Sunday, December 4, 2011

JMT dreams

Ever plan anything so big and complicated that you could not get your arms around it? It looks like my John Muir Trail hike might be coming together. This is both exciting and scary. The logistics of backpacking a 221 mile trail--the time off from work, the food, pick-up and drop-off, coordinating of differing paces and desires--it is all overwhelming and I can only imagine what someone hiking the whole PCT must feel like. Then there is the lottery: would it be better to hike in from Toulumne Meadows and have a better shot at getting a permit? Bear cannisters, resupply, gear, oh my!

I had at first envisioned hiking it solo, but you know what? I've spent miles and miles solo, starting as a wilderness ranger. I get enough solo time. As a writer, and now working at home, I always tread water just above the hermit level. I want company, someone to point out sights to, people to talk with at night at camp. Just like an old shampoo commercial, my friend told a friend who told a friend...and now there are potentially four of us women interested. I only know one of them but the trail bond is strong and I love how it weaves strangers together.

The two best things about planning this is a return to a place I once called home and...gear shopping! I spent two glorious seasons in the backcountry of Sequoia-Kings Canyon, roving for miles in alpine country and tablelands wild and remote. I fell in love with a firefighter, marked hazard trees with a lanky chain-smoker, and planted native seeds in places trampled by many feet. None of those things lasted--the romance burnt itself out in a firestorm, Jack died of lung cancer, and the trees did not survive the human onslaught--but I long to return as a much older woman to find remnants of my twenty-year-old self.

And gear: so much to think about! Megamid or bivy? What clothes will I despise least after wearing them for three weeks straight? Maps, I need maps! How can I overcome my notorious dislike for oatmeal? Jetboil or alcohol stove? A gearhead at heart, I love pondering these issues.

Outside, the snow flies. I pack up my spikes for a struggle up an icy trail at 24 degrees. I huddle by the wood stove, dreaming.


  1. Sounds like a lot of planning, but fun planning! :) You should keep us updated on your progress and reviews of things you've tried.

    Also, those running headbands are Running Skirts or Lululemon. I've found them on clearance at my local store, but they are normally about $15. They are the only ones that stay in place and keep the river of sweat out of my eyes.

  2. We are doing a survival campout in February and it feels like the planning is never going to be completed

  3. The best comment on my JMT planning I got was from a friend who said I was overanalyzing which of course did not stop me from doing just that.
    Trust me, things will fall into place, especially for someone with your experience.
    As for hiking alone. You will never be really alone on JMT. On the solo part of my hike it seems I always had a choice of hiking with someone and people I met were just amazing, loved every one of them.
    I am very excited for you.

  4. Hiking with other women sounds like more fun...different interests, strengths, and sharing what you see and what you do on the trail!

  5. I have a friend who hikes the JMT every summer. Someday I would like to do it. Isn't great how when your getting ready to do something you know you will love you put up with almost anything even oatmeal.


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