A month ago today I began the most epic adventure of my life. I decided to hike the John Muir Trail, over 220 miles of high altitude hiking. It meant climbing mountain after mountain, all with a 40 pound pack on my back.

We carried our own food, went without showers or toilets, and had to filter our own water every day. It was the first time in life that I had to tend to my daily survival without all the modern conveniences I took for granted.

The trip changed my perspective on almost everything, from how much water we waste in society, to my stance on social media. I had 12+ hours a day to do little more than think and hike. Despite hiking with two other people I grew used to long silences, and the solitude awakened a part of my mind that’s been dormant since I was a child.

My imagination ran wild, and I had countless adventures in my own head. Everything from fighting dragons to blowing up space stations. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Below you’ll find a brief walkthrough of the trip.

As you’ll see the early days involved a lot more humor. That gave way to introspection as we got further into the trip, because we ended every day exhausted and in pain.

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Day 1

We started out in Tuolumne Meadows. This video takes place before any hiking has occurred. We were still acclimating to the altitude, a smart move before we tried any exertion.

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Day 3

Still feeling funny. By now we’ve hiked a good 15 miles at high elevation. It was tough, but I was in high spirits because I’d managed to keep up with the group.

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Day 6

Things were tougher by this point. We’d had five hard days of hiking, but I’d survived. Today Kathy and Mary departed us, and we left the last bastions of civilization behind. From this point forward we were on the true JMT, and there was no turning back.

Note that this campground was going to be closed the next day due to the frigging bubonic plague. I didn’t even know the plague still existed, but apparently it does and is transmitted by fleas brought in via squirrels.

There was an outbreak in our campground. Yikes.

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Day 7

This was our first real pass. There are many mountain passes on the JMT, each tougher than the last. We were in high spirits for this one, and reaching the top was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life.

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Day 8

By now things were getting extremely difficult. I was exhausted all the time. I went to bed exhausted. I woke up exhausted. The pain was constant too. My feet ached in the morning, and were on fire every night.

The only thing that kept me going was determination. This was, more than anything else, a test of mental fortitude.

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Day 9

This video was shot after a grueling 13 mile hike through 98 degree heat. We trudged into the first real camp site we’d seen in days, and were thrilled by running water and toilets. It was amazing!

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Day 11

This was the second big pass we climbed, even tougher than Donahue. Yet we were in high spirits, because we’d gotten into a groove. Sheer determination kept us moving, and at this point we believed nothing could stop us.

We were wrong. This next video was shot after we got to the top of Silver Pass and descended into the wall of smoke on the other side.

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Day 12

As you can see in the video we had no choice but the abandon the trip half-way through. We’d gone almost exactly a hundred miles at this point. The next video is a shot of the ‘ferry’ coming to rescue us.

You can’t see it in the video, but because the water was so low in the lake we swerved around rocks and scraped the bottom more than once. It was more than a little terrifying. Once we reached the far side they tosses us into a ‘how to catch a predator’ style van, which had no handles on the inside. This final video shows a little of the inside.

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Conclusions

As I mentioned in the beginning this trip shifted my perspective on a lot of issues. Every time I turn on a faucet I gawk. Every time I flush a toilet I sigh in relief. Showers are wonderful. I don’t have to filter my water, and I can breathe without sucking in smoke!

That said, I do miss the simplicity of the trail. You knew what you had to do every day, and you just did it. There was none of the confusion and conflict you face in every day life, and that break really made me reconsider what’s important in life.

We failed to complete the trail due to the final fire, but I learned a hell of a lot in the process. We’ve decided to do the trail again next year, picking up right where we left off. I can’t wait.

As a final note I am now in the best shape of my life. I lost eight pounds in twelve days, and have lost another two since returning home. Yay!

Return to Civilization

Comments

  • This is one hell of an accomplishment, Chris. Congrats!

    Reply
    • Thanks, man =)

      Reply
  • Thank you for sharing your amazing adventure. I commend you for taking the plunge and being so courageous. So was it just me or did it appear that you really had on the same blue shirt in most of the videos. But when you stop to think about it how much clothes can you really pack?? It probably literally comes down to one additional pair of pants taking up precious space.

    Reply
    • Thanks, KB. I only had two shirts for the entire trip. I smelled quite ripe by the end, trust me. I did do laundry in the rivers, but it only helped so much.

      Reply
  • Nice video diary. Even if you didn’t make it to Whitney, it looks like it was quite a memorable journey. Good job Chris.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Adam. It was one hell of an adventure!

      Reply

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