"Thirst: 2600 Miles to Home" — a True Story of Overcoming Doubt on the PCT
Anish’s journey is riddled with close calls, dust-ups and all the great threats of being at nature’s mercy. Whether being stalked by mountain lions or sprinting across exposed ridgelines in a thunderstorm, she transforms what most of us consider to be turn-around points into knee-high barriers, and pushes on.
By Joey Smith
Heather “Anish” Anderson’s daily routine on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is rather straightforward. Wake up to your alarm at 5 a.m. and walk. A lot. Walk as the morning sun rises to cast its first shadows, walk in the blistering midday sun, walk past the distant homes of families sitting down for dinner. If you’re hurt, walk it off. Thirsty? Reach for your Camelback’s mouthpiece. Hungry for something other than a nutrient bar? Well, there’s not a lot of time for that, we’ve got a border to reach.
Eventually, well after dark, when even the nocturnal critters are tired of walking alongside her, she settles in for a well-deserved sleep. And then does it again. And again. For 60 days across all that North America and her own psyche can throw at her.
All of this is detailed in “Thirst,” the true story of Anish’s attempt to break the record for the fastest known time on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Anish’s fascination with hiking began inside the walls of the Grand Canyon, where she served as a college intern. What these trails gave back to her later inspired her to tackle the “Triple Crown” of thru-hiking: the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trail, which Anish completed by the time she was 25. And then life normalized, as it tends to do. She got married, started a career, purchased a home — did all the things she was supposed to do to be happy, and woke up to find that she wasn’t. She grew depressed and dissatisfied and began yearning for the place that made her feel her biggest and brightest: the trail.
So, she went for a walk.
Anish’s journey is riddled with close calls, dust-ups and all the great threats of being at nature’s mercy. Whether being stalked by mountain lions or sprinting across exposed ridgelines in a thunderstorm, she transforms what most of us consider to be turn-around points into knee-high barriers, and pushes on. She just keeps walking. She takes her body to unimaginable heights, conquering pain just like she conquered the Sierra’s many passes — and showing us that there are many paths to becoming a worldclass athlete.
The true antagonist of her story isn’t the rattlesnakes or mosquitos. It isn’t the men who doubt and root against her or even the mindboggling mileage she covers each day. The real antagonist in her story is her own self-doubt. On every mile of this challenge, Anish is forced to confront herself and the deep fears of failure she’s carried with her from childhood. She wrestles with her own history and insecurities, and without spoiling anything, comes out the victor. While her style is certainly not for all hikers (maybe none, in fact), her dedication to self-improvement and perseverance are remarkable and universally inspiring.
One of the greatest fears of someone attempting a thru-hike is spending so much time alone with your own thoughts and anxieties. In this book, Anish allows the reader to see how this plays out across 2,650 miles. She shows that life can hit you hard, and you may need something like thru-hiking the PCT to hit it back.
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Heather, who considers Bellingham her home, completed her first calendar year “Triple Crown” in 2018, becoming the first woman to do so. She is also an ultramarathon runner and mountaineer. Follow her many adventures at anishhikes.wordpress.com and on Instagram at @AnishHikes.