Wednesday, July 25, 2012

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 grandkids.  I stood on peaks with views so farreaching that you could see for miles and miles....until finally,  I could see mountains in every direction I had journeyed through in seasons past.   Even still,  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 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....


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Two Hundred Mile Trek along the John Muir Trail

The John Muir Trail - Part 1

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)

Meandering down the John Muir Trail at a relaxed but moderate pace knowing we were only hiking a few miles this day on mostly flat trail,  we enjoyed the warm sun and first sounds of the wilderness welcoming us back.   Hikers experience quite a different listening experience in the backcountry as they hike to the sounds of crickets and birds and wind soughing through the pine boughs overhead.   Paralleling the Tuolumne River through Lyell Canyon, we had made it almost to the base of our first real climb this day when suddenly I realized the day’s sounds had changed dramatically….I no longer heard footsteps behind me!  Turning quickly to see what had happened to Gary and expecting to see him bending down tying his shoelaces or something mundane like that, I was shocked when I saw the expression on his face.   Actually, it was the lack of expression that most alarmed me.  Gary stood stock still with a completely blank expression on his face.   “Gary?  ….Gary?.... GARY!”  I tried in vain to get his attention and was starting to wonder if he was having a mini stroke or something.   Finally he managed to croak out the words “we have no tent!”  Seeing him come back to life was immeasurably comforting and I relaxed my tightened shoulders and back  in relief.   Oh good,  he’s okay, some silly matter about equipment and not a medical emergency!   I asked him what on earth he was talking about as I knew he carried the tent safe and sound in his pack.   He always carried the tent.   As he focused his  attention back on me  asking me if I had the tent,  I realized there might be a problem here after all,  albeit a minor one.    I answered that I didn’t have the tent, but of course he did, right?  As it turns out,  as we had piled our equipment on the bed while packing,  he had for some reason thought I grabbed the tent just as I thought he had.   Gary was right,  we were absolutely without a tent at the beginning of our three week, 200 mile trek on the John Muir Trail.   Far enough from the car that neither of us wanted to turn around and go get it, nevertheless,  we had to come up with some solution.  Hiking for three weeks in the high Sierra backcountry far from any hotels,  stores or housing with no shelter  was extremely risky.   One good rain and our soaked clothes in the lower temperatures of these higher elevations would most certainly  ensure life threatening hypothermia would get us both!   We both stood there staring at each other dumbfounded as the reality of our dangerous situation really started to sink in to me.

To Be Continued.....:)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Gary and I on top of Mt of the few pics we have to show we really do hike together!:)

Mountain Pass

Clomp  Tromp  Stomp
Huff Puff Sigh
Ever higher with each step
      Ever closer to the Sky