Note: I am three days away from my first step on the trail. I leave Happy Isles on Friday and intend to summit Whitney early September 12th. That's my excuse for the next several blog posts to be a bit shorter than usual. Also, none of the next five posts will reference current events. All will be written in early August. I’ll be back in mid-September with more stories from the trail!
I’ve often commented on this blog post about the extraordinary impression the trail has left on me. The memories of certain campsites, certain wildlife encounters, certain people I’ve met, not to mention the first day (leaving from Happy Isles) and the last day (summiting Mount Whitney) are indelible. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve summoned them to get me through a particularly boring meeting, or while daydreaming at my desk.
But it would be a mistake to leave the task of recording your hike to just your mind.
Here are few ways I would recommend documenting your hike so that you can continue to enjoy it years after you leave the trail.
1. Photos. This is obvious, of course, but what might not be as obvious is that YOU should be in many of the photos. The shot in front of the Happy Isles trailhead sign, and atop Mount Whitney, are essential, but also try to get at least a few shots, each day, which capture a sense of the trail. Besides a camera, you’ll need a small, portable, tripod. I am a fan of the GorillaPod, which not only works on flat surfaces, but also works on the tops of uneven rocks and even on tree branches.
2. Videos. On more of a whim than anything else, on my last JMT thru-hike I decided to shoot a short video each evening, at my campsite, before I turned in. I am so glad that I did. They aren’t professional quality by a long shot—why they aren’t even HD! Still, when I watch them now, years later, I get a tremendous feeling of gratification and of being there. Almost all cameras shoot video these days. Overcome your concerns about embarrassing yourself and give it a try! (The GorillaPod is good for this, too.)
3. Keep a journal. Each night, before I would turn out my headlamp and get some rest, I had a routine. I would read the trail guide I carried and review the map to familiarize myself with the next day’s walk. I would read a few pages of a novel to clear my mind of the minutia of hiking, and I would write a few paragraphs in my Rite-In-the-Rain notebook. (See last week’s post for more on those.) You don’t need John Muir’s gift of prose to write something meaningful to you. Just take a few minutes to jot down what was remarkable about that day’s journey.
A thru-hike of the John Muir Trail is an adventure of a lifetime. Make sure you can enjoy it, even when getting from the bedroom to your favorite rocking chair is a bit of an adventure itself!
Good hiking, Ray