This September I’m going to attempt to finish hiking the JMT. (What is the John Muir Trail?) In late-September 2017, my hiking partner Jackie and I completed about 60 miles from Happy Isles to Red’s Meadows before calling it quits due to early snow and a sinus infection. (That story here.)
I am going to attempt the hike solo this time. In 2017, I was a novice backpacker, having gone on my first ever backpacking trip 5 months earlier. Two years later, I consider myself relatively competent in the backcountry. I’m a WFR, I have basic rope and snow travel skills, I’m pretty confident with navigation and route finding, I’ve bushwhacked and screeskiied in Alaska, I’ve grown accustomed to encountering large wildlife in Montana. The well-marked, well-graded, and well-traveled JMT should be a piece of cake right? Well, what I learned the first time is to not underestimate nature. You never know what it’s going to throw at you.
Since leaving the corporate life, I have actually done a lot of my hiking, backpacking and general adventuring solo. Not because it is brave or adventurous, but out of necessity (efficiency?). All of my friends did not quit their jobs when I did. In fact, none of them did. So, if I was going to have to wait for stars to align with a particular partner, or worse, a group to organize, I was never going to get anywhere. Now that I work seasonal jobs, it’s even harder to coordinate schedules (I don’t have normal people weekends) so if I want to be outdoors as much as possible, I have to be willing to go by myself.
I think the fear mongering about women hiking alone is sexist. We grow up with a cultural undercurrent of fear oppressing women. So many women come to the Ladies of the JMT Facebook Group nervous about hiking alone, or camping alone. Do men have these fears? Do boys’ parents forbid them from hiking alone? As far as I am concerned, I am much more likely to be raped by an acquaintance in his apartment than a stranger in the woods. I am much more likely to be hit by a car than attacked by a bear. No activity in the backcountry is “safe”, but in general I feel safer out in the wilderness than in a busy environment with lots of people.
I’ve been dreaming of hiking the JMT for so long now that I forget what inspired me to attempt it in the first place. (Good thing I wrote about it here.) I just know that I want to do it, and I need a short term goal to propel me forward. By the time I get back on the JMT, it will be nearly 3 years since I left my legal career. When I quit my job, I gave myself 3 years and $60,000 to figure about what to do next. I haven’t figured it out yet. I may have been more burnt out than I thought, as I have been shying away from having any responsibility at work. In order to reach my long term goal of finding a financially sustainable way to live in the mountains, I know I’ll have to shoulder some again soon. But before that, I’m going to finish hiking the JMT.
I currently have a rough 21-day itinerary starting at Tuolumne Meadows, with two resupply points, Vermillion Valley Resort and Onion Valley/Independence. I will hike for 7 days, then 8 days, then 5 days, with one nero and one zero between the sections. It’s almost August and I will be going into full prep mode soon, so stay tuned for more JMT related posts.