The JMT part 2

Somewhere along the John Muir Trail...

Somewhere along the John Muir Trail…

The John Muir Trail – Part 2

A remote point to point 200 plus mile backpack spanning from Yosemite to the top of Mt Whitney (with another 11 miles from the top of Mt Whitney to the trailhead)

I had decided to hike the John Muir Trail when I was only ten years old! “Back then,” TVs were a fairly new thing, and color TVs newer still. Families would sit in an evening and watch TV together as it was still such a novelty. One night as I was sitting on our old brown couch with my legs curled under me, and my dad lounging nearby in his favorite chair, this TV show came on about hiking. I was immediately riveted. I’d been drawn to sleeping under the stars since I was four years old when I was first allowed to sleep outside in the backyard with my big brothers. As stunning scenes of snow covered peaks and lush green valleys passed in front of my eyes, the narrator told of a trail that passed through these same stunning wild areas I was seeing on the TV. Further, he said that a person could walk for over 200 miles through this wilderness and that it took a person through some of the most remote wilderness in the lower 48. A person would not pass a single road, and be traveling among America’s wildest animals and see precious few people. I vowed that very night that someday I would hike this John Muir Trail! I never forgot that show, and I never forgot my dream of hiking it despite where my life’s journeys took me.

At age 16, I began backpacking in earnest. With a group of five friends about the same age as I, I experienced my very first backpacking trip…only one of us had backpacked before, yet we managed 60 miles in 5 days that first trip…with no adult along to help! After that, a couple of us teens managed to hook up with a local Sierra Club group who graciously allowed us to join them. We spent a couple of days listening to our hiking elders tell very tall tales of sleeping in the snow over embers buried beneath them for warmth…they were tall tales weren’t they? Then, still at 16 years, my best friend and I convinced our parents to let us spend a week in Glacier National Park all by ourselves. What interesting experiences we had that week traveling alone in the backcountry of Glacier!

Over the years, as I continued to backpack, I got lost on occasion and learned to read a topographical map very well. Then I became so proficient hiking by map and compass that I eschewed trails altogether and spent trip after trip hiking off trail. I saw animals I’d only read about in books. I saw shooting stars galore. I camped under starry skies over and over telling tall tales of my own to my kids and eventually my grandkids. I stood on peaks with views so farreaching that you could see for miles and miles….until finally, in the views I beheld,   I could see mountains in every direction showing off areas I had journeyed through in seasons past.  Yet,  throughout all these spectacular journeys, there was one I still had not taken. That dream I had made when I was ten years old still lived inside me and beckoned quietly to not be forgotten. New dreams formed….to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada, 2,650 miles. And yet another dream came to me of hiking the Continental Divide Trail Canada to Mexico … 3,100 miles. Perhaps I would follow those hikes up with the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. None of those dreams however surplanted my first real hiking dream…that of hiking where John Muir had traveled among the high peaks of the “Range of Light,” the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in California. The longer trails of the PCT and CDT and AT sounded wonderful….but first and foremost, I longed to hike that first trail that captured the heart and mind of that long ago ten year old sitting on that old brown couch hearing of John Muir and seeing his beloved mountains on that old TV.

And from time to time I wondered when would I ever get there!

To be continued….

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