John Muir Trail: Never Say Never

Sue and I visit the Muir Hut atop the mountain pass named after John Muir.

It was the toughest physical challenge of our lives. You just gotta see how it came to be. Click on the YouTube links below to watch Sue’s pair of brief (I promise) shows. Look carefully and you’ll see a mule train snake up Forester Pass at more than 13,000 feet.

It began with one word: “Never!”

Sue and I had just returned after our fifth European long-distance trek. Our youngest son Chris, an avid outdoorsman, had a suggestion that came from his heart: “You should do the John Muir Trail.”

“We can’t do that. Live in a tent? Carry all our stuff?”

I paused as the reasons for my absolute answer piled up. “The elevation would kill us. No toilets? No showers? Weeks in the wilderness?”

“It’s the most beautiful trail in the world, Dad.”

In August 2021, we began our JMT south of Mt. Whitney with a plan to walk 240-plus miles northbound to Happy Isles in Yosemite National Park. We sometimes gasped for oxygen, but we coped with living at mostly 10,000 feet-plus elevation. We bathed in creeks and lakes, filtered our own water. Set up and took down our tent every day for a month.

What made us say “Yes?” Mules and packers. Mules carried the bulk of our stuff, allowing us to get by with 20-pound daypacks, which held water, rain gear, lunch, snacks and a few other essentials. Packers loaded and unloaded the mules, cooked our food, and set up a rustic privy. And much more.

Here’s your ticket to the most beautiful trail in the world.

John Muir Trail Part I

John Muir Trail Part II

Why Is Minnie Returning to Colorado?

Why the photo of our rig from when we paused a few weeks ago on Colorado’s Wolf Creek Pass at 10,800 feet? Two reasons. First, my mom’s name, like our trailer, was Minnie, so our cross-country adventure has been dedicated to her memory.

Second, Sue and I turned around in West Virginia and are heading back to Colorado. This time we will camp at 10,000 feet, near Breckenridge, to hike as many high-altitude trails as we can do in eight days. Why the heights? We are conditioning. Can you guess the trail we are planning to backpack in August? Hints: 243 miles, mostly above 10,000 feet, named after a pioneer.

At the end, we will have camped for 30 days straight. The tent-camping part is new for two hikers used to a bed and shower, even after grueling days on the trail. Can we do it? That is what I wondered in 2013 before our first distance trek, Spain’s Camino de Santiago.