JMT Day 14: Exiting the Trail

Date: 8/31/17 | Miles Hiked: 3.5 | Passes: Kearsage

Today I had to make a difficult decision, and I hope it was the right one.

A knee problem that started as an ache on steep descents had morphed into a pain that had me practically crawling out of my tent each morning. So, after pushing through five days with a quickly deteriorating left knee, I finally called it. I was exiting the trail. Continue reading “JMT Day 14: Exiting the Trail”

JMT Day 11: It’s Nice to Have Clean Clothes

Date: 8/28/17 | Miles Hiked: 9.1

Zero days and nearo days — days when hikers take off or take it easy — are common on thru hikes. Today was a nearo day for me.

I had planned to hike to Palisade Lakes to position myself just a few miles from Mather’s summit. Climbing to the top of passes was most ideal when done at the beginning of the day, which is why Palisade was the perfect spot for me to camp. The day looked to be an easy one with the exception of the Golden Staircase, a brutal climb based on things I’d overheard from other hikers. Continue reading “JMT Day 11: It’s Nice to Have Clean Clothes”

JMT Day 7: The Trail is 50% Mental

Date: 8/24/17 | Miles Hiked: 17.3 | Passes: Silver

It’s fitting for me to come to this portion of my hike on Halloween. Why? Because it includes my scariest night on the trail.

Night 6 and the Mystery Neighbor

I woke up on night six to the sound of twigs breaking. Any feelings of grogginess were immediately trampled by my racing heart as the rustling noises continued.

Something was outside, and it was approaching my tent. Continue reading “JMT Day 7: The Trail is 50% Mental”

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”

5 Tips to Start Hiking Earlier While Backpacking

Backpacking trips that require major mileage also require early rises. Getting to camp before the sun goes down is the goal, and it’s nice to have some buffer time for lunch and longer breaks.

But those of us who don’t consider ourselves morning people are especially not morning people when faced with the cold, sometimes wet mornings the mountains have to offer.

So how can you get from sleeping bag to the trail as quickly as possible with minimum morning suffering? Here are a few ideas. Continue reading “5 Tips to Start Hiking Earlier While Backpacking”

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”

How to Do Laundry on a Backpacking Trip

I didn’t plan to do laundry on my two week backpacking trip along the John Muir Trail.

That’s right. Two quick-dry tees. Two sports bras. Two longsleeve shirts. Two pairs of pants. Two pairs of socks. Two pairs of underwear. Two weeks of hiking. Zero days of laundry.

I didn’t plan on doing laundry until I discovered the true stench potential of the human body — more specifically of my human body. It was quite impressive and even made its mark on my puffy jacket. My socks more closely resembled crispy tortilla chips than cloth. My pants seemed to have dirt permanently rubbed into the fabric. And I won’t even mention my unmentionables.

This is when the wise words of a man I met on the trail known as Mr. Clean really sank in: It’s nice to have clean clothes.

If you agree, read on. Continue reading “How to Do Laundry on a Backpacking Trip”

How to Tell Your Family You’re Doing a Thru-Hike

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.

Continue reading “How to Tell Your Family You’re Doing a Thru-Hike”

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.