The Decision

The need for connection and community is primal, as fundamental as the need for air, food and water.”  —-Dean Ornish

September 8, 2018
Reds Meadow Resort to Home
Total distance walked: zero

“Don’t know what to do: stay or go home?” —Journal entry for 9/8/2018.

The big red Beast sat on the floor next to me and although I had an epiphany during the night, come morning I still didn’t really know what to do.  Between the nightlong snoring and the unfamiliar, bouncy mattress,  I woke up tired.  I learned on the trail that being tired always jaded my attitude.  I was afraid it was going to turn my witching hour decision of continuing solo, into a decision that I would regret.

The cabin came to life with the sun’s rising.  We sipped coffee, ate cereal bars for breakfast, and began cleaning up. My thoughts were all over the place—stay with Chris—head back to the trail—go home—hike forward.  It was driving Chris (and me) crazy.  I dressed in my hiking clothes desperately hoping it would help sway my decision.   Blazing Saddle walked into the cabin to rinse his coffee cup and said to me, “You’ve got this, Janet.  I know you can do it, there’s no question.”

It came down to just minutes.  My trail family began hoisting their heavy packs, getting ready to head south again.  I brought my pack outside, too.  I lifted it to my knee and looked at Chris. “I’m not going,” I said, letting the pack slide to the ground.  I couldn’t get the words out before tears filled my eyes.  My husband (my biggest supporter) was both relieved and empathetic.  He wrapped me in his arms and said, “Are you sure?”

My heart wanted to continue on.  I loved the hike and the trail and everything about it, but I couldn’t go alone for 18 days.  That hurdle was huge, harder than the thousands of feet climb up and down the mountain passes.  Months ago I thought that hiking with my trail family for a week would make me stronger, more able to head out on my own when we parted ways. Instead it had the opposite effect.  I realized that I wanted contact with people I knew, not just the pleasantries of a passerby on the trail.

Slip Knot, Aqua Man, Blazing Saddle heading south on the John Muir Trail.

I hugged my trail family goodbye, wishing them safety and a good time, then walked to the general store to return the cabin’s key.

It was a somber ride home.  Things I had looked forward to for months, years even, were no longer going to happen.  My heart was sad.  I truly thought I was strong enough to go solo, but I let the dream go with a few simple words—I’m not going. What I realized was, I like to be alone and hike alone, but I am not a loner, not a solo thru-hiker.  I have great respect for the women who can and do hike the trail alone, but I’m not one of them.

In retrospect, 18 days doesn’t seem like a long time, but out there on the trail, it felt like a lifetime.  As I type this, Slip Knot, Aqua Man and Blazing Saddle are close to reaching the summit of Mt. Whitney.  I am so proud of them and happy that they made it all the way; and I give them thanks for the support they gave me and the opportunity to follow a dream.  I can’t wait to hear their stories of the rest of the trail.

Thanks for reading my story of the John Muir Trail.  Stay tuned for future hikes.  Until then…happy trails.




24 thoughts on “The Decision

  1. Janet, you are so eloquent !! You made it very real for me. I Caught a sweet glimpse of you and your relationship with Chris, your indecision, your disappointment~~ Thanks for the gift.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Janet,
    I’m proud of you. You were able to live a dream. You now have more memories to last a lifetime. And you listened to your instincts and made a decision that was right for you when you realized that you didn’t really want to solo hike for 18 days. Through all of this you unselfishly shared your excitement, fears, disappointments and feelings with all of your followers through the excellent prose and photos in your blogs. WELL DONE, DAUGHTER!
    Love, Dad

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Your father’s love and eloquence say it all. By sharing your true self on the six days of your JMT trek, you have allowed us to walk in wonder with you.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Jan, This has been a wonderful experience for you and blog for us. It made me feel as if I was right there with you. One question though, you mentioned Slip Knot, Aqua Man, and Blazing Saddle, what is your trail name. Is it Califraven or did you use a different name?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I take pride in knowing you (even though we’ve never actually met!) I’m privileged by your being willing to share this emotionally and physically challenging journey. I think one of the things that is striking to me is your honesty in assessing your position. You did not let outside pressures dictate your choices. When I thought about being in your boots, and facing that long a period of lone trekking– I wouldn’t. I’m good at being alone, but the eighteen days would feel like trying to prove a point rather than engaging in an organic purpose. Good for you, you have bravery on more levels than most!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I am proud of you. You are brave and wise. I appreciate you taking us along on your adventure. Please, please, please. Focus on the days you hiked, not the day you went home. The wise woman knows her limits and needs and acts accordingly.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dude(ette)!
    So, I just read this last entry and I wish that I had more time to read all of them. I would try to tell you in an eloquent manner to not be down on yourself but we can be our own worst critic. I hope someday you’ll realize that this is a cool accomplishment. You’ve done something that most people wouldn’t even think of doing.

    Buck up! You did good!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I really like the reflection you shared on not going forward., Poignantly, no one could help you make your decision, and thus it seems to have awakened in you a deeper sense of who you are. Thank you for sharing your journey, both on the trail and in your heart. .

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Janet,
    Ive loved reading your blog. Im so inspired and impressed with your honesty, and wisdom in following what you needed to do. Beautiful writing, it makes me want to do the JMT even more. I wouldn’t want to do it alone either, as much as I love the quiet and solitude. Thank you for sharing your journey! Im glad to know you.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Janet, I loved your stories,and respect the struggles to make a decision that may change the course of a dream. I can only imagine how hard of a decision it was to make. But I so respect that you know who you are and that hiking alone for 18 days isn’t who you are, you need the companionship of others. I admire you getting out there for the days you were out there. I too, am very independent and like my alone time, but going that long by myself would be so lonely and I wouldn’t enjoy it either.
    Thank you for sharing your journey and be so proud of what you did, what you accomplished and for simply getting out there, most wouldn’t take that first step and you did it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Janet, What a wonderful adventure you had! Your recordings of the trip paint such perfect pictures. I could just feel you making the decision with Christmas there to support you. Yes I will, no I won’t. I’m so glad that you listened to your inner self. I certainly gifted my Yosemite hiking book to the right person. You rock, Janet! I loved reading about your trip. Hugs, Rae

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s