JMT Day 5: $12 Shower Feels Like a Million Bucks

Date: 8/22/17 | Miles Hiked: 14.7

This was it: the day of my first resupply. I was heading to Red’s Meadow and had spent a while thinking about how much time I should spend there, considering the fact that I was a half day behind my original plan. Continue reading “JMT Day 5: $12 Shower Feels Like a Million Bucks”

JMT Day 4: Scots Love the Sierras

Date: 8/21/17 | Miles Hiked: 15.6 | Passes: Donohue, Island

Trail life had been getting to me. The delayed start to my trip caused a swelling anxiety to interfere with the what was supposed to be a relatively stress-free time in my life.

I spent evenings thinking about how I would catch up to my original plan and days cursing the climbs and water-soaked trails that slowed me down. I knew this stress was self-inflicted and unnecessary, yet I couldn’t shake it. And the fact that I couldn’t shake it gave me even more anxiety and caused me to dislike myself and question my sense of adventure. Continue reading “JMT Day 4: Scots Love the Sierras”

JMT Day 3: Am I There Yet?

Date: 8/20/17 | Miles Hiked: 17.5 | Passes: Cathedral

Today felt long.

My hike was mostly flat or downhill — a much welcomed change to yesterday’s uphill battle — but nothing is easy with 30+ pounds strapped to your back.

The trail brought me into the heart of Yosemite, taking me over Cathedral Peak, across Tioga Road and through Toulumne Meadows. You’d think this would be a magical part of the trail, but it was actually one of the toughest sections, mentally.

Continue reading “JMT Day 3: Am I There Yet?”

JMT Day 2: Things Don’t Always Get Worse

Date: 8/19/17 | Miles Hiked: 17 (7 Half Dome, 10 JMT)

I woke up this morning at 5 a.m. to hike Half Dome, carefully adjusting my tent in hopes it would dry from last night’s downpour while I was gone.

With nothing but a light daypack filled with water and a few snacks, hiking this Yosemite classic was freeing.

The difficulty of steep switchbacks and rock stairs toward the end of the hike — even without my giant pack — caught me by surprised and wore me down just in time for the infamous cables section. Continue reading “JMT Day 2: Things Don’t Always Get Worse”

JMT Day 1: Ask and You Shall Receive

Date: 8/18/17 | Miles Hiked: 5

Today was supposed to be easy.

With my permit requiring me to spend my first night at Little Yosemite Valley, I only had five miles between the trailhead and my first night of camping. From there I planned to complete Half Dome as a day hike. But nothing is ever as easy as it seems. Continue reading “JMT Day 1: Ask and You Shall Receive”

JMT Day 0: Welcome to the Jungle

Date: 8/17/2017 | Miles Traveled: 1,202 (Fort Collins > Fresno)

So. This is thru-hiking.

The morning started promising with an early rise, a personal ride to the airport and my ideal airport arrival time of one hour before boarding. I felt more anxious than excited, tearing up during the goodbye and wishing more than ever to be going on this trip with my husband.

At the airport I noticed my flight’s departure changed from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., which still put me in a good position to catch my connecting flight at LAX. I settled in near my gate and waited to board.

Hitch #1:

I was paged to the gate desk. What? Me? I’d always wondered what happened to the people who belonged to the names I heard at the airport. And now the name belonged to me. What excitement awaited?

I had isobutane in my checked bag. Confused and thinking about a tiny aerosol I had packed in my toiletries, I asked if this was the problem. “No, isobutane. Camping fuel. You definitely can’t bring that on a plane. It could cause a huge explosion.” Oooooooh. Duh.

camping fuel airplane

How did I look up traveling with aerosals and bear spray but not think about stove fuel? Dumb. It was removed, my bag was still traveling, I was told everything else should be intact. Fine. I could just buy fuel in Yosemite. But my fuel had been near the bottom of my bag, which caused my mind to begin racing with what-ifs of other items that could have been removed or not repacked.

Hitch #2:

A tire had to be changed on our plane. We didn’t leave Denver until 9 a.m., which led to

Hitch #3:

I missed my connecting flight from Las Angeles to Fresno and

Hitch #4:

I was going to miss the last bus to Yosemite.

We touched down at LAX just before 10 a.m., raising my hopes that I could somehow still catch my 10:20 flight to Fresno. But we taxied for over 20 minutes, and as luck would have it my connecting flight departed ten minutes early.

I was re-routed to a 2:30 flight. I called my husband, mainly to update him, and he immediately started looking into alternative flights and transportation to Yosemite. I did the same, focusing on how I’d get to the trailhead.

Finding buses and trains to Yosemite that had final departure times just after the time we were set to land, I asked the flight attendant at my gate if there were any earlier flights. She said I just missed one that left at 10:20. Yeah. That was my flight. I asked if there were earlier flights through other airlines and she said I’d have to look into that myself. Apparently airlines aren’t responsible for missed connections due to delays.

Crawling internet speed and an outdated, dimly-lit terminal made the situation seem hopeless. Everything had to be booked online. As a phone-aversed person, this should have been great. But with a huge lack of internet speed I was frustrated and instantly aged 30 years. Don’t these places list phone numbers? How do I talk to a real person? Millennials ruin everything!

This led to cry #1. I wasn’t even on the trail yet. How would I handle changing plans on the trail if I couldn’t do so in an airport? I was lonely already. Why did I do this? At least with a travel buddy these things can turn into jokes. Alone it’s just depressing.

Spirits were at an all-time low. I decided that once I got to Fresno I’d spend the night and take the 3:40 a.m. bus to Yosemite, which would get me there just before 8 a.m. My original plan was to pick up my permit the day before and get an early start hiking. Now I’d have to wait for the permit office and general store to open the morning of my start date before I could take off, so 8 a.m. was ideal.

I listened to Brandi Carlile on the short flight from LA to Fresno, which somehow made me tear up and feel better at the same time.

My mood improved at the Fresno airport, with murals of Yosemite and giant faux sequoia trees surrounding me. Seeing my bag on the carousel brought instant relief, as did the fact that only the camp fuel was missing from my pack.

Fresno airport sequoias

I asked a security guard where the YARTS bus to Yosemite picked up, explaining that I was taking the early bus the following day. He pointed out the pick-up location and a great spot in the airport where I could hang out and have some privacy, assuming I was spending the night. He raved about the small airport’s security, saying that it’s very common for backpackers to sleep there.

I hung around the airport for a while before deciding that the hard floors and florescent lights would make for a difficult night of sleeping. In the end I shelled out $109 for a night at the Wyndham, a hotel across the street from the airport. I could use a bonus shower and a restful night’s sleep before starting the hike.

The day was a reality check. I wondered if I was mentally ready for the trail. Cali gave me a good hazing and reminded me that nothing is certain. I will feel lonely. And spirits will rise and fall with each new challenge.

But the lows will make the highs feel even better. And a positive mindset is all about perspective, right? I’d gladly take the time to reorganize my pack and watch some Gilmore Girls at the hotel. But I was determined to make that bus. There was a JMT permit with my name on it, and I was officially excited to start the trail.

John Muir Trail Gear: My Complete Backpacking Packing List

Two weeks. Two-hundred twelve miles. How do you pack for such a trip? Packing for a backpacking trip, whether it’s the John Muir Trail, a different thru-hike or a weekend getaway, can be a difficult task. What you bring can’t be left in a hotel room or the spare bedroom of a friend; it’s with you for the long-haul. Overpacking means carrying extra weight, and underpacking means forgetting potentially vital items.

My John Muir Trail packing list sticks with the basics. While a few of my items might be considered luxuries, for the most part I’m sticking with only what I absolutely need to avoid hauling extra weight over the trail’s seven mountain passes.

Continue reading “John Muir Trail Gear: My Complete Backpacking Packing List”

Why Hike the John Muir Trail?

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.

John Muir Trail California

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.