination, I have a goal, however short term. I love those fucking things. 

It's like someone hits a fucking switch, and I start crying. Sobbing. I'll admit that it's a little bit dangerous going over this pass not being able to see clearly because I'm crying uncontrollably, but it is what is is. I can't tell if I'm sad, or angry, or upset, or happy. I can't fucking tell, because maybe... maybe it's a little bit of everything. And now I'm able to focus my thoughts. I'm talking to myself as if I'm in front of a crowd giving a motivational speech. I'm yelling the words, the same compulsion I had last night, but in my solitude this morning, I'm able to indulge myself.

I tell myself that when you give up, when you're at the point that there's nothing left to lose, you have to search within yourself and find those... those fucking moments. Those brief but bright moments of joy. Pure, undiluted joy. The ones you've experienced by yourself, and the ones you've held with others. Those are magnified tenfold. And suddenly I'm apologizing. To my friends, to my family. Even to myself.

For forgetting.

I'm telling myself that you have to search out those moments. Those fucking moments! You have to fight for them, and string them together, and hold onto them when all is lost. When life is as dark as the deepest cave you have to let them shine through like a fucking lantern. You have to swear a fucking oath to fight like hell to find more. And my lantern suddenly becomes a star, burning bright in my palms, and I realize... I realize I've had so many moments. So much joy. And this period of... darkness, it can't last forever. It won't last forever. I won't let it.

My legs move forward with a fervor I haven't had in months. Over the pass, down into the valley and onto the High Lonesome Trail (CDT), up Devil's Thumb Pass, dodging afternoon storms, crawling over snowbanks, past turquoise alpine lakes, through forests of aspen and pine, unsure if my body is suited for this endeavor.

My legs are fried, my stomach is on fire, my mind is... mostly settled by the time I make it back to the car. I collapse into the driver's seat right as a heavy rain descends, pelting the windshield. I turn the stereo on and let the words wash over me...

I don't want to swim the ocean,
I don't want to fight the tide,
I don't want to swim forever,
When it's cold I'd like to die...

I smile... and then begin to laugh like an idiot.

I'm still alive.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Giving up hope.

Wake up in pain. Go to sleep in pain. Try to distract myself during the day.

There is no part of me that thinks I will ever feel better, no small shred of confidence left inside of my entire body. I feel like shit, and I'll forever feel like shit. Trying to convince myself otherwise is impossible and counterintuitive.

Being sick has taken everything from me. Let me break it down for you.

All of my goals, everything I love to do, I am no longer capable of doing. Thruhiking? Ha. Running? No fucking way. Even planning to be outside and away from a bathroom for any amount of time is enough to give me a panic attack. Sure, I can force myself to pursue certain things, I can go on a day hike if I time it just right, I can even push myself some if I'm willing to pay to the price, if I'm willing to suffer later. Exercise of any type is anxiety inducing simply because I know that burning calories means I have to consume more calories later, an activity that only serves to increase my chances of feeling like shit.

My friends, my relationships, have been either destroyed or compromised. I've never felt as alone as I feel at this point in my life. My closest friends, the ones that I still have left, are a thousand or more miles away. But it's not like that matters anyhow, I can't force myself to socialize with anyone, my body hurts too bad and I'm not sure if anyone understands or cares. Not that I expect anyone to be as invested in my own well being as myself. So I've retreated into total isolation. My phone must have realized that because it decided to break itself, and I don't want to get a new one or turn it back on. I've finally deleted all of my social media, removing the last method possible to contact me.

I hate the person I've become, and alienating myself from anyone and everyone is for the best, I promise you. I am not kind, or selfless, or caring, and I can't be made to be. Feeling like shit has robbed me even of this, of my most positive attributes, of feeling empathy. Instead when people show me any kindness, I am annoyed. Talking to people is a frustrating endeavor that I no longer wish to pursue. I can't stand to be asked how I'm doing. What do you want me to fucking say? "Oh ha, I'm doing fine, I mean this is the absolute worst I've ever felt in my entire fucking life and I spend a couple hours every day debating the merits of suicide based entirely on whether or not it would be worth it to at least exercise SOME control over my own life... but other than that I've gotten a lot of reading in lately!"

And what the fuck can I do about any of this? I feel entirely unmotivated to do anything. I've seen no progress, I've made no strides towards feeling better, mentally or physically. I can't even fix my sleep schedule, let alone my body or my mental well being. I have trouble going to sleep before 5 in the morning. I can't force myself to get out of bed before 2 in the afternoon. I have no reason to wake up. Anyone whose ever had this same sleep schedule knows that being alone all night with nothing but your thoughts is torture. A torture so intense that the pain in my stomach pales in comparison. Heck, it's probably jealous.

So yeah, I've given up hope. But that doesn't necessarily mean shit. Hope hasn't ever done anything for anyone. I refuse to be a slave to that sort of irrationality. I know that this is on me. I know that no one is going to make this better, I have to do it myself. It's just hard as fuck. But you know what? Having conviction of any type means jack shit if you can't hold onto it when it stops being easy. I never thought I'd have to deal with this sort of uphill battle in regards to my health, but here I am. So fuck hope, and fuck faith, and fuck the future. All that I have right now is struggle, and so I embrace it like my favorite fucking teddy bear.

Y'all know who the fuck I'm is, I never go back on promises I've made, especially to myself. I think that finishing the Appalachian Trail despite everything, despite collapsing alone in the middle of the woods in the rain, convulsing on my back for hours at a time, unable to get back up because the pain in my stomach is radiating through my entire body, spasming out of control, is a testament to the kind of determination that I have. It's a stubbornness that could very well kill me.

To my loved ones and family, don't worry, this isn't a cry to help, it's just me being brutally honest, as you know I've always been. I'm not stupid enough to take the easy way out, and most definitely, taking my own life is the easy way out. You all know I could never settle for that. Honestly I wish I could stop my parents from reading this entry knowing that it'll cause them a lot of unnecessary worry, but I can't, so just know that I am broken, but not defeated.

All I'm trying to say is that, even when hope is gone, even if you're destined to lose, even if impending doom is inevitable, fighting is always worth it.

So sure, give up hope. But GOD DAMNIT motherfuckers, don't GIVE UP.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The long and the short of it.


Doctors don't know what's wrong with me. I don't know what's wrong with me. I have a plan to feel better. I'm implementing it now. I'm going to be flip flopping the trail this year starting in Kennedy Meadows (or Mount Whitney since it's easier to get to). This means I'll head north from Kennedy Meadows and then after I've made it to Canada, I'll fly or drive back down to KM and head south to southern terminus. That isn't such a bad thing. In the meantime I'll be in Colorado getting on top of every mountain within a hundred mile radius.

The long:

April 18th, immediately after my colonoscopy.

The anesthetics are wearing off and I'm becoming more and more capable of what the piece of paper in my hands means. It says, "Colon appears to be normal".

Normally, that would sound awesome, but for me, it's almost like a death sentence. "Colon appears to be normal" translates into "we don't know what's wrong with you, ha, sorry that you've spent so much time/energy/money trying to figure it out but we still don't know jack shit and you're just going to have to suffer".

First, I'm disappointed. Six months of build up to what? Fucking nothing. Then, I'm frustrated. Frustrated to such a degree that there needs to be a new word invented to describe it. It feels like my skin is on fire. How can this be? How can NO ONE TELL ME WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME? But I'm not surprised. I don't put a whole lot of faith in doctors or western medicine or any of that shit, but they stuck a fucking 20 foot long camera up my ass AND STILL CAN'T FIGURE OUT WHAT'S WRONG. Then I start to spiral down into despair. Despair that wholly consumes the function of my brain and body. Despair that sucks me so far into the abyss of hopelessness that I can't see the light of day anymore and I don't give a shit and honestly I think I'll just lay on my porch listening to the same song on repeat until I die from exposure or rats eat me. Preferably eaten by rats.

Everything begins to feel like a chore, even leisurely things. Eating? Nah, I hate eating anyways, it hurts my stomach too fucking bad. Sleeping? No thanks, I'll just stay awake until 4 in the morning and my body makes me pass out from boredom. Waking up? Why, what for? I don't have a good reason to do that. Reading? No, fuck that, too much thinking. TV? Eh, maybe I'll try it. Wait this isn't working either, I can't force myself to pay attention to even this.

At some point I decide "fuck it, I'm gonna go hike the PCT even if I'm totally miserable" then I have a terrible night of stomach pain and all the rest and surprise, I have a change of heart, because even if I do go hike, I won't make it far, and let's be real, it would be wildly irresponsible for me to go hike without figuring out what the fuck has been hurting me for the last year. May 7th (my original start date) rolls around and I'm still going through these cycles of "let's fucking hike, who cares!" and "no god damnit, you're going to fucking die".

The days come and go, and since I quit my job I don't have any good indication of how many have passed. I just know that I've been swallowed up into a routine of nothingness. Meanwhile my relationships with my family and friends are deteriorating. I can't respond to texts, I don't want to talk on the phone, I don't have any motivation to see anyone or do anything. And it's making things worse. I can see that I'm neglecting the things that matter most, but I can't stop. That's maybe the worst part of this whole being sick thing, I honestly don't have the energy to even be a decent person to the people I care most about, instead I am a selfish piece of shit that wallows in his own self loathing... I recognize it, and STILL can't do shit about it. So I apologize. To all of you, but mostly to the people I love. I'm going to make it better soon. I promise.

So I've chosen to isolate myself. I'm headed to Colorado for (at least) the next month, where I'll try to sort my life out, get out of the fucking gutter, get real fucking serious about trying to heal, and figure out a new game plan in terms of hitting the trail, because I can't imagine a life without thruhiking... Get serious, I can't even imagine a summer without thruhiking.

Things haven't shaped up the way I expected, but I'm not dead and I'm not defeated, so sorry assholes, but you're not done with me yet.

See y'all when I see you. Hopefully soon. Take care.

Monday, May 16, 2016

This year's gear list...

This is subject to change without any warning... cause duh, things happen (especially on the trail). Sometimes it eats your gear or sometimes you just suddenly decide you really want to wear a stupid cotton t-shirt you bought at the goodwill in town. Honestly I only make these super detailed lists because I like to play with them and see how changing certain items affects my base weight (hence the notations in the far right columns).

In the future I probably won't do these anymore. I'd rather just give you folks a general idea of what I'm using, rather than have a bunch of brand names attached to all of my stuff. Why? Because I'm not trying to sell y'all stuff. That's not what this is about. Because I just don't care about naming off things like "zpacks large cuben stuff sack". I don't want to give people the impression that they absolutely have to have a "zpacks large cuben stuff sack", because what the fuck, of course you don't need that bullshit. John Z uses fucking plastic grocery bags as "stuff sacks". Those are literally trash, but he's turned them into gear. He's also making his own gear now, which I think I'm going to take a stab at soon... Honestly that's the kind of thruhiking I want to promote. Lists are a good frame of reference, but you need to figure out what works best for you by just hitting the trail. You'll learn real quick what's extraneous and what you absolutely gotta have.

In fact, since I mentioned John Z, why don't you just go have a look this video he made.

Scroll to the right if you want the weight (oz), at the bottom is the sum total, base weight and worn.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Tomorrow isn't promised.

There are two types of suffering.

Firstly, you have the suffering that comes with a reward. You know the type. You're halfway up a 14er and your legs and lungs are burning something fierce, above treeline and the sun is baking you into oblivion, the scree and talus are loose as shit and you're losing your mind because you slide backwards half a step for every step forward. Then you get to the top and god damn, it was worth it. Right? It's more than just a scenic vista, it's that feeling of accomplishment, of fulfillment, and without the suffering, you just wouldn't have it. The suffering actually is the means to the end. It's the kind that makes you feel more alive.

Then there's suffering type two. The one difference is this: there is no reward. There is no fulfillment for enduring. It's just seemingly endless punishment for no real reason. And you have no choice in the matter. You just suffer, because what else can you do? You suffer or you die. Sometimes that's what survival looks like, suffering. And so you escape into whatever you can, drugs, alcohol, even your own mind. Maybe insanity will offer some reprieve if reality is just too abhorrent. There is no summit, no vista, no reward.

And that's where I'm at right now. A part of my body is actively betraying me at all times. Why? I don't know. And doctors can't or won't tell me. I've tried every type of self medication, from the most wild new agey to the most normie conventional shit. I will literally do anything to feel better. I will do anything to alleviate some of the searing pain in my insides. As if a blacksmith stuck me in the stomach with a molten hot poker. But you know what? I don't want to escape. I don't want to lose myself to drugs or alcohol or even insanity. I don't want to just survive. I want to thrive, and I'll accept nothing less. But it's hard to keep a positive attitude when there's no real end in sight.

Today, I was on the phone with my dad, and I asked him, "What if this is it? What if I never feel any better than I feel right now? What if it just gets worse from here on out?" And then it hit me, that I need to be prepared to answer those questions.

I can't stop dwelling on those thoughts. Fuck, I hope it's not true. I'm only 27 years old, and I have so many plans, so many adventures, so much life left to live... But life isn't fair and I could easily find that all of those plans have gone down the shitter, robbed from me in the blink of an eye.

So ask yourself the same questions, ask yourself what you would do if you knew your heath, your physical condition was only going to get worse. Would you sit here and stare at this fucking screen? Would you go into work and make food for assholes for 10 dollars an hour? Would you keep sacrificing today for the myth of tomorrow? Because maybe tomorrow isn't fucking coming. I know that's cliche as fuck, and I don't mean that a car is going to drive through your house and kill you in the middle of reading this. I mean that no matter how you prepare, at some point life is going to kick you in the fucking teeth. And yeah, you can prepare accordingly, you can save up money preparing for the inevitable and never take any risks, but what does that get you besides mediocrity? If there's one thing worse than death, it's mediocrity.

So here's the deal, I have a colonoscopy scheduled on Monday morning. It might be the first time in almost a year that I gain some insight into what affliction is ruining my life, which could be fucking amazing. It could also be the worst day of my life. I could receive some very very bad news on Monday. But I promise you this, whatever they say to me, I will not sacrifice what remains of this body and this mind, the only vehicle through which I've ever been able to experience this beautiful, horrible, wonderful, awful thing called life. I will die before I succumb to mediocrity. I'll go down in fucking flames doing what I love.

If I'm going to suffer, I'm going to do it on my own terms.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Know your enemy.

Hey there.

It's been awhile, I know. Pull up a chair.

I am still sick. I still don't know what I'm sick with. Are y'all sick (ha) of hearing about this yet? Who cares, this is my blog, deal with it.

Want to see what my life looks like? It looks like this:

Plus all the other supplements that I've already taken and thrown away in the last half year. Not picture, all of the RAW GARLIC THAT I EAT WHOLE EVERY DAY.
It looks like not eating sugar, or grains, or legumes, or caffeine, or ANYTHING FUN. I'm vegan, do you know how hard it is to do that? DO YOU? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA? God damn it's hard.

Anyhow, I have a gastroenterologist appointment on April 12th. If you are very poor and don't have insurance it is very very hard to see a gastroenterologist. Hence why it's taken me six fucking months to see one. Hopefully they will be able to tell me what's wrong with m body, maybe even help me help myself, and then maybe I'll be able to move on with my life.

In the meantime I've taken tests. Lots of tests. Lots of tests that cost lots of money. Blood tests, stool tests, etc. They've all come back negative. Negative for what? Oh, everything. You name it. Parasites, ova, candida, h. pylori, blasto hominis, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. My blood tests? They look fine. The only abnormality I've heard from a medical professional's mouth is that I "have a slightly below normal white blood cell count". Great, does that mean anything? I don't know. It doesn't seem like my tests aren't indicative of anything insidious, and I honestly think all of the doctors I've seen up until this point aren't very concerned because it appears that I'm in great health. And maybe I am. Except for, you know, the fucking severe muscle spasms that happen in and underneath my abdominals, the crippling side and back pain that I experience for no real reason, the inability to eat anything without immediate consequences such as unexplained burning pain all throughout my gastrointestinal tract or the sharp stabbing pain in my descending colon, the inability to pass stool or gas and the accompanying pain and bloating that brings. You know, other than those minor concerns, I'm doing great.

Needless to say, it has been difficult to work, difficult to exercise, difficult to eat, difficult to fucking live. But regardless, this illness hasn't killed me. I'm still alive and I still have hope. I still have plans, god damnit.

These are the things I know: I am sick. On April 12th a medical professional will tell me what sort of weird alien has decided to inhabit my body and ruin my life. Immediate after, I will dedicate my life to eradicating said alien, armed with accurate and important information about my enemy. I will hit them where they're weakest and refuse to do anything to bolster their strength. I'll flush their fucking ass down the toilet and say good riddance. Then I will mark down this time, these last six months, as the worst six months, past or future, of my life.

Then, May 7th will come around, and if you happen to be in Campo, California on this day, perhaps you'll see me. I'll be standing at the border of Mexico, at the new PCT terminus, reading through endless amounts of overused John Muir quotes left by previous thruhikers before signing my name and leaving an equally overused quote by someone that I'd at least like to think is a little more obscure. Then I'll start walking. I won't stop until I hit Canada, and then just for shits I'll put a couple more miles in.

These are the things I know: In my darkest moments, I think maybe thruhiking is a thing of my past, regardless of however bad I want it. Why? Because my body just won't allow it anymore. But guess what. I am an incredibly determined person, and I never compromise on any promise I make to myself. And I made myself a fucking promise. We are all going to fucking die someday, but I'm not dead yet, and regardless of whatever some asshole doctor says to me on April 12th, I'm going to hike the motherfucking PCT this year, even if it means eating nothing but raw pumpkin seeds and kale the whole fucking way.

See y'all out there.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

What I ate on the Appalachian Trail.

I'm vegan. This should be obvious to anyone reading this (if it's not, then god help your miserable soul). Also obvious, food was an incredibly important part of my thruhike, and being vegan somewhat altered the experience I had, what I took with me, what was available for me in town restaurants and grocery stores, etc.

Food (or hot chocolate, coffee, soda) is and can be some major motivation. But being vegan means that you won't necessarily have those motivations readily available to you. Ask any thruhiker on their way into town, I promise you they're most looking forward to "a burger and a beer". This can put a damper on things, but honestly, you can prepare similar motivations for yourself. How? Mail yourself cookies and coffee and all sorts of fun shit. Trust me, the knowledge of having access to these things will give you superhuman strength and you'll suddenly find yourself hiking 30 mile days whilst fantasizing obsessively about dunking said cookies in said coffee.

Okay, so beyond being vegan, I'm also gluten free (wah wahhh). This also significantly decreases what I can eat, especially in terms of vegan junk food readily available at gas stations and trail towns. To those you reading this with special diets, fret not, your experience will not be diminished at all if you take the time to prepare. Trust me.

Let's talk about calories real quick. To keep the weight down, I wanted a very high calorie to weight ratio. This basically means high in fat, high in sugar, or both. So you know, by default, thruhiking food isn't exactly the healthiest stuff in the world...

Anyhow, let's get to the food.


1. Cereal or (gluten free) granola with powdered nondairy milk.

This is definitely my most favorite of breakfast meals. I experimented with different types of nondairy milk, and dehydrated coconut milk was undoubtedly the best. It's extremely dense in fat and therefore dense in calories and tastes damn good. This is the brand I used. You gotta help it dissolve some, but that's all good.

Soy milk was pretty hit or miss, honestly. If you're going to go with the powdered soy milk route, just make sure you actually experiment with different brands before you hit the trail. Some are very... healthy, ya know what I mean? The taste and texture is reminiscent of the smell and feel of being in an all vegan store owned by seventh day adventists with a name that includes at least two of the following words: mother, earth, and/or natural.

Other hikers have had good luck with rice milk, so maybe go with that.

As for cereal, I typically went with the big Nature's Path brand bags. Favorite flavor: Mesa Sunrise. So dope. And granola? Kind granola typically. It's cheap, gluten free, and has a lot of calories, and doesn't have too much sugar. Just make sure the granola you're buying doesn't have honey!

2. Instant oatmeal.

It was rare that I made oatmeal in the morning as oatmeal requires cooking (unless you've achieved thruhiker level 9 status, in which you are okay with eating cold oatmeal), but sometimes, on cold, lazy morning, a hot meal is dope.

Once again I mostly went with the gluten free Nature's Path instant oatmeals.

3. Bars.

So you don't want to have to prepare a real meal (i.e. eat anything that requires a spork)? You don't have time to get a pot messy or the water to waste cleaning it out? Bars are what you want then. I ate mostly Macro bars. The flavors with peanut butter have the most calories, but I ate mostly cashew flavors cause I got them from a discount grocery store before we left. They were stale as fuck by the end of the hike, but I long ago learned not to care. I'm also a big fan of Luna bars since they taste like straight up cake. White chocolate macadamia is probs my favorite flavor. Clif bars are a favorite of most hikers, but 1) I spent the first few years of being vegan living off Clif bars and learned to hate them and 2) they're not gluten free.

4. Chia seed pudding.

Chia seeds, sugar, chocolate, dates, raisins. Whatever you feel like adding really. I got sick of this eventually, but chia seeds are crazy nutrient/calorie dense and because of their omega fatty acids, are anti-inflammatory, and guess what fools, you need to eat things that are anti-inflammatory on the AT. If you don't then god have mercy on your knees. Or if you decide to ibuprofen your way all the way to Katahdin, then god have mercy on your liver.


1. Bars, part deaux.

You know, the ones I just told you about.

2. Chips.

Potato chips. Tortilla chips.

I'm a crazy person and sent myself chips in resupply boxes even though chips are available literally anywhere. So if I got a box, I was probably eating Earth Balance sour cream and onion chips, dope. If I didn't and I could find them, I was eating Kettle chips, probably sea salt and vinegar but maybe maple and bacon (they're vegan I swear!). Also dope. If I couldn't find either then I was probably eating Lays or Fritos (so many calories, jesus christ). I don't like doing these things, but you kind of go into survival mode and just eat what you gotta eat when your drop box doesn't show up in fucking Nowhere, VA and you gotta resupply at the Grocery Xpress where the car tools aisle is the same as the produce aisle.

3. Dried fruit.

Do yourself a favor. Eat some fruit. No, sugar does not equal sugar. Fruit sugar is different than corn syrup and your body will be a lot happier if you just eat some fucking fruit.

4. Nuts and seeds.

Cashews and pumpkin seeds were my most consumed. Cashews cause they just taste good and I'd rather buy cashews than peanuts if cashews are available and cost pretty much the same amount. Pumpkin seed because what did I just say about omega fatty acids? Oh yeah, they're anti-inflammatory. Dope. Also, pumpkin seeds have this weird ability to paralyze parasites so they don't take hold in your gut, and if you already got 'em then pumpkin seeds help get rid of them. Don't believe me? Too bad.

5. Peanut butter.

I honestly didn't start eating peanut butter until way later in the trail, and then at some point it became basically all I ate. That and chips. Peanut Butter & Co has the dopest flavors, like White Chocolate Wonderful, Cinnamon Raisin Swirl, and Dark Chocolate Dreams. Plus it's cheap and can be found at basically any grocery store. And they're all certified vegan so there.

Let me tell you, dipping gluten free cookies in dark chocolate peanut butter is an incredible morale booster after seven straight days of torrential rain.

6. Candy.

Yeah, candy is right. There's this company called Go Max Go and they have a shit load of vegan candy bars that seem incredibly similar to some of the more... mainstream candy bars... My personal favorite is the Thumbs Up (which is supposed to be a butterfinger... get it?). But if you're just sooo stereotypical and you just gotta have the real thruhiker experience (but you're still vegan), you should probably eat about ten Jokerz bars as day, as they're the snickers equivalent.

I also ate quite a few sour jelly beans from the company YumEarth.

There's a variety of gross candy that's "technically" vegan that you can find in most gas stations, but I won't get into that because I don't want to endorse it, and I don't recommend eating trash, regardless of whether it may or may not be vegan. Plus, well, I just don't think a lot of it is vegan... *cough* oreos aren't vegan *cough* everybody stop saying that *cough* *cough* what does the ingredient "chocolate" mean, y'all are lying to yourselves *cough*.

7. Faux jerky.

Primal strips don't have a whole lot of calories but god damn do they taste good. Only one flavor is gluten free, but at least I get to have that. There's also this brand, Butler's, and they have this product called Sam's Harvest Jerky, and god damn! This shit is amazing! Unfortunately it's not such a popular brand and you won't be able to find it most anywhere, so ordering online is recommended.

8. Energy chunks.

You know what I'm talking about right? Those weird squares of dates plus whatever other ingredients they wanted and maybe a superfood or two? You know, they have them at literally every health food store in the world in bulk? Anyhow, these are dope and I'm surprised more people don't use them on the trail... I mean, they're chunks of "energy", isn't that we all need whilst thruhiking?

9. Dates and figs.
With or without coconut shreds. SO GOOD. SO MANY CARBS. SO MUCH HIKING WILL BE HAD.

10. Cookies.

Gluten free cookies? Gotta have 'em. There's a bunch of brands of gluten free vegan cookies, Lucy's, Enjoy Life, Mary's Gone Crackers... once again, figure out what you like most and go for that. Or go for variety, that's what I did and I literally never got sick of cookies. Honestly you can probably just thruhike on cookies and peanut butter. Do the damn thing.

11. Dark Chocolate.

Bars and dark chocolate covered everything. Peanuts, almonds, espresso beans. Honestly, you can find dark chocolate just about anywhere but like always, watch out for the companies that hide "less than 2% milkfat" up in that shit. I probably ate more chocolate than any human being has a right to consume, but chocolate is healthy! It's got antioxidants and shit!


1. Premade dehydrated meals.

I, unfortunately, made the mistake of placing a huge order through Outdoor Herbivore, thinking that I would at least enjoy most of their products, if not all of them. This was a huge let down and I would never recommend that anyone eat these meals for any extended length of time. Why? It doesn't matter what you get, they all pretty much taste the same... kind of like clif bars. It doesn't matter what flavor you're eating, you're eating a god damn clif bar and it tastes like a god damn clif bar. Same principle applies to Outdoor Herbivore. If for some reason you decide you just gotta order something from these guys, then let it be the blackened quinoa or the lickety split lentils. Everything else is whack and I hate that they have a monopoly on the vegan backpacking food market. Someone please remedy this!

However much Outdoor Herbivore sucks, Backpacker's Pantry does not. There's a reason this is a popular brand. The best part is that these are pretty much anywhere. Only a few of the flavors are vegan, but the pad thai is amazing and has like a thousand calories.

2. Dehydrated beans and corn tortillas.

Once again, I got sick of beans pretty quick, but it was a good idea for awhile. Pack out an avocado from town, carry a little bit of hot sauce, and god damn you got a badass meal. There's a variety of dehydrated bean flavors, so once again, figure out which ones you like best before committing to eating them for 5+ months.

3. Noodles and sauce.

Gluten free macaroni noodles. Probably of the corn or quinoa variety. These cook decently fast, but make sure you dump that starchy water as it will ruin whatever else you put in your pot with your noods. I used some powdered marinara mixes and cheese mixes, but honestly I wasn't a big fan of either. Maybe just olive oil and nutritional yeast is your best bet here.

Rice noodles cook fast. That makes them worthy of thruhiking in my book. Thin noodles work best (duh). Pair some noodles with a "sauce" and you win. My favorite was powdered miso, which is fairly easy to find, but watch out for fishy (literally) ingredients in that miso! Pad thai and peanut sauce packets are fairly easy to find in most grocery stores as well, but once again, check those ingredients y'all.

4. Thai kitchen.

Cheap, but not very calorie dense. You gotta use like three to get a decent meal out of the deal, but I loooove eating these things on the trail. Only a couple of the flavors are vegan, but who cares, the spring onion is the best and it's all you need. Or get the garlic flavor, mix it with a spring onion, go nuts, it's your hike and you deserve it!


1. Produce.

Eat produce! Just do it! You have to! You're a human being god damnit! Pack out some bananas and avocados and you'll be so fucking happy you did, I promise. Maybe even eat a salad in town, I don't know, get crazy!

2. Pickles.

Let's face it. You're gross and sweaty. You've lost more sodium through your pores than you've consumed in the last ten years of your life. Get it back. Eat those damn pickles.

3. Soda.

You know the routine, it's liquid calories dude.

4. Nondairy ice cream.

Mostly coconut milk, but sometimes those new cashew flavors. Once upon a time in the "Daleville/Troutville Metropolitan Area" I ate two pints of cashew milk ice cream then watched Mad Max at the Roanoke movie theater. My gut was literally on fire for the duration of the movie, but I have no regrets and I'm still alive, if just barely.

5. Coffee.

Strictly for morale. Also, I don't drink alcohol so I had to spend money on something in town, right?

6. Chinese food.

If you're on the AT, you'll notice that most trail towns have at least one Chinese restaurant. If you're really desperate for some town food, hit it up. They should have tofu and at least one thing on the menu that's vegan. Should being the key word here.


1. Powdered greens.

I used Healthforce Nutritional's Vitamineral Greens. This was a good idea in terms of staying healthy, but it was hard to adhere to. I just didn't have an incredible amount of extra containers to get all nastied up with greens. Is nastied a word? Doesn't seem like it. Who cares. I'll try to do greens again on the PCT because I'm a fucking hippie and I don't believe in not eating them.

2. Magnesium powder.

Early on in my hike, this was a good idea. Magnesium powder makes a huge difference in whether or not your legs are going to cramp hard as shit in the middle of the night. After a few hundred miles and a couple months of routine exercise, your body adjusts and you find that you no longer cramp, ever, for any reason. You've transcended into some other realm and you're a deity who no longer experiences muscle soreness.

3. Electrolytes.
The AT is hot. I mean like, really fucking hot. You're going to sweat. So much. Gallons. Every day. There's no avoiding it. Unless you want to struggle for the entire summer, I guarantee that you'll want to use electrolytes. I used Ultima and Vega most of the time. They were both messy and annoying, but hey, you do what you gotta do.

4. RAW meal.

This was the hardest of the supplement routine. I figured I could use a high quality protein source since I was getting pretty physical out there on the AT, you know, using my muscles and shit. But it was messy and just didn't work well and blah. I eventually started ditching all of my RAW meal powders into hiker boxes and never once regretted it.

5. Multivitamins.
I took a couple of different brands. Again, find what works for you, it's just a multivitamin. I will definitely continue to use multivitamins on my thruhiking ventures. Read all about why, here.

6. Starbucks VIA coffee.

For anyone who isn't familiar, Starbucks VIA are little coffee sticks that you just add to water and voila, a delicious coffee drink. In "real life" these aren't the greatest, but as soon as you hit the trail and you/re forced to cope with the sudden absence of caffeine in your life, you'll be reaching for the VIA sticks and praising jah that they exist.

7. Tea/hot chocolate.

These are the two reasons that I refuse to go stoveless on the PCT, I just love my hot drinks too much. I made my own hot chocolate mix ahead of time, and it was incredible. I sent myself a variety of teas in every drop box and probably only made half of them, but who cares, the weight was negligible and the tea was delicious.

8. Veggie bouillon.

Get the cubes and put them in literally anything and it's suddenly worth eating. Par boiled rice? Add some veggie bouillon and you win.

9. Condiments.

Mustard, ketchup, hot sauce. Whatever tickles your fancy. If you hate what you're eating, squirt like six mustard packets on it and just try to disguise how gross it is. I'm looking at you Outdoor Herbivore...


1. Ramen.

With and without MSG. The "natural" brand is Koyo, and the in-no-way-natural brand is Top Ramen. You know, the one from walmart? Well only the "oriental" flavor is vegan... but what the fuck kind of flavor is oriental? On the plus side, these cost jack shit. On the not so plus side... these may literally kill you because I would never actually qualify them as "food".

2. Probars.

These have the most calorie content of any vegan bar on the market, to my knowledge. They're decent and there's a million flavors. Unfortunately they're made with oats (contaminated with gluten), and I'm a big enough baby to care about that kind of stuff. They're also hella expensive, so, try to find a sale or something.

3. Gatorade.

I don't deny that gatorade is pretty delicious, especially the flavor glacier freeze. I just adhere to stricter standards about these things, and I already had ultima and vega playing in my electrolyte game. Gatorade does have a lot of calories and doesn't taste like shit, so there's that.

4. Tortillas.

I was very jealous of other's ability to eat gluten whilst on the trail, and nowhere is this more apparent than bean burritos. I don't think I would have gotten sick of beans, or at least not nearly as fast, if I had had the burrito option. Plus you can just get weird and make trail mix, peanut butter, cookie, chocolate burritos and honestly that sounds like a damn good meal on the trail.

5. Couscous.

So cheap, so easy. Cooks literally instantly. Also has a good nutrition profile comparable to quinoa. Honestly if you're going on a thruhike, regardless of diet, you should be eating couscous.


1. Outdoor Herbivore.

I already explained this one. They're just bad, but don't take my word for it, go ahead and buy a couple. Ha.

2. Coconut oil.

Too messy. Hot and then cold and then hot again so many times that it probably went rancid. A lot of people used coconut oil on the trail, but it just wasn't for me. I may come back to it someday.

3. Little almond butter packets.

So annoying. Don't ever do this. It seems like a good idea at the time, but it's not.

4. Raw meal.

Like I said, this just didn't work out. I'll try to find some other powdered protein mix that I like more.