13 pairs of hiking boots, 17 pairs of socks and 5 headlamps. His 9 states in the US, 6 national parks, 25 backpacker hostels. About 15 million steps, total 6,875.5 miles.
These dizzying markers come from hiker Nick Gagnon’s recently completed Great Western Loop. The Great Western Loop is an extensive thru-hike that connects sections of the Pacific Crest, Pacific Northwest, Continental Divide, Grand Enchantment, and Arizona Trail in a circle of he nearly 7,000 miles. No one knows how many hikers have completed this route, but only two of them, backpacker Jeff his Garmire in 2018 and his guide Andrew Skulka in 2007, have made successful trips. I am recording. Six hours.
Gagnon, 37, who goes by the trail name “Cheswick,” was documented on November 6, when he stepped into the small town of Nothing, Arizona, the same place where he began his hike on April 19. became the third finisher. he stopped his watch. 197 days and 11 hours. One more of his stats to add to Gagnon’s impressive gait: He had two partially torn meniscus tendons that made the last few hundred miles excruciating.
“I knew I was going to need knee surgery,” Gagnon said. “It turned out to be worth it.”
When I spoke with Gagnon earlier this week, he was barely making his way from the couch to the fridge and back. Just four days after completing his epic trek, Gagon underwent surgery to repair his right knee and is currently facing six weeks of recovery. Later this winter, he also plans to have his left meniscus surgically repaired, which will require more time off his leg.Gagnon works as a bartender and snowmobiles his guide to hikes. funding the obsession of He said he is unlikely to return to work anytime soon.
But Gagnon told me he has no regrets about the damage he’s done to his body. After completing the , he fell and broke his leg. That setback only fueled his desire to return and complete the trek in 2022. When I spoke with him on the phone, he was optimistic about his own achievements.
“I think this is the hardest thru-hike in the world,” said Gagnon. “If you are in one of the Triple Crown [Appalachian, Pacific Crest, Continental Divide] Well maintained trail. This often involves a much smaller trail system, but you have to maintain a high pace. ”
Unlike the marathon course, the Great Western Loop has no standard route. There are long sections where the hiker must find his way along his system of back roads and lesser-known trails.
“Basically, from the Arizona Trail in the Grand Canyon to the Pacific Crest Trail, you get to choose your adventure completely,” Garmire told me.
Pacing is key to completing the monumental journey before winter sets in. Garmire and Skurka said that on each trip he averaged 33 miles per day. Gagnon he maintained 34.8 miles a day. This is a lightning pace that required him to give up some of the creature comforts that hikers sometimes enjoy. He had zero rest days and was forced to hike in bad weather. He only slept in town if he fell at or near the 35-mile daily terminus. He rarely did laundry and often scrubbed his clothes when showering.
“Any time I went off the trail, I was going insane,” he said. “I couldn’t stand sitting and waiting for something.”
When Gagnon stopped halfway, he did so with speed in mind. He tried to limit his time in town to three hours at most.
“If I could run 15 miles (about 15 miles) by noon, I could justify going into town, but a lot of the time I didn’t,” he said. “I would go to a restaurant and have a normal meal and then find an outlet to charge everything. [back into town] 5 more days. ”
A solid pace was difficult to maintain for the first two weeks as the ganions carried extra water to get you through the dry Mojave Desert. He made up for lost time on the first half of the Pacific Crest Trail by encountering lower-than-normal snow cover. Heavy snow cover in Oregon slowed him down again.
“The last section was the 1,500-mile post-haul,” he said.
Gagnon averaged up to 40 miles a day along the Pacific Northwest Trail and maintained a high pace in the first half of the Continental Divide Trail. On his one section of the Grand Enchantment Trail in New Mexico, his route is nearly finished. In early October, just after crossing his trail at Grand Enchantment in New Mexico, Gagnon got lost while bushwhacking over a 10,000 foot mountain pass. As he walked through forests ravaged by wildfires, Gagnon struggled to find signs among the burning trees and ragged bushes. , I was on the verge of hypothermia.
“All my clothes were torn and I was hurdling over fallen trees for hours, so my pace dropped to like a mile an hour and I got lost and went around in circles,” he said. “One time I tripped over barbed wire and fell on my face.”
He battled the cold and spent the night huddled in a sticky tent, wondering if he would be warm enough to continue his journey the next day. It was. That moment is just a small part of the trajectory that Ganion keeps repeating in his mind. He told me these memories would likely help him navigate the sedentary lifestyle he’d have to adopt this winter to let his body heal. I believe I am up to the challenge of resting after finishing my walk.
“It was the hardest thing I ever tried to do,” he said. “Now I feel like I can do anything.”