On my first thru-hike of the JMT, back in 2009, one thought occurred to me again and again: more people should do this hike. I know that many consider the beaten path between Happy Isles and the summit of Mount Whitney to be far too crowded, but I’m not one of them. That’s not to say I wouldn’t like to walk the entire 211 miles without seeing another soul – I would! I just take a wider perspective.
Here is how I see it: those of us who love the outdoors in general, and the Sierra Nevada in particular, need allies – lots and lots of allies. We need private sector and governmental decision-makers who understand what a treasure the Range of Light is, and why it needs to be protected. We need teachers, coaches, clergy, and celebrities – leaders who others look up to, and who influence and persuade – who have spent a night at treeline, who have had a memorable wildlife encounter, and who have felt the sense of accomplishment of finishing a thru-hike. Most of all, we need voters who have a direct connection to the wilderness we all love.
If there is a better place on earth to do all that than the John Muir Trail, I don’t know where it is.
But won’t we love it to death? Don’t misunderstand me; I am not for unlimited access. I support the wilderness permit system. I do believe, however, that there is nothing wrong with having substantially more hikers on the JMT than you might find in other parts of the Sierra. I’m not saying that there isn’t a cost; I just believe it’s a price worth paying.
It was never my intent to write a John Muir Trail book aimed at expert backpackers. I have little-to-nothing to teach those hikers, and lots to learn from them. I do have a knack for planning, though, and the ability to put myself in the shoes of someone who has never tackled something as complex as a multi-week (for most people) hike. Planning Your Thru-Hike of the John Muir Trail was always aimed at those who, after exiting at Whitney Portal, may never spend another night in the wilderness.
The second edition is substantially expanded, and still aimed at the relative novice. I’m particularly proud of the wilderness permit section, which has been expanded ten-fold (and will probably have to be substantially revised within a year).
The format – it is strictly an ebook – takes advantage of the simple fact that megabytes are cheap. If I were ever to take this to a publishing house, the first thing they would tell me is to take seventy-five or more of the photos out, and they could not be color. Instead, there is a photo on almost every page. A good planning guide should not only tell you what you need to do, it should motivate you by showing the rewards for wading through the preparations.
I’m about to retire, which means I’ll no longer need business cards. But, I may have some printed anyway. If I do, here is my new title:
Raymond E. Rippel, Chief Evangelist, John Muir Trail
If this book gets a few more decision-makers, leaders, and voters into the woods, I will have succeeded.
Good hiking, Ray