Photo by Ben Coats
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My Trail Story featuring Chicken of the Sea

Ben Coats, a.k.a. Chicken of the Sea, talks about the curveball he experienced on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Natalie McMillan      My Trail Story       02/28/2019
Natalie McMillan
My Trail Story
02/28/2019
A man with a beard smiling on a mountain with clouds behind him.
Photo by Ben Coats

Curveball on the Trail

By Ben Coats “Chicken of the Sea”

When I came to, blood was filling my eye.  I blinked. What on earth? I wiped blood away from my eye.  I felt my face. My eye seemed unscathed as far as I could tell but I had a sizeable cut on forehead.  I looked up at the taco stand owner.

“What happened?” I said.

“No idea,” he replied. “You ordered tacos and when I turned back around you were on the floor.”

I pulled myself up to a sitting position and tried to collect myself.  The owner had fished out some rubber gloves and was applying gauze to my cut forehead.  I took inventory. My shoulder burned. I must have hit it against the wall when I fell. My right knee felt jammed and it was hard to move.  I must have collapsed on my knee, and then fell to my right side banging my shoulder against the wall, and then hit my head either on the wall or the floor.

After collecting my tacos, I tried to make my way back to my room.  I was in South Lake Tahoe, 1094 miles into the PCT taking a zero and doing a resupply.  I had been solo hiking for most of the trail so far, but luckily my girlfriend had come out for a couple of weeks to hike with me, and we were staying just across the street.

I took a couple steps and stopped.  “Crap,” I thought. “My leg is really jacked up.”  I could barely walk a few steps. For the last 1000 miles I had been nursing an old plantar fasciitis in my left foot.  After all that, my right leg (my good leg) was completely messed up as well. I still had over 1500 hundred miles to go. It took me a good 10 minutes to hobble back to my room.

After telling my girlfriend what happened, I fell into my convalescence bed.  Well, our zero day soon turned into four zeros. On the second day, I woke up in the middle of the night and had use the facilities.  I literally had to crawl to the restroom. Sitting in bed for days, I thought for the first time that my hike might be over. I had never really thought about quitting — it really wasn’t in my nature.  But now, I was faced with the real possibility that I might not finish the trail. I was a relatively slow thru-hiker but was still on pace to finish in late September or early October. But what if I needed two weeks to recover?  If that happened, I wouldn’t get to Canada before the snowstorms. I simply didn’t have that time. There was nothing I could do except wait and hope that it got better. So I waited.

A man with a beard smiling with snow and trees behind him.
Photo by Ben Coats
A reflection of a lake with a small mountain hill.
Photo by Ben Coats

After four zero days I went back to trail.  I made it one-half of a mile. I was totally exhausted. We had planned on 8 miles that day, but I told my girlfriend I wasn’t going to make it.  We ended up going to summer camp near Echo Lake. We sang camp songs, and I ate more spaghetti than any camper ever should. After checking in with the camp nurse, we decided it would be safe to proceed.

The next day was better. We made 5 miles and camped at Lake Aloha, which is one of the most beautiful spots on the trail in my opinion.  My leg got better after that. It took a couple weeks to get back to full strength. It was extremely frustrating to be doing 10-12 mile days in an area where other hikers were starting to do 30s but I managed through it.  

I made it to Canada on October 5.  I only got stuck in one snowstorm and beat most of the big storms just in the nick of time.  Like most thru-hikers, I can’t really put into words how the hike affected me. But I will say it was an overwhelmingly positive experience and has been great for my physical and mental well-being.  One thing I learned is that I needed outdoor activity to be a big part of my life going forward. 

To that end I worked with my girlfriend to create the Ultimate Hiking Challenge. This is an attempt to help people get outside and experience the healing effects of nature that we have had in our lives.  Challengers can commit to hike 100, 250, 500 or 1000 miles in a year and to see the change it makes in their lives. You can register for free on our site.

A man with a beard and a beanie smiles with a mountain behind him.
Photo by Ben Coats
A man stands next to the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Photo by Ben Coats

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Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail is an epic journey of over 2650 miles (4260 km) and is one of the most popular thru-hiking trails in the United States. Its path travels from the US-Mexico border to the northern US-Canada border, passing through California, Oregon, and Washington.

2650 mi       $29.99 full guide
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Washington, Pacific Crest Trail
Photo by Justin Helmkamp
A trail meanders through a green and mountainous landscape on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Washington, Pacific Crest Trail
Photo by Justin Helmkamp
Get our hiking guide for this area!

Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail is an epic journey of over 2650 miles (4260 km) and is one of the most popular thru-hiking trails in the United States. Its path travels from the US-Mexico border to the northern US-Canada border, passing through California, Oregon, and Washington.

2650 mi
$29.99 full guide
Explore the Trail
About the Author
A woman wearing a baseball cap and American flag tank top stands in front of a beautiful view.

Natalie McMillan

Natalie grew up hiking in Arizona where she fell in love with the outdoors. Her favorite hikes are to Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon and Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, UT. She loves taking pictures of people and places and nature, which might explain why she has almost 23,000 photos currently residing on her phone. She takes care of all things social media/marketing-related and might be seen frolicking around Flagstaff taking photos of the Arizona Trail.