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The John Muir Trail - 275 Miles Later...

With the strike on, I found myself with the freest summer I could have imagined - and took it upon myself to learn a new skill: backpacking! After months of preparation, I set out on the trail: a combined through-hike of the High Sierra and John Muir Trails: 275 miles and 53,000 vertical feet of California's stunning Sierra Wilderness.

I set out solo on August 23 - just me, myself, and my pack. Carrying those 35 lbs of food, gear, and layers on my back as I walked, I covered all 275 miles of the most gorgeous landscapes I have ever seen over the next 19 days.

Was it what I expected? Absolutely not. It was so much more.

I’d never been at altitude - on this trail I hiked most days over 10,000 feet, and over 13,000 at my highest.

I’d never had a blister while hiking - on this trail I had eleven. Simultaneously.

I’d never gone off-trail - on this trail I hiked over 7 miles following GPS points instead of a path.

I’d never made a friend while hiking - on this trail, I found so many.

I’d never forded a river - well, I still haven’t.

I have a million stories and memories on the tip of my tongue and now that I'm done, everything reminds me of the trail. That immediacy will fade over time, but some things I learned won’t:

1. Simplicity is magic. Our lives are so cluttered with endless choices and consequences. Cutting those away - a day on the trail is minimal: wake up, break camp, walk, eat, walk, set up camp, sleep - allows you to think more deeply. It gives your mind freedom, and keeps you present.

2. Miles over Milestones. This was a mantra I discovered after the first week of hard days on the trail: when you’re trying to get somewhere else, the miles in between are never-ending and become punishing. If I can remember to look up from needing to be elsewhere, there’s so much to see, and so much less I miss.

3. Don’t ever try to cross a river in the rain.

I did this hike alone, but I could not have done it without the support of so many people, both on trail and off.
As I walked, I captured hundreds of photos of the landscape in hopes of sharing them with those who made it possible. Here are some of my best:


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