John Muir Trail 2015: Intro

In July and August Laura, her brother Brian, and I hiked the John Muir Trail. I documented the trip with photographs and daily journal entries. Eventually I compiled a book with my writings and photos from the trip. Over the next weeks/months I’ll be posting the photos and writing from each day on the trail. All of this can be found in the book , which can be ordered on Amazon by clicking here.

Glacier Peak from Dishpan GapIn January 2015, I realized that as my age crept up, so did my weight, at the expense of my ability to get into the backcountry. I made a goal to lose a significant amount of weight, aiming to get back to my active hiking and climbing days. At 290 pounds, I felt climbing to be a bygone past time, so I decided to diet and diet hard. By February my weight loss had plateaued, and I realized that in order to truly lose the weight I needed a specific challenge to work towards. I needed a goal that was realistic and attainable, while still immensely challenging and inspiring. Hiking is an activity that for me has always been a necessary evil at the beginning and end of a good climb, with little value of its own. But hiking is something even “big boned” people can do. And I knew it would be a challenge that would keep me motivated. As I thought about a hike that would fit my criteria, I zeroed in on the only option in my mind: The John Muir Trail.

Panorama Point in WinterThe John Muir Trail (JMT) is a trail in California’s High Sierra Mountain Range that stretches from Mount Whitney in the south, all the way north to Yosemite Valley. Its 220 miles are considered by some as the best backpacking in the country. Rarely dipping below 8,000 ft the JMT teeters high along the Sierra Crest, traversing colossal passes and dipping into vast canyons and valleys flanked endlessly by jagged granite peaks. The route travels through three world class national parks and two wilderness areas: Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks, and John Muir and Ansel Adams Wilderness. The trail is named after John Muir, a Scottish poet and naturalist who spent much of his life wandering this far-sweeping wilderness. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years hiking and climbing in these very mountains. My trips were always short and barely dipped into the Sierra. Ever on the edge of this rich backcountry, I’d peer over peaks and passes only dreaming what it would be like to spend days or weeks exploring its reaches. The John Muir Trail would be a fulfillment of this longing to go deeper, farther, and higher, and to experience the beauty of nature in its rawest untouched form

Hoh River GorgeOnly a trail like the John Muir could truly inspire me to persevere when I was at low points in my daily grind of diet and exercise. It’s far-reaching length and massive elevation was an aggressive challenge that kept me pushing through day and weekend training hikes. In preparation for the JMT, I fell in love with hiking and I fell in love with Washington, where I did all my local training. I familiarized myself with parts of the Olympics and Cascades that I’d never known. Washington provides such unique hiking opportunities: wildflower laden alpine meadows; deep, rich old-growth rain forests; distant glaciated spires, and volcanos. I fell in love, but I never stopped longing for the fast-approaching reunion with the Sierra.

Laura Hiking the High DividePreparing physically for the John Muir Trail was crucial, but the logistical nightmare involved in planning 3 weeks in the wilderness was a big task. We had permits to file, flights and rides to schedule, meals to prepare and ship to ourselves, and a rough daily itinerary to plan. Even with all the ups and downs of dieting and training, the planning was the crux of the preparation. Once everything was in place, I was excited and ready to get going. On July 19th my wife Laura, brother-in-law Brian and I finally stepped foot on the rocky, dusty trail 10 miles southwest of Lone Pine, California.

Mt. Olympus from the High Divide TrailWhile on the trail, my daily routine involved winding down in the evening by writing in my journal. I recorded my thoughts and feelings on the day’s challenges and described the nature and beauty that surrounded us. I also took photographs to capture the beauty around us and share the various elements of the journey. This book is a collection of my journal entries and photographs. There is no replacement for actually being there, walking the trail, breathing the air, and taking in the sights and sounds. It is my hope that whether reading cover to cover, or just perusing the reader will be swept up in some small way into our three week journey through the High Sierra wilderness.

Thatcher Rests high on the Emmons Glacier

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