Backpacking in Colorado is a rewarding experience that offers incredible views to those willing to put in the effort. One of my favorite places to backpack in Colorado has it all: mountain vistas, alpine lakes and no crowds. Oh, and did I mention moose? This magical place is known as Rawah Wilderness.
Recently the topic of my John Muir Trail thru-hike came up with someone I had just met. He was excited about my trip and asked what led me to this moment in my life, stating that I must be a rather competitive person to want to do such a trek.
He wasn’t wrong. I am competitive, but in a quiet way that is endearing on the surface, held to a fire within that only boils over in the company of my closest friends and family. I was surprised that a complete stranger would give me such a title.
Deciding to do a thru-hike is easy. But telling loved ones about such a trip? That can be a challenge.
After about a week of being denied a permit for the John Muir Trail, I was elated when the email came through granting me access to this incredible hike. As excited as I was, an uneasy feeling rooted itself in my gut: fear. Not of bears or getting lost or sleeping alone outside, but the looming anxiety of telling my parents.
Greyrock Mountain is a fun and challenging Fort Collins area hike. The trail is located in the lower Poudre Canyon along Colorado Highway 14 West and is just a 25 minute drive from Old Town Fort Collins.
In my John Muir Trail training plan I mention using sprints and plyometric workouts as part of my plan to get in shape for the trail. While these types of workouts seem second nature to me, I realize not everyone is familiar with this type of training. If you’d like to add some more explosive types of workouts to your backpacking workout plan, take a look at these basics on sprint workouts and plyometrics.
There’s no denying that navigation prep, gear prep and food prep are all important when planning a thru-hike, but what about self-prep? The John Muir Trail is more than a walk through the woods; it hikes those who follow it up and down seven mountain passes before its final terminus on Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the contingent United States. Completing this trail safely and within a planned time frame requires hikers to be at a fitness level that’s up to the challenge.
In my 9th grade earth science class we had a unit on some of the most influential conservationists of modern history. Within this group of incredible individuals, one seemed to stick out above the rest: John Muir.
Maybe this was because my science teacher found the need to say “John Muir” in a thick, Scottish accent, always accompanied with “the great sequoias of Yosemite.” Maybe it’s because Muir spent a chunk of his childhood years in Wisconsin, and I have a soft spot for my home state. Or maybe it’s because John Muir was arguably the most influential naturalist of the 20th century.
The John Muir Trail is a 211 mile thru-hike in California that runs from Yosemite National Park down into Sequoia National Park. It’s considered a thru-hike to those who complete the trail in its entirety in a single shot, which can take up to three weeks.
When I tell people I’m doing this hike, there are two standard reactions. Either “That’s amazing! I’m so jealous!” or “That’s crazy! Why?!?” Of course some people fall in between, but this is one of those things that usually makes complete sense or sounds completely ludicrous.
So, why am I hiking the John Muir Trail?
1. Um… It’s Gorgeous!
Yosemite. King’s Canyon. Sequoia. The John Muir trail touches all of these national parks. How often do you get to hike through three pristine parks along one trail? Not to mention this trail is named after one of the men quoted most often by Instagram’s nature enthusiasts. Of course I want to see the landscape that inspired his prolific love for the outdoors.
2. It’s a True Vacation
Hiking the John Muir Trail isn’t just a vacation from the daily grind. It’s a much needed break from television, social media and so many modern distractions that are more overwhelming and addictive than enjoyable. I want my only focuses to be on walking, eating and finding camp. I want my only stress to be caused by an aching body, potential storms and never ending uphill climbs. I want my only distractions to be mountain vistas, beckoning lakes and a good book.
3. It’s Crazy, but Not That Crazy
While a two- to three-week backpacking trip might sound insane, the John Muir Trail is one of the shortest thru-hikes in the United States. This hike shares trail with just a fraction of its behemoth of a sibling: the Pacific Crest Trail. On the PCT devoted hikers spend the better half of a year walking from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, a 2,650 mile journey. Similar in length is the Appalachian trail, boasting a distance of about 2,200 miles. I deeply admire the individuals who complete these thru-hikes, but I’m just not that committed.
4. I Crave the Physical Challenge
I was involved in sports through college. More specifically, I was in love with track and field. Daily sprint workouts and weight training became the norm, which left me feeling lost when I no longer had this sport as my main source of exercise. I’m not a fan of long distance road races, and exercising for the sake of exercising is a tough habit for me to stick with. But training for an epic thru-hike? I can get behind that. And nothing beats the feeling of climbing into bed (or a sleeping bag) utterly exhausted.
5. I Need the Mental Challenge
I’m perfectly capable of making plans and decisions on my own, but when thrown into a group situation my mind goes on autopilot. I instantly become a follower when I feel I’m with a capable leader, blindly doing what that person does and expecting others to know exactly where we’re going and what we’re doing. And I hate myself for it. I need to be in situations that force me to get into the habit of using my own knowledge and critical thinking skills. The John Muir Trail sounds like a fine place to do this.
6. The Timing is Perfect
Sometimes, when the timing is right, you need to go for things. I’m young. I have no children. I’m physically healthy. I’m unemployed but still earning an income. Not taking the opportunity to do something adventurous just seems wrong.
7. I Want to Give My Job a Proper Send-Off
The person who held my position before me hiked the John Muir Trail with my previous co-worker. And they got paid to do so. I’ve heard many stories about this trip and consumed a lot of content that resulted from it. Now, as the last member of my team standing, I feel the urge to follow in the footsteps (literally) of past team members. While technically still on the company payroll, of course.
8. Why Not?
I’ve spent my whole life talking myself out of doing things. I could list a number of reasons why I shouldn’t do this hike, and I’m sure you could, too. For once I’m going to ignore the down-talk and go for it. Everyone can benefit from a little risk and spontaneity every now and then by leaving the “why nots” of life unanswered.
I love getting outside. I love going to places I’ve never been, challenging myself with hikes I’ve never done, and taking in views I’ve never seen. Like so many people out there, I wish I had more time to venture farther and stay away longer without the need to ration vacation days.