HHI: Doug, how long have you been eating raw foods and how did you get started?
WALSH: I became a vegan in 1988 after reading Diet for a New America by John Robbins; it was a natural progression for me. I have always been interested in health because I love the outdoors. I realize that I must be healthy to be able to do what I love, which is to play outside! Over the years, my vegan diet was refined and I became healthier and healthier. Two influential books that led me to living foods were Conscious Eating by Gabriel Cousens and the Diamond’s Fit for Life. It made total sense to me. Eating foods that are still full of the energy of the earth was the obvious way to go. That energy is channeled to me and I get so excited about life! I love this lifestyle. You don’t have to deprive yourself or sacrifice to be healthy.
HHI: You have done several major hikes in your life, how was hiking the Continental Divide Trail different?
WALSH: It was the longest hike I have ever done, somewhere between 3,000 and 3,200 miles (depending on who you ask). The elevation of this hike, however, was continuously high, averaging over 11,000 feet. Walking a marathon or more per day at that elevation is definitely a challenge, even for a raw foodist. The weather conditions were brutal at times and we were constantly exposed: rain, snow, wind, hail and thunderstorms with dangerous lightning. You name it, we got it on this trail!
HHI: I was told you were even stopped due to a major forest fire, is this so?
WALSH: We encountered two forest fires on the trip, both in the same area, which was northern New Mexico. During the first one, in May, they closed the trail, but we were already in the midst of it when they did, so not only were we not stopped, we in fact were not even aware that the trail had been closed! We continued walking and when we came out of the closed area, the forest ranger wondered what in the world we were doing on a closed trail.
HHI Tell us about the others who hiked with you, were they also eating all living foods?
WALSH: I hiked with a friend of mine, Eric, basically the whole way. He is not a raw foods person; he’s not even a vegetarian. However, after hiking with me, he wants to become a raw foodist because he saw the obvious advantages of my lifestyle. Eric is fourteen years younger and suffered much more than I did on this hike; he also had much less stamina than I had.
HHI: What did he say to you, being a young meat eater and watching your stamina and strength versus his own?
WALSH: He basically just said that he “gets it”–raw food is the way. I could out-hike him in a significant way even though I am over a decade older. I also required less food and my body dealt -with the cold much better than his. After seeing this for multiple months, he was so impressed. He wanted to go raw right there on the trail! I encouraged him to make improvements in his diet but not to try to go 100% raw on the trail due to the detoxification that he would surely encounter.
HHI: Did you ever consider quitting at any point on the trail?
WALSH: Absolutely, there were moments of suffering due to being cold and wet for days on end. It would start hailing and raining again and the thought came to mind- how nice it would be to go into town and get a hotel where it is warm and comfortable. It was merely a passing thought though and never something that was an option.
HHI: What was your biggest surprise on the trail?
WALSH: Frankly, my biggest surprise was how difficult it was. After walking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2001, 1 thought I knew what I was getting myself into and what a through-hike was all about. The Continental Divide Trail was definitely another level. It was much more difficult in every way and without a doubt the most challenging thing I have ever accomplished in my life. The level of surrender that was required to pull this off forced me to grow.
HHI: What one thing did you miss the most while you were out there?
WALSH: Cantaloupe! When we would come to a town other hikers would go to the burger joints and load up and I sought out a grocery store to buy a cantaloupe or two. I desired to eat cantaloupe with reckless abandon.
HHI: Were there any disappointments or unmet expectations in this undertaking?
WALSH: In terms of expectations, it fully met my expectations as a transformational experience. I am not the same person I was when I began this walk and I am excited about the person I have become.
HHI: What was the most memorable part of your adventure?
WALSH: That would be climbing a peak in the Wind River Range in Wyoming, the second highest peak in the range, Fremont Peak. It was nearly 14,000 feet. It was not on the trail, but some people had told me about it. So early one morning, before getting on the trail, I just ran up the side of the mountain; I did a lot of extra side trips for the scenery since I had the extra energy. That just comes with the raw food diet!
HHI: Do you feel you are stronger at the end of this hike than at the beginning?
WALSH: Without a doubt. Eric made a comment to me a few days before we finished. He told me he had noticed that during the course of the hike I had gotten stronger while he had gotten progressively weaker, and, he is a seasoned hiker.
HHI: In the last issue of our newsletter, we focused on the decline of the environment. My question to you, since you have spent so much time outdoors over the past twenty five years, is: Have you seen any major differences in the environment from a decade ago until now?
WALSH: The main thing is the weather changes more quickly; it is more unpredictable and more extreme than it was only a decade ago. Another thing that may be of interest to your readers is what I witnessed on the Continental Divide Trail, which I not so affectionately began to refer as the “Continental Cattle Drive Trail.” The destruction done to the environment by the cattle being driven was so disheartening to me. As you know, cattle foul the water and destroy ecosystems and I hated to see it. I would love to live in a world where people did not eat cows, as it would dramatically improve our environment. If others could witness what I saw, it might be a motivating factor for some to make major changes in diet.
HHI: What is the most significant change you have noticed in yourself since accomplishing this feat?
WALSH: I feel much more empowered. I understand that by putting one’s attention on intention and keeping faith anything is possible!
HHI: What advice would you give to athletes and people who want to undertake physical challenges such as the one you just accomplished, with regard to their diet and being a vegan or not being a vegan?
WALSH: My experience has been that when I became a vegan, my stamina improved incredibly and when I went to all living foods, it went through the roof. I feel like those doing triathlons or marathons should know that this is the ideal way to eat. There is just no comparison. At age 24 I did a three-day, eighteen-mile backpack and I was exhausted and starving. Seventeen years later, at age 41, 1 hiked 3000 miles averaging over 25 miles a day! I can hike circles around my performance at age 24 and that is very encouraging.
HHI: What are your future plans? It looks like you are on your way to becoming the Lance Armstrong of the living foods movement?
WALSH: Well, my hiking career is far from over; I will say that with confidence. However, when I came back to the world, I discovered that a close relative was encountering a major personal crisis. This drove home to me how much I have to offer the world. The world needs me, and I want to be of service to the world, working with people. My ultimate dream is to create an organization, which takes people out into nature in a comfortable setting to help them discover their passion and then inspire them to live it. Raw foods would be a part of that as the diet that most effectively supports those who are following their heart and giving their gifts to the world.Hippocrates was a proud sponsor of the “Raw Hike,” which not only raised awareness about the viability of raw and living foods, but also supported the development of an events and conference center for the world’s premier raw food culinary institute the Living Light Culinary Arts Institute in Fort Bragg, CA, run by Cherie Soria and Hippocrates Health Educator graduate, Dan Ladermann. To find out how to become involved in funding this important endeavor, please visit us at www.rawfoodchef.com
Vol 24 Issue 4 Page 27