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.