Dec 26, 2012


Packet of Forest Service Maps from 1992.
15 years ago I was seduced by the idea of hiking the John Muir Trail. I'd never been in the Yosemite high country. I was returning from Dog Lake near Tuolumne when I first saw the words "John Muir Trail" on a trail sign. That summer I purchased a set of John Muir Wilderness maps at Sports Chalet.

It could have been a photo of a mountainscape, a confessional memoir, or a chance meeting with a someone on the journey. In my case it was a trail sign. The path signaled such promise. The clarity of mountain air. The ecstasy of Sierra sky. Flowing streams. High green meadows, vividly colored wild flowers, buzzing insects, a departure from the onerous politics of the work-a-day world.

Many a summer evening, I've poured over those maps. I often imagine stepping past that trail sign with a provisioned backpack and an exuberant feeling of grand independence. A life off the grid with only the simple complications. Perhaps I would find a welcoming and mutually supportive trail community. People with trail names, and trail personas, and trail stories. I might even experience some trail magic.

Of course I had my small worries. Finding camp in the dark. Bears. Snakes. Infection. Parasitic disease. Broken bones. Hypothermia. Elevation illness. Even being struck by lightening. They didn't break the spell of my dream hike; they merely added a piquant touch of a authenticity; like a reenactment of realer times, but with the safety net of helicopter rescue to blunt the edge of a sudden and violent mishap.

When I retire in two months, my life will be my own. My first ambition: hike the John Muir Trail. This blog will be about my journey there.