Speed addict

Joe McConaughy at the northern end of the Pacific Crest Trail, at the U.S.-Canada border. Photo credit Michael Dillon/Run for Colin

A Seattle man hiked the 2,660-mile Pacific Crest Trail in 53 days, 6 hours and 37 minutes, according to this report by Northwest Public Radio.

Yes, that’s a record.

Before I start whining, it should be noted that Joe McConaughy dedicated this journey to his cousin, Colin, who died from a rare form of cancer in 2012. McConaughy reportedly raised $28,000 in donations for cancer support services.

That’s wonderful.

But.

Why is our society so obsessed with speed? Only recently, it seems to me, has so much importance been placed on setting records on the PCT or other long-distance routes.

Maybe I’m bitter because I’m not capable of averaging 50-plus miles a day. (Five miles a day is more my speed.) But why embark on the journey of a lifetime with the primary goal of finishing it as quickly as possible? It’s like enduring the endless drive to Disneyland, pulling into the parking lot, getting out of the car for five minutes and then coming home again.

PCT speed hikers might be fast.

But they’ll never taste the secret, icy little spring at Asa Lake, less than a quarter-mile off the trail in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness east of Stockton. They’ll breeze right past it.

They’ll never lie in their tents listening to hailstones bounce off the granite boulders during a late-afternoon thunderstorm. They’ll be hiking through it.

They’ll never be able to read a book or nap in a meadow or cast a line for golden trout.

No time. Got to keep moving.

To each his own, of course, and congrats again to McConaughy.

Don’t mind me, Joe, I’m just jealous.

But if I’m going to deal with the aches and pains of backpacking, the dirt, the bugs, the sunburned nose and the freeze-dried food, I’m darn well going to take some time and smell the flowers, too.

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  • Blog Author

    Alex Breitler

    A native of Benicia, he lives in Stockton with his wife, Ann, who forces him to go backpacking in the Sierra Nevada or Trinity Alps at every opportunity. He has been writing mostly about natural resources since 2003, first in Redding and now in ... Read Full
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