John Muir Trail: Preparing

August 4, 2018

I am about to embark on the longest, hardest hike of my life: 170 miles on the John Muir Trail plus ten off-trail miles.  It will be my first long-distance hike.

The John Muir Trail runs through the Sierra Nevada mountains and is officially 211 miles long.  The starting point is Happy Isles in Yosemite National Park.  It ends at the top of Mt. Whitney (you still have to hike down) with eight major passes to traverse in between, 11 if you count the not-so-major passes—that is 80,000 feet of elevation change.

I have been slowly planning this trip since March when it was still a starry-eyed dream, before I knew if I would even get a place on the permit.  That month I spent a lot of time putting together a detailed itinerary.  I made lists and revised them.  There was a list for everything.


Once my spot on the permit was confirmed, the dream evolved into reality.  I told family and friends about this incredible opportunity and began planning in earnest.  I engaged the help of two thru-hikers’ websites, ladies who have hiked the world: Wired and Rockin’.  I pulled my backpacking stuff out of the closet and purchased what I didn’t have.

I made a reservation for an overnight stay at the mountain resort where Chris will meet me and bring a resupply of food.  I put together a meal plan and began filling the bear canisters.

The food.

I rented a SPOT Gen3 satellite GPS messenger that will arrive prior to the trip.  I joined a support group called Ladies of the JMT whose collective knowledge of all things trail-related was, and continues to be, a tremendous help.  All of that was completed before July.

The final draft.

Five months of preparing and planning for this adventure has been fun, but I am filled with doubt.  I worry…will my backpack be too heavy, and can I climb those mountains with a bulging pack?  How will I feel about not communicating with my husband for weeks?  What if it snows…will I lose the trail?  Will I remember what to do if I’m on a pass in a thunderstorm?  Am I bringing enough fuel to heat my meals?  Will my batteries stay charged?  Am I going to be too cold?  Do I understand what I am actually undertaking?

To be truthful…I am scared!  I have no idea what made me think that I could do this.  It’s not as though I’ve never backpacked, and I’ve hiked by myself, but I have never spent a night alone in a tent or weeks alone on a trail.  Hiking the John Muir Trail was a long reverie, something that I thought would never come to fruition even while diligently planning for it.

Filled with doubt, filled with fears, I plodded along and continued preparing for the trip of a lifetime.  Oddly enough, as I loaded the shelter and sleeping bag, the kitchen and hydration systems, my hygiene products, clothes, first aid and emergency kits, the maps and guidebook into the backpack, I became excited.  There was even room for my coveted creature comforts: a mini-bible, a journal, my camera, and a Jack London paperback.  For the first time in weeks I began to feel like maybe I could do this.

Twenty-nine days until we depart.  There are still a few loose ends to tie up, but “the mountains are calling, and I must go.”—John Muir.