Of all the travelling and random shit I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to do, I firmly believe the seed for this one was planted years and years ago.
“There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mysteries, its melancholy and its charms.”
– Teddy Roosevelt
I suppose it all started the first time I went for a hike in Rocky Mtn Natl Park. I have always loved being outdoors and if I had my choice I would spend every bit of free time in the American West. From the vacations in NW CO growing up to the more frequent and recent trips to the FoCo area, Lake Tahoe, etc, I just can’t get enough. My wife tells people, only semi-jokingly, that she is the socialite and I could be content the rest of my life staring at a tree with a book in my hands.
So I guess I should have seen the writing on the wall when I found a copy of The Wilderness World of John Muir; a selection of entries from his personal journeys.
As a conservationist, John Muir traveled through most of the American wilderness alone and on foot, without a gun or a sleeping bag. In 1903, while on a three-day camping trip with President Theodore Roosevelt, he convinced the president of the importance of a national conservation program, and he is widely recognized for saving the Grand Canyon and Arizona’s Petrified Forest. Muir’s writing, based on journals he kept throughout his life, gives our generation a picture of an America still wild and unsettled only one hundred years ago. In The Wildernesss World of John Muir Edwin Way Teale has selected the best of Muir’s writing from all of his major works—including My First Summer in the Sierra and Travels in Alaska—to provide a singular collection that provides to be “magnificent, thrilling, exciting, breathtaking, and awe-inspiring”
My job affords me the opportunity to travel. A lot. I have enough airline points to fly basically free in the US. I fly enough that my wife has a pass that gets her a free seat on any flight I’m on. I have seen some really awesome places in my years here and we have a long list of places we still want to see. All of this travelling, combined with my love of the mountains instilled by my parents has given me a bit of wanderlust.
Seven months ago I had a thought: “I want to do something memorable. Something big… something that most people only talk about doing while sitting around being lazy but never pull the trigger on. I want a fucking EXPERIENCE.”
“Anything that puts a sense of the miraculous in you… we should appreciate the fact that we’re alive. Anything that makes you feel alive is good.”
– Ray Bradbury
So here it is. The John Muir Trail.
The hike begins at the Happy Isles trailhead in Yosemite Valley.
It wanders generally SSE for 211 miles, passes through Yosemite Natl Park, The Ansel Adams Wilderess, The John Muir Wilderness, Kings Canyon Natl Park and Sequoia Natl Park.
and ends at the 14,505 ft summit of Mt Whitney
USGS has calculated an elevation gain of approximately 46,000 ft and and a loss of 38,000 ft when travelled north to south.
The official length of the JMT, as stated by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), is 211 miles (340 km). From its northern terminus in Yosemite Valley, the trail runs northeast, passing south of Half Dome and then on to Tuolumne Meadows. From Tuolumne Meadows the trail turns south, running parallel to the main range of the Sierra Nevada, through Yosemite National Park, Inyo and Sierra national forests (including the John Muir Wilderness and Ansel Adams Wilderness), passing through Devils Postpile National Monument, Kings Canyon National Park, and ending on Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park. From the southern terminus of the JMT at the summit of Mount Whitney, an additional 11-mile (18 km) hike on the Mount Whitney Trail is required to reach the nearest trailhead at Whitney Portal, thus making an end-to-end traverse of the trail effectively 220 miles (350 km).
There will be lots of this:
But that’s ok, because that means there will also be lots of THIS:
Starting near 4000 feet and ending at the summit of Mt Whitney, it will be a good long trek. Nearly the entire trail is over 8,000 ft so for a guy from TX the first couple days probably won’t be that great. With that in mind I am giving myself a bit to prep for this. I’m halfway through my 28th year now. I plan to complete the hike, in one shot, as soon as possible after my 30th birthday (but in ideal conditions, not in January). This means that if all goes to plan it will be September 2014. In the mean time I have a lot of conditioning to do… it’s been a while since the peak of my cycling days. With an effective length of 220 miles I’ll need to cover 11 miles/day to get out in three weeks. It sounds easy, and I would love to complete it in two weeks (15-16 mi/day), but shit happens.
And though I’ve told two or three people about this plan (with a loose invite) over the past 7 months, I’m also thinking about doing it solo.
Thoreau on foot, if you will.
My wife, who is an incredibly supportive person has actually encouraged this, and even had another great idea. I’m a bit of a nerd [understatement], I love to read, and research is fun to me, so I might try to write a book after all of this. Part journey, part history lesson, part wilderness education. I figure I can channel a bit of T. Roosevelt and a bit of Muir and come up with something at least semi worthy of reading.
Also, her first book is being printed right now… so maybe I just don’t want to be the only one in the house (other than the dogs) without my own ISBN number.
Anyway, this is all pretty pointless at the moment, but I might pop in with some gear or training updates now and then. I have some wilderness medical training (NOLS), but I’ll need to brush up on my orienteering… I’ll be spending time/money on new gear (lightweight, obv)… It should be a fucking fun time. Also, I’m really bored in an airport waiting for a long delayed flight to bring me home. Any other day I probably wouldn’t have typed this for you people.
I’m gonna walk a lot. There will be trees. Maybe bears. Fuck bears.
Anyway, with all of that in mind, I’m off to form a plan. All updates will be tagged “John Muir Trail”