In April 2004, Barbara Egbert and Gary Chambers began a six-month journey to hike the length of the Pacific Crest Trail with their precocious 10-year-old daughter, Mary. That October, Mary became the youngest person ever to successfully walk the 2,650-mile route from Mexico to Canada.
Zero Days is the tale of a family adventure that required love, perseverance, and the careful rationing of toilet paper. The trio, who adopted the trail names Captain Bligh (Gary), Nellie Bly (Barbara), and Scrambler (Mary), hiked for 168 days and took a total of nine “zero days”—days off from hiking, so-called because the backpacker travels zero mileage on the trail itself that day. In addition to weaving an engaging narrative, Barbara incorporates actual pages and drawing from 10-year-old Mary’s journal.
Along the way, they weathered the heat of the Mojave, the jagged peaks of the Sierra, the rain of Oregon (and paradoxically the lack of water sources there), and the final long, cold stretch of the Northern Cascades to Canada. They met trail angels like the Dinsmores and their salty-mouthed parrot, Topper. And they discovered which family values, from love and equality to thrift and cleanliness, could withstand shin splints, an abscessed tooth, aching legs, failing knees, bad water—and a long, narrow trail and 137 nights together in a 6-by-8-foot tent.