Long-Distance Walking, USA
Comments 5

I Shouldn’t Be Alive: A PCT Breakfast Sampler

Of all the hazards faced by Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers on their 2,650-plus-mile  journey between the Mexican and Canadian borders — long waterless sections in rugged southern California, treacherous high passes and swollen creek crossings in the Sierra, the potential for early storms in alpine Washington — perhaps none is more dangerous than the American Breakfast.

My last supper, Oregon-Washington border.

Food is never far from your thoughts when you’re burning a few thousand calories per day, every day. I remember a female hiker on the Appalachian Trail who described herself as “an eater with a hiking disorder”. And a few days of Lipton’s instant meals, bagels and peanut butter will have even the most disciplined of eaters fantasising about the rumoured glories of the diner in the next trail town.

Somewhere beyond Big Bear, CA.

My approach to food changed for my shot at the PCT last year. A long-time vegetarian, I was tired of having “food politics” dominate what should be a basic and essential pleasure, and decided to “go with the flow” on my hike and make eating less of a complication.

What no food bag should be without

Must have been a lot tougher in the early days of the trail. Eric Ryback, credited with the first thru-hike of the PCT , in 1970, frequently ran dangerously low on food. Much of the Trail was still a concept when he did his north-to-south trek. He even carried fishing gear. At one point, as recounted in The High Adventure of Eric Ryback, things got so serious that…

I tried to review the information I had accumulated about the food stuffs of the forest. I remembered that worms, grubs, and bird eggs, though not the most appetising prospect, all provided good protein. I also recalled that besides various roots and berries, cat tails were good eating…

Even knowing that “cat tails” are plant-, not feline-based protein, and in the certain absence of some nice marinated tofu in your typical Californian greasy spoon, I think I’d happily go for a burger or a few strips of bacon, thanks, Eric.

Today, a tasty July 4th tribute, in fond remembrance of some good times, great laughs, and many epic feasts!

Warner Springs, CA.

Idyllwild, CA. A hearty salad with accompaniments.

Dessert, Idyllwild. Relax: the HEET was stove fuel.

Breakfast at Themla's Big Bear, CA.

Dinner, Thelma's.

La Cabana Mexican restaurant, Acton, CA

Agua Dulce, CA

A bunch of us rented a car to drive into L.A. to visit In-N-Out Burger

Agua Dulce, CA

A desert cache of glorious junk run by the Andersons. I would never drink this crap back home, but it tasted like heaven in a can that hot desert day.

Lunch, Denny's, Mojave CA.

Breakfast, Mojave. I ordered blueberry pancakes AND THEY POURED THE BERRIES OVER THE CAKES! (It was glorious).

Resupply, Mojave.

They call it "pudding". I call it sickening green goop. I ate it all anyway. If it's green it has to be good for you.

The menu at Kennedy Meadows, CA, right before the Sierra. I got the Double Burger. No, wait -- I got SEVERAL Double Burgers.

Breakfast, Lone Pine, CA. The Sierra. Every meal felt like it might be my last. That's a "biscuit" in my right hand. Omelette in my left.

Another breakfast, Lone Pine.

A quick bite for lunch, Lone Pine. I always keep my trekking poles handy just in case I can't walk out without assistance.

Mammoth Lakes, CA. Ribs night with a bunch of pals. Ribs were a mistake. Only time I've ever eaten them.

A birthday care package from my girlfriend. Swiss Snickers.

Tuolumne, CA. I hardly left this picnic table for three days.

Trail magic in the woods. I needed the roughage.

July 4, Yosemite, CA. I'd just done a 20+ mile side-trip to finish the John Muir Trail. My celebratory feast.

Breakfast, Tuolumne. You can do great things with a biscuit.

Bridgeport, CA. An American classic.

Feel the love: Bridgeport.

Dinner, Bridgeport.

Breakfast in Bridgeport: a burrito and a motion-sickness pill for the hitch back to the Trail. BIG mistake.

An obscene amount of cheap ice-cream & a Pepsi, my rewards for quitting the Trail again at Echo Lake, CA. Two days later I was hiking again. Old story.

French toast, South Lake Tahoe, CA.

A psychedelic Pop Tart. Should be banned by the DEA.

A friend found a more useful function for a Platypus. Meet the Whiskypus.

Free breakfast at a trail angel's house, Buck's Lake, CA.

Chester, CA. Toasted cheese. Oh, yeah.

Chester, CA.

Where do I start? Chester.

Something like real food, Drakesbad Resort.


In my $10 generic reading glasses in one of the best diners on the PCT, Shasta City.

Etna Summit, CA.

I overdid it a bit with this snack in Etna.

At last, some wild food near Seiad Valley CA.

A soda and some jam outside Seiad. The Oregon border was near, hence the celebratory root beer.

Best pancakes on the Trail, Callahans Resort, OR.

We made them regret that "endless".

Free home-cooked food at the Heitmans', Old Station CA.

Hyatt Lake Resort. We hiked off-trail for this pizza. Not really worth it.

Dessert, Mazama Village, Crater Lake, OR.

Shelter Cove Resort, OR. Yes ma'am, with everything.

Sisters, OR.


Elk Lake Resort, OR. A quick side-trip for beer & grub.

Well, it was a long day, it was a late hitch, and.. OK, shoot me, we were hungry. Sisters OR.

This is why I eat well in towns.

Char-Burger, Cascade Locks, OR, on the WA border. End of my hike -- final trail-town pig-out.

Well, perhaps just a little dessert.

Next post: A rainforest climb in Hippy Country

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote



  1. A culinary story well told, Goat!

    Those pix are criminal, so criminal, my friend. But kinda understandable given the lack of witchetty grubs.

    • Thanks, SW. I kept switching between longing and outright disgust as I added the pictures. If you weren’t hiking 20+ miles per day, that diet would kill you.

  2. Hang on G, in future can you give me some sort of warning at the start? Looking at that processed food almost made me perform a record breaking power spew. Two things have now happened: I’m a vegetarian and the other is I’ve observed the same shirt in approximately 235 of the photos you just posted. The whole post is quite frightening…

    • Haha, perhaps some good will come of my dietary crimes on that trip: more converts to vegetarianism! It was frightening to think of myself consuming all that fat and animal protein – a little disgusting to be sure. And I still lost weight!

      As for that shirt, Greg, if you’re going to investigate lightweight hiking, you’ll have to consider adopting a One Shirt Policy. That one did 2,000 miles without losing a single button. It’s good for another 2,000 – just don’t stand downwind a day or two post-laundry!

  3. Love your shirt policy! I like wearing long sleeved shirts myself and I’ve been using the same Columbia one for most hikes. Unfortunately I do get the comment of, “Not that bloody shirt again!” Those shirt photos just don’t appear in my blog…

    What stuns me a little is either you’re not much larger than a gnome or the plates of food in America are frighteningly colossal…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s