Losing Weight on the Pacific Crest Trail

Keeping weight on is a tough game when you're walking 30 miles a day—and when you don't bring a stove, it only gets worse.

Photo by Amanda Jameson

I'm getting some much-needed rest in Shasta, California, and I've made a startling discovery: I've lost more weight than I thought.

It's only been three days since I took a shower at Burney Falls Campground, but the bathroom at our hotel has a mirror, and catching my reflection is somewhat startling. I knew I'd lost a lot of weight, but I didn't exactly know how much until now. I'm not quite skin and bones, but I'm not much better, either. Clearly, my food problems are coming to a head.

I use a no-cook system on the trail—I'll cold soak my large meal, usually rice and beans, an hour or so before I want to eat it, so it will be ready when I am. Trouble is, I haven't really been all that gung-ho about eating said large meal, and it often ends up in a cathole with other things I've actually digested. When you've had rice and beans almost exclusively for nearly 1,500 miles, it starts to become a little unappetizing. You really have to bring your A-game in terms of variety when you go stoveless, and I've brought my C-game, at best.

I've got bars and an absurd amount of junk food to supplement my caloric intake, but as I'm relatively slow, it takes me longer to make the large miles I've been doing—which means fewer snack breaks. I often find myself pushing through, trying to reach a certain landmark, before rewarding my body with food. I know I could probably go faster if I stopped and ate, but I find it incredibly hard to do so, even when the food is more appealing than my larger meals.

As I look in the mirror, though, I know something's got to be done—the center cannot hold, not for much longer, and I'll start burning muscle before I know it. So when I head to the grocery store tomorrow, I'll be hyper-focused on counting calories, making sure I'm getting as many as possible for the weight of the food I'm carrying. And, when I get back on trail, I'll be focused on putting as much food as possible down the hatch.

Days: 94

Miles: 1,499