Hiking the JMT opened the doors to a world where nature sets the rules. While unstable elements can at times have you running for the trees, you do that run knowing full well that the storms of days past, have brought you the flowing streams and alpine lakes that are so very necessary for your survival. I have never seen the kind of untouched beauty that being days away from a road allows. While there were occasional traces of human impact, the vast majority of the hike showcased the finest places the Sierra’s have to offer, as unspoiled as the day they were first discovered.
The Great Heights
There is nothing quite like being above the weather. Seeing the line in the sky where troposphere meets stratosphere, reminds you that you play a tiny part in this fantastically large, interconnected sphere of life. During moments when the climbs are incredibly long and steep, you put your head down and focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Just when you think you simply can’t make it this time, you crest a pass and celebrate when you realize you’re surrounded by a handful of peaks over 14,000 feet high. Standing on high, above the day-to-day functions of the modern world, brought the rare opportunity to experience true peace and quiet. It seemed that each alpine lake we passed was even more beautiful than the one before it, and there was never a shortage of breathtaking vistas, meadows, and canyons. There were a few times that we hiked past trickling glacial melt at the peak of a mountain, and our route would descend alongside it, as it built into a river with a current strong enough to whisk you away.
In everyday life, it’s not uncommon to pass someone on the street and say nothing. But, because you may only see a handful of people each day, the opposite is true on the trail. You stop, say hello, ask where they’ve come from and where they are going. It’s fascinating to find out how long others have been out, exchange thoughts on the terrain, updates on the forecast, and their personal reasons for being out days away from motorized transportation. Interactions with other people became a reminder of how special it is to be human; to feel woven into the fabric of humanity.
The Bragging Rights
“What trail are you ladies on?”
“All of it.”
That is by far my favorite question. I really love the satisfaction of telling the doubters that we are thru-hiking the entire trail and then watching their face become slightly skeptical. When hiking the JMT North-to-South, the technical end of the trail is at the summit of Mt. Whitney. When you reach the summit you sign the trail log, which is maintained and logged for future generations to see in the Smithsonian Institute. Knowing that this major personal accomplishment is logged for our future children and grandchildren to see fills my heart with pride. As each day passes, we reflect on our time out there and incorporate new take-aways into our current lives. Hiking the trail was our most beautiful challenge to date, and we are forever grateful to have had the opportunity to pass through those majestic forests.