This blog is written to be a kind of virtual trail guide to those who are already into hiking and trekking .... and an inspiration to those who are just beginning to contemplate extended hikes/backpack trips. Hiking is AWESOME!
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
With whom will you compare me or count me equal? To whom will you liken me that we may be compared?
Aw… you look so cute … would you like me to take a picture of you (the “you” being myself and my favourite hiking partner, my wife)?
Our final morning of hiking the Berg Lake Trail found us at Kinney Lake Campground enjoying breakfast, the stunning views, and stillness of the lake. A threesome of young women were the only other campers sharing the campground with us and one of them offered to take our picture. The picture she captured is a pretty good metaphor of our life. “Shoulder to shoulder” we have experienced life together for more than 45 years. We are feeling the “autumn” of our age but have been blessed to experience many adventures, challenges and beautiful things together.
There’s a lot more to our story that is outside the scope of this hiking blog, but enjoying each other’s company on a hiking trail are special moments that we share.
A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, …
Proverbs 24:33, 34 and 6:10, 11
Excuses, excuses … this year it’s COVID. National Parks Trails like the West Coast Trail are closed; Provincial Parks have limited access, sometimes to residents only; travel of any kind has been discouraged; keep your social distance; mask-up, un-mask; wash your hands a million times a day; stay home if you have any symptoms, better still, get tested; only one person per family in the grocery store please. Lots of reasons and more to just fold our tents, stay home and petrify in place.
There will always be excuses to stay home. Too busy at work; not enough money; video games are addicting; don’t know where to go; not in shape (what do you mean, I really need to train?); bears can kill you; “your excuse here“.
“I’m the meanest, roughest, toughest, hombre that’s ever crossed the Rio Grande – and I ain’t no namby-bamby.” Yosemite Sam
Yosemite. That word has captured my imagination ever since I could say the word. It spoke of an iconic place, a special place, a beautiful place and it was a long way away. Yosemite Sam only added to it’s wild and untamed allure. It took me 65 years to finally get there. The picture above is Doris and I crossing Donohue Pass into the Yosemite Wilderness.
This is the itinerary of our final leg of our JMT hike in Sept 2019. See previous posts for the first 2 sections. Continue reading Yosemite
“That’s what was great about him. He tried. Not many do.”
Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild
Perhaps some people think that a couple of 65 year old people hiking the John Muir Trail are out of their mind, and if not successful, would criticize all of the decisions that were made, just like many critics of Chris McCandless in the book Into the Wild.
We were those 65 year old people and while we think we make rational decisions and plan our way carefully you never know all the variables that can confront you when you are all alone in the wilderness.
The first leg of our journey (see previous post) didn’t seem like we were too far removed from civilization and we’ve done lot’s of 5 to 8 day backpack trips before. Plus, our son accompanied us on the first leg so it didn’t seem too out of the ordinary. Heading into the second and third leg of our journey was a lot more sobering … it seemed that we were in fact going “into the wild” … a longer stretch, more remote than anything we had ever done before.
“I don’t think we’ll ever be back.” Victor Doerksen (age 65), September 26, 2019
We completed our John Muir Trail hike on Sept 26, 2019 at Tuolumne Meadows. We had been on the trail for 19 hiking days and had finished the journey we had set out to accomplish. It all hits when you stop: muscles begin to seize up; you feel dirty, ugly, smelly and unkempt; tiredness gets the best of you; you just want out. We were done … we had done it … we were completely satisfied … we had been on a journey that very few people on earth get to make … we were both 65 … it’s not likely that we will ever do this trail again … there are lots of other places on earth to see.
Never Say Never: It’s now 6 months since we completed our hike and I think I would like to hike the JMT again … crazy eh? It would be especially fun to see it through another first timers eyes and experience it all over again.
In the meantime …. this post, and the next two, are mainly about our itinerary. I found it very helpful to read about other hikers experiences and plans and I studied their itineraries in detail as I planned our own. There are far fewer itinerary’s for those going south to north … so, maybe this will help you.
Our Basic Plan:
South to North.
Cottonwood Meadows, via Cottonwood Pass to Tuolumne Meadows.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” Psalm 19: 1-3
We spent our final night and morning on the trail camped at Island Pass, elevation 10,255. Usually passes are windy and cold places but since we wanted to finish the last 36 miles in two days it became the most logical place to stay for the final night.
“It’s a Hallelujah Chorus moment … you can’t help but stand in awe and reverence.” Doris
We were coming out of Muir Trail Ranch and climbing our way up to Seldon Pass … as we passed over the top we were overwhelmed with the view of Marie Lake and valley below us. It was a Hallelujah moment … we have seen so many beautiful places on the trail, and on the top of each pass we take in breathtaking views that blow the mind … yet, this one took both of us by surprise. It is one of those defining moments that we will always treasure.
“Hiking – I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to The Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, “A la saint terre’, ‘to The Holy Land’. And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them. “”
A dear friend sent me that quote… I love it!
Thirteen days in, 132 miles, and our sore muscles and aching feet don’t support the notion that we have been sauntering but it sure does have a “Holy Land” feeling. We are walking through beautiful places all day long and it’s almost become commonplace.
“It’s the Golden Staircase, or The Escalator, or Hell.” Unknown Hiker Describing the Golden Staircase
The Golden Staircase (not to be confused with the Chilkoot Trail) is a series of tight, seemingly unending switchbacks that ascend the north side of Mather Pass … it reminded me a little of Walters Wiggles in Zion Park without the smooth surface. We hiked on “Orthopedic trails” … our description for trails with rocks and uneven surfaces designed to keep Orthopedic Surgeons occupied with foot, ankle, knee and leg injuries.