It’s official! I now have a companion with which to hike the John Muir trail. Tom Willard is a long time family friend and Sierra adventurer who lives in Los Angeles. I had always hoped that one day I could join up with Tom to share a trail high on the Sierran ramparts and now I am going to do it. The photo above is of Tom Willard and his girl friend on Mt. Langley in the Sierras, just south of Mt. Whitney. In fact, you can see the cloud shaded hulk of Mt. Whitney on the horizon at the center of the photo. Ascending Whitney is part of the John Muir Trail experience. I believe Tom has hiked most of the John Muir Trail, but has never done it in one event, as we shall now do. The last time I was in the Sierras was 13 years ago when Pam and I hiked the Evolution Basin portion of the trail, whereas Tom has been hiking the Sierras every summer for 20 plus years! We will set out on our adventure from Yosemite Valley on August 24th and finish 220 miles later on September 6th at the Whitney Portal, just below Mt Whitney.
Since Tom and I are in our 50s and plan on doing approximately 20 miles per day, we will be looking for every advantage possible to make our trek both possible and pleasant. We will have at least three food parcels delivered to us over the course of the 220 mile venture and we will be practicing a “minimalist” gear philosophy. Translated, that means we won’t have many creature comforts. I doubt that this means we will use pine cones in place of toilet paper, but it does mean that we will only use gear made of light weight materials and take only what we “need”.
But why spend two weeks of one’s precious vacation time living in hardship? I can feel the pain right now, just thinking about it. Oh the huffing and puffing of long grinding ascents up the mountain passes! Oh the discomfort of sleeping on cold hard ground! Oh the wind-driven cold rain that pelts the Sierras every late afternoon! Why not head for the comfort of the beach resort, or ski resort, for some well deserved R&R? John Muir stated his reason, “The Mountains are calling and I must go!” There is a side of me that just cannot resist the call of the wild. Ever the student of human nature as well as mountain nature, Muir understood that wilderness adventuring is an innately human impulse. He said in another place, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” There is something about wilderness wandering that restores my soul and fills my inner man. I cannot explain this adequately in words, for it is not words that grasp the experience of mountain wilderness, but sensation. When I am high up in the Sierras my eyes see ancient cathedrals, my skin tingles with the crisp clean mountain air, my nose smells every altitude magnified scent, and my ears hear the still small voice of God. As I see it, God is calling and I must go.