#5 - Hiking the JMT - I'm Officially a Blogger on The Trek!
I know I've mentioned it before, but it's now official. I'll be blogging (also known as talking your ear off) about my trek along the John Muir Trail ... on The Trek. I feel extremely honored and excited to share this adventure with so many others. Below is my first official post, or you can head on over to The Trek to see it in the flesh. It's totally up to you. Enjoy!
Hi, My Name Is… not Slim Shady
Hi. My name is Chana, and I will be hiking and hammock camping on the John Muir Trail. Wow, why does saying that give me a jolt way more than my third cup of coffee? (Speaking of coffee... let me go grab another cup). I’ve known I was going to hike the John Muir Trail for about a year or two now, but I have never felt the way I do right now. I have talked about it, written about it, and thought about it constantly. I have purchased my gear, obtained my permits, written up my plan, and re-written it, over and over again.
Now here we are less than two weeks away from setting foot on the trail and it feels real. This is actually going to happen. In two weeks’ time, the only things on my mind will be the sights of nature, the sounds of the forest, the breeze on my face, the sun’s warmth on my skin, and occasionally that scrambling feeling as I try to find a somewhat fluffy bush to do my business behind. My solitary task: to put one foot in front of the other until I lose count, sleep, and then repeat the next day until I reach Mount Whitney.
There Are So Many Questions
Who am I... and other deep thoughts
Let me back up a bit. Who am I? How did I get here? Why am I doing this? Ack! Pump the breaks! Let’s start with “Who am I?”
Well, I am a 43-year-old mother of three amazing kids ranging from 11 to 17. None of them like hiking the way I do (I guess I didn't raise them right), but they are my whole world and I love to spend every minute I can with them. Their father and I have been divorced for eight years now, which kills me that I only get to see my kids every other week, but out of it has blossomed the time to nourish a love of hiking and backpacking.
I am an interior designer with a degree from Fresno State and over a 20-year span have designed hospitals, office buildings, trampoline arenas, restaurants, and homes (not mine, but hey, it's on my list). To date, my favorite project each year is designing Fresno’s St Jude Dream Home which is raffled off to raise money for the St Jude Children’s Research Hospital working to cure children with cancer. I am lucky to have a career that I love so much.
Seven years ago, I met my fiancé, David, who also has a teenage daughter, and together we live in the beautiful foothills just outside of the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. We both love hiking, traveling, hammock camping, and all things outdoors, which is the glue (some call it a ball and chain) that keeps us together and fills our free time.
How did I get here? ... and no I'm not drunk
So how did I get here and why am I doing this? Well, that all started two years ago. Funny; It seems much longer than that. One of my best friends called me and said she had a crazy idea. She wanted to branch out from hiking into backpacking and felt that I was the only friend crazy enough (thanks for the compliment) to go on this journey with her. Hmmmm… I thought. Sure. Let’s do this! Ok, I guess I am slightly crazy... or possibly insane. I dove into research, started purchasing gear, and went on a few preliminary overnight backpacking trips with David just to get my feet wet.
By winter I had upgraded my gear even more and started going on overnight backpacking trips by myself, trying to refine my setup. By winter my friend and I booked our first multi-day backpacking trip on the Trans Catalina Trail, but unfortunately due to work conflicts, she was not able to go. I trekked on alone that early spring and that is where I fell in love with backpacking. It was empowering, calming, and challenging all at once. I saw so many amazing sights and met so many interesting people. I was hooked.
That late spring, I booked my next multi-day backpacking trip on the Hetch Hetchy loop. Once again, I went solo, and it solidified my love of putting one foot in front of the other for none other than to get to my next camping spot and to see views that driving in a car would not allow me to see. Not to mention, I also loved the challenge. I "love" to feel my lungs work harder than they ever have and the ache in my legs as I push them to go just one more mile. I love the reward at the end of the day when I find the perfect spot to set up camp, relax in my hammock palace, and curl up with a good book. This is what dreams are made of.
I'm doing this! ... like really doing this
It was on that trip that I decided that backpacking and hammock camping the John Muir Trail was going to happen. I knew it would take me a year to plan, but the excitement grew. Later that summer I went on yet another backpacking trip. This time I did a small section of the John Muir Trail on the Rae Lakes Loop, just to get a taste of what was in store for me. After that I went on yet another small backpacking trip with David in the fall and then right before winter set in, I did yet another trip in the Sequoias to test out the lower temperatures. I started documenting the changes I wanted to make to get my setup perfect and then started placing orders.
By mid-winter I finally got to the point where I could request time off work and obtain permits. This was no easy feat, but I managed to snag permits for mid-June. David and I had also decided that we were going to get married. How much more perfect could it get than to get married right before heading out on the trail! We planned on hiking together for the first portion and I would hike the rest of the trail solo.
As you know, this has not been a normal year. Snow levels skyrocketed and very quickly I realized with Snowmageddon in our midst, mid-June was not going to be an option. I scrambled to obtain new permits and finally scored two for mid-September. I would now hike only the first 25 miles in June while the rest of the hike would be moved to September. Wedding plans were moved, lodging was booked, and excitement grew. This is going to happen!
When Things Don’t Go as Planned
Not all was perfect though. Just as the trail has many beautiful views, calm quiet moments, and amazing people; the trail also has steep climbs, raging rivers, cold nights, and the occasional rattlesnake. Such is life. There are amazing moments, calm moments, sad moments, and downright angry moments. Shortly after planning this entire event (wedding and hike), our relationship started to crumble. David said he didn’t want to get married. After three failed marriages, he didn’t believe in it anymore. He started working out of town most of the time and we only saw each other a few days a month. We started fighting a lot, and his mother passed away. At the same time, he said he loved me; that part never changed. I was confused and upset.
As of now, we have put the wedding plans on hold. There will be no pre-hike celebration with family. We will still hike the first portion together and I will still hike a majority of the trail solo. I suppose it is better this way. Hiking the John Muir Trail was my dream, not his. It is better that we separate the two. We still plan on getting married at a later date but plan to keep the event very small and personal.
Goals - Like Hammock Camping the John Muir Trail
With all that said, my goals on this journey are to grow as a person. I am constantly growing to become more independent, courageous, and outgoing. I also want to take this time to look deep down inside myself at my greatest fears, shortcomings, and idiosyncratic traits that repeatedly have held me back in life. There are not many times in my life that I will have so much time with nothing more than my thoughts (this could be dangerous).
Who knows, maybe I will come up with a great revelation; an idea for a book to write; an invention; maybe a new process for my job. Maybe I will ponder my life enough that I will finally figure it out. LOL! Is that even possible? Or maybe I will just come out of this with great memories, a lot of pictures, a few new friends, and a great story - most likely in addition to a weird tan and possibly an insatiable rash. Either way it will all be worth it. Either way this is the chance of a lifetime that I cannot pass up.
My Goals ... for those that want the CliffsNotes
Complete the John Muir Trail (duh!)
Meet new people and take in all of their stories (I'm typically an introvert)
Increase my endurance (think From Couch to 5K program)
Climb Half Dome (I am woman hear me roar!)
Climb Mount Whitney (I am woman hear me roar... louder!)
See A Bear (I don't think my kids appreciate this goal as much as I do)
Take an amazing slew of pictures (not much of a goal since I take pictures like the world depends on it)
Sit in a hot spring (it's the small joys in life)
Watch the sun set and rise at least once each day
Not get a blister (we've got this injinji!)
Show how hammock camping the John Muir Trail is easy (you deserve to sleep well)
Figure out why I stress so much about not being good enough (Sensitive topic, but I'm sure I'll address it)
Not give up
Join Me on the John Muir Trail!
I hope you will join me in this short wrinkle in time. Next week I’ll dive more into my plans for both the first section of the trail in two weeks and how I will continue on in September. I will also go over my gear list and how it has progressed to where it is now. Yes, you will find out just how crazy I am. Hammock camping the John Muir Trail takes a bit of planning for sure.
During the hike I will try and update as much as cell service will allow me with photos and ramblings about enjoyable moments, difficulties, accomplishments, embarrassing moments and whatever else comes to mind. Hopefully it will help you to experience the trail from my view, decide to make that leap to hike the trail yourself, remind you of what it was like when you were on the trail, or at the very least entertain you for a few short moments. Enjoy!