Pacific Crest Trail Recreation Management Area

The Cactus Eaters: A story of adventure--and misadventure--on the Pacific Crest Trail

June 24, 2010, 9:40 am

The Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind—and Almost Found Myself—on the Pacific Crest Trail chronicles author Dan White’s journey from Mexico to Canada on the famed National Scenic Trail.

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is the jewel in the crown of America’s scenic trails, spanning 2,650 miles through California, Oregon and Washington. It reveals the beauty of the desert, unfolds the glaciated expanses of the Sierra Nevada, and provides commanding vistas of volcanic peaks and glaciers in the Cascade Range.

For anyone considering a long-distance backpacking trip, Cactus Eaters is a must-read. White relates the ups and downs of life on the trail in a way that is exciting and inspiring, but also honest and realistic. The adventure begins as White, a journalist living in Connecticut, quits his job and sets out to conquer the Pacific Crest Trail with his girlfriend.

From the outset, the duo encounters obstacle upon obstacle: How much should they carry in their packs? Where’s the fresh water spring marked on the trail map? What happens if you get sick or hurt on the trail? But they also experience the beauty and adventure on the trail—stunning desert sunsets, camaraderie with fellow thru-hikers and unparalleled views from the peaks of the Sierra Nevadas.

Although many doubted that White and his girlfriend could complete the adventure, they make their way north on the PCT, learning from each of the 6 million steps it would take to if they were going to complete the trail. And all along the way, you’ll feel right there with them as they encounter bears on the trail, feast on giant stacks of pancakes in supply towns and are bestowed a trail name by a fellow hiker.

The book is funny, realistic and inspiring, and a great way to get a taste of life on the trail. For the latest updates from author Dan White, visit The best resource for planning a hike on the PCT—for just the day or for all 2,650 miles—is the Pacific Crest Trail Association’s website,