Many of us who have hiked – or intend to hike – the John Muir Trail can’t quite get enough information about that glorious stretch of the Sierra Nevada. We have collections of books and magazines, new and not-so-new, that we like to amble through when we are unable to amble down the trail itself.
If you are going to start your own collection, begin with John Dittli’s Walk the Sky. It is available at Amazon, and it makes a terrific gift for anyone interested in the JMT.
If you are willing to dig a little deeper, consider hitting the internet (or a local used bookstore) for the April 1989 issue of National Geographic (volume 175, number 4). Look for the loon on the cover.
Within its pages you will find an article by the writer, photographer, and adventurer Galen Rowell. For more than two-dozen pages he describes a mid-winter quest to ski and hike from the summit of Mount Whitney to Happy Isles.
While Ansel Adams is doubtlessly the first photographer that comes to mind when one thinks of the Sierra Nevada, Rowell (1940 – 2002) is not far behind. And because he was an accomplished climber (he is credited with a number of first ascents), Rowell’s photos are often taken from a vantage point unreachable by Adams. If you are looking to kill a little time before or after your JMT hike, an hour or two spent at his Mountain Light gallery, in Bishop, California, would be time well spent.
The article in the magazine is called, Along the High, Wild Sierra. There is a lot within it to enjoy, but I couldn’t help but smile at the fact that they travelled 160 miles on the trail without seeing anyone. It took them a little over two weeks to make the trek.
Although the depictions of life on the trail in deep winter were interesting, Rowell’s account of how his mother, Margaret Avery, introduced him to the Range of Light, and inadvertently (or, perhaps, intentionally) set him on a path he would follow for the rest of his life were fascinating, probably because I, too, can credit my mother with introducing me to the mountains. Avery was quite the adventurer in her own right, and was the first to reach the summit of the Hermit, which towers over the Evolution Valley.
If you can’t find an actual copy of the magazine, all back issues of National Geographic are available to subscribers.
Good hiking, Ray
UPDATE: I understand that Mountain Light is now closed. Very sad.