In early September, a couple friends and I are leaving the trappings of jobs, cell phones, and alarm clocks for two weeks of bliss. Each day our job will be to hike through the unmatched beauty of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. We’ll rely solely on our spoken words and laughter for communication, and the rising sun will be our only indicator of when to roll out of our sleeping bags. We will spend 14 days through hiking the John Muir Trail, from the Whitney Portal to Toulumne Valley.
I regrettably did not explore the Sierras for the first couple years I lived in California. I finally made my way up North a few summers ago for an attempted summit of the Middle Palisade, a 14er with a third class summit. We got off work one Friday night and drove up, arriving late at the trailhead and took off through the night with our headlamps illuminating the trail. We had a limited view of our surroundings and made camp well after midnight after several hours of hiking. I woke up in the morning in complete awe. We were surrounded by white granite peaks, still dotted with patches of snow, though it was now late summer. A peaceful stream wound through a meadow beneath us, and an overwhelming calm and quiet completed the scene. While we failed to summit the Middle Palisade that day, I came away with a love of the Sierras and a yearning to return.
Since that first trip, I have returned as often as possible to the Sierras, it is a place unlike any I have been. It is the polar opposite of the bustling SoCal life that I find myself in and it allows me to reconnect with nature and put things in perspective. It is difficult to worry about homework or your job in a land of such grandiosity and beauty, with more lakes than you can count and granite faces that make an IKEA store look small and insignificant.
It was really that first trip that planted the seed for the John Muir Trail in me and my friends. The trail, a subsection of the Pacific Crest Trail, travels 220 miles of the Sierras, from the highest point in the Continental United States to the wonders of Yosemite. My aunt — an experienced outdoorswoman who has hiked through the Himalayans, etc. — described the John Muir Trail as “The most beautiful trail [she’s] ever been on.” It is a trip that we have been forced to postpone several years in a row, due to internships, summer school, and jobs. The time has finally come, where schedules, jobs, and time-off requests have worked out in such a way to give us our two weeks.
With just a month left before my departure, I am busy preparing for my trip. I have started to hike every other day with a pack that will be heavier than the one I carry on the trail. I am figuring out how to most efficiently and deliciously pack calories into a bear can, preparing resupplies along the route, and going through my list of items to carry again and again. This is the biggest trip that I have planned for and there is a growing fear alongside my excitement. Will I be able to hike that many miles per day, every day? Will I be able to navigate the many stream crossings I face successfully? How will the weather hold up?
I am currently navigating these concerns with research and preparation. I know the butterflies in my stomach are a natural part of any good adventure, and that my training and planning will get me through the trip. I also know it will be difficult, maybe the most difficult thing I’ve done. But, I also know that I will have a great time, and that my friends and I will remember this trip for the rest of our lives. I can’t fucking wait.