Heroic PCT Thru-Hiker Covers 90 Miles Eating Only McDoubles: Video and Interview

Thru-hikers love a good challenge.  After all, when you spend the better part of a half year walking, finding ways to spice up the steps can do wonders for fending off tedium.

On the Appalachian Trail, there’s the Half Gallon Challenge, Four-State Challenge (starting in VA, hiking through WV and MD, and ending in PA- or the reverse), Pizza-a-Day in PA, and a slew of others.  There’s also the 24 x 24 x 24 challenge (not recommended), which has transcended onto other trails.

On the Pacific Crest Trail, thanks to 2016 thru-hiker Zach “Pretty Boy” Rotondo, there may now very well exist the tradition of “The McDouble Challenge”.   Taking a page out of the Morgan Spurlock playbook, Pretty Boy decided to cover a 90-mile section of the PCT eating only McDonald’s McDoubles.

I wanted to hike on hamburgers.” – Zach “Pretty Boy” Rotondo

We caught up with Pretty Boy to learn what the inspiration was behind this challenge, his impression of McDoubles as hiker fuel, and to share any other advice he had for future PCT thru-hikers.  You can check out the full video of his McDouble Challenge beneath our interview.

The Trek: What was the inspiration for taking on the McDouble Challenge? Side note: since you invented this challenge, you get to name it. How do you refer to your feat? The McDouble Challenge? The 90-Mile McDoubler? 

Pretty Boy: I started thinking about hamburgers hiking the waterless stretch around Hat Creek Rim. I threw the idea out to some friends and one of them suggested McDoubles for the calorie/dollar ratio. Then I saw the McDonald’s in Burney, CA. It clicked. I had to do it.

I like “The McDouble Challenge.” So I did 90 miles. Who can do 100? 150?

Also, I like the idea of someone else trying it next year. Maybe an alternative for the sober hikers that can’t partake in the 24 beer challenge from Hiker Heaven to Casa de Luna. Now that’s a dangerous challenge. We’re talking burgers here. No one has ever woken up in a drainage pipe without their pack and shoes after too many burgers.

TT: Can you clarify what a McDouble is? Toppings?

PB: Two 100% beef patties (leave that up for debate), bun, American cheese, pickles, ketchup, and mustard. I told them to hold the cheese on my burgs though. Didn’t trust that. 330 calories without cheese (13g fat, 32g carbs, 19g protein). That’s solid. Cliff Bar could learn a thing or two.

TT: Do you recall the reaction of the McDonalds employee when you ordered 27 McDoubles?

PB: Ya, it was mayhem. The size of my order locked the register and a manager had to approve it. The line backed up to the door. No laughter or questioning my decision though. They took my order and the manager started yelling orders. I was slowing down their smooth operation and they had to right the ship.


TT: How sick of McDoubles were you by the end of the 90-miles?

PB: I could have eaten more. 27 was not enough.

TT: Did McDonalds products factor into your resupply strategy following the challenge?

PB: Leaving the Ashland area I bought 220 chicken nuggets to get me to Crater Lake. I think it was 105 miles or so. That challenge didn’t go as well. Dang things lost their taste and shape within a day. Plus I tried packing out their sauce containers – way too heavy and they started to explode. It ended up taking me over a day longer than I planned. They didn’t give me that McDouble energy.

TT: Have you eaten a McDouble since?

PB: This past weekend I was goofing around with some friends in Nashville. In the middle of a shower a friend popped in and gave me a McDouble. Ate it right there.

TT: How did you feel during the 90-miles? Better, worse, or the same relative to your normal hiker diet?

PB: I stand by my statement – McDoubles are a hiking superfood. Some of my best days on trail.

TT: Any other words of wisdom you’d like to pass along to future PCT hikers, McDonald’s-themed or otherwise?

PB: Make up a challenge and do it, buy waterproof socks, buy a poncho too, caffeine pills rock, start slow so you don’t hurt yourself (you will), wet wipes are gold, make friends, don’t quit, don’t worry about life after the trail, call your parents, take more side trails, hike naked on hike naked day, don’t over plan, actually stop your planning right now, load your phone with audio books and podcasts, and get ready to live a life of extremes for 4-6 months – unimaginable pain, disinterest, and depression will balance the equally intense euphoria, passion, and love. It’s worth it.

And take more photos of and with your friends. Selfies work. You’re not Ansel Adams. I have way too many landscapes.

Follow Pretty Boy on Instagram.  Have a story we should know about?  Submit it here

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Comments 4

  • Jeff : Jan 6th

    Maybe I missed it, but how many days did it take you to eat all of them? And, no concerns about them “going bad” while carrying them for days?

  • Carmen Lomonoco : Jan 7th

    In the beginging of your video you were @ a resturant—did you even wash your hands in restroom???

  • miko : Jan 9th

    Heroic? Maybe if they were vegan burgers! Hike the whole trail vegan/veggie? Now that’s an honorable challenge.

  • Mike : Aug 8th

    Thank you for sharing your hilarious and brave story. I laughed, and was concerned for you during the whole video but you made it! ha! congrats and thanks for sharing


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