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My Thoughts on the JMT – By Dr Ray Kadkhodaian

John Muir Trail Thoughts – by Ray Kadkhodaian

It has taken me this long to process everything that has happened with this journey and the impact it has had on me and it just seems fitting to close out 2016 with my thoughts about our hiking journey this past year. Make no doubt about it; the goal to walk 1000 miles was all Jean’s idea. When she originally told me that she wanted to pursue this, I brushed it off since Jean usually has a lot of wild ideas…all the time. Most of them she completes, yet some of them remain ideas. So when she started to talk about getting equipment to walk the Pacific Crest Trail as part of her 1000 mile walk, that’s when I started to get worried. Partly because she intended to do it alone, but also because she originally intended to take three months off to do it.

Now I am a practical guy, for the most part, and the concerns that ran through my mind all centered around her safety and whether our business would survive taking that much time off. I spent an ungodly amount of time researching bear attacks in the area and how to treat a rattlesnake bite, or what was the best water filtration system to use. I knew that if Jean wanted to pursue this endeavor, I needed to be ready and prepared, and that I needed to join her.

As we started to train for the hike by walking local trails and testing out gear that we started purchasing, my intentions for the hike started to change from just being a contingency guide to improving my own physical fitness. I had never hiked long distances before and I started to notice how physically demanding it was, especially when carrying a full pack. It was also then that I started to notice the mental and emotional demands hiking had on me, challenging me to push beyond pain, fear, boredom, self-doubt, and thoughts of giving up. Of course, since this was Jean’s dream, she did better with these struggles than I did, and often a complaint, grumble or all in all temper tantrum would come out of my mouth.

As things would have it, we adjusted the plans of our biggest hike to focus on the John Muir Trail which consisted of 200 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail spanning from Yosemite National Park to Mt Whitney. This journey was to take us 20 days backpacking over 10 mountain passes through the most beautiful scenery in the country. Once our permit was secured, our dates were set for September 2nd-22nd, 2016.

Once the plan was set, I spent all of my free time researching the trail. I joined a message board and facebook group dedicated to the trail and tried to prepare myself as much as possible in regards to the kind of gear that we would need and what to expect as well as what kind of food to bring and where to resupply. Jean and I would try out food options and gear almost every weekend when we weren’t traveling. I researched the process for sending resupplies to the three locations we were going to use. We made multiple trips to REI, Cabellas, and Outdoor World preparing for this endeavor.

Our preparation hikes served two purposes, to gain the miles necessary to meet Jean’s 1000 mile goal, and to prepare for the John Muir Trail, in terrain, mileage and elevation. We researched and visited trails within and surrounding Illinois such as Yellow River in Iowa, Starved Rock in Illinois, the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin, Pictured Rock in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Red River Gorge in Kentucky, and the Smokey Mountains. We were scheduled to hike a trail in Colorado, however it was snowed in during the time we had planned the hike.

All during these hikes, I felt torn. I struggled to enjoy the scenery of all the locations while under the pressure of completing a deadline that was not originally set by me. My goals vacillated between being there for Jean, getting physically fit, and training so that my hike on the JMT wouldn’t be as difficult. I found over time that these goals would not be enough and often would sabotage my will to continue.

Jean’s goals were much more focused and more pure in nature. She was dedicated to herself and fulfilling an internal drive which is always more motivating than the superficial external motivations I had. It was inspiring to watch her overcome life obstacles and navigate around obligations in order to stay on track to completing her goal. Unlike me, her goal transcended beyond just the JMT in September, but spanned 7 months and 1000 miles. I, unfortunately, had the perspective that all the miles I hiked up until the JMT were considered “training” in my eyes.

Thus, because my perspective of the “training” hikes was different than hers, I often found myself becoming resentful that there was a pressure to “get more miles”. You see, I was more than content to hike these locations in a leisurely way, camp at an awesome spot and take my time getting up and hanging out in the wilderness. However, as I was to find out on the JMT, the pace of hiking to camping to hiking again was much faster than I expected.

This perspective, I found, caused a lot of internal struggle, which made the hikes much more difficult for me. Thus, one of the first lessons the hikes taught me is that when your goal stems from within the depths of your soul, there is nothing that will stop you from accomplishing it. However, when it is based on external reasons, the obstacles that you will encounter along the path will deter and discourage you.

I must admit, if not for Jean’s tireless quest to reach 1000 miles, I know I would not have made it to the JMT or finished. Knowing this has been another takeaway from this endeavor for me, that although Jean continues to find a drive and purpose in her life, I have lost mine. Thus, I cannot feel proud of accomplishing the JMT or even the hikes that led up to it, because it was not mine to begin with.

I thought that the JMT would be this pinnacle of a high, that I would feel a rush of excitement and empowerment, that I would be connected with nature and my own spirituality…however it did not feel that way. The JMT was always daunting in my mind and as I neared the mountains, the gulp in my throat grew in size. I would find that this feeling would disappear as we started on our journey, only to come back as a rush of reality as the mountains showed their true nature.

When we started out of Tuolumne Meadows, I felt this feeling as if we were leaving civilization, that our escape was driving away after dropping us off and that the only way out was 199 miles away. The gulp in my throat was large, my worry great and it only intensified as we almost lost the trail 10 minutes into our journey. This worry began to dissipate as our trek went on through Lyell Canyon, easing my mind because the hike at that point was not very challenging. The views were spectacular and the other hikers we ran into gave me the impression that the journey was going to resemble the previous hikes we had been on.

This proved to be wrong as we started the ascent to Donohue Pass. This was the first time we had ever encountered the rocky terrain and carved steps that would become an endless part of our journey for the next 19 days. This incline at the end of the day proved to be discouraging and we decided to make our first campsite not completely up the pass on an outcropping just off of the trail. The stairs were a difficulty factor not experienced in any of our training hikes this past year.

Our first campsite was not ideal, however overlooking Lyell Canyon as the sun went down was breathtaking. It was surreal that we were attempting something that up until this past year had seemed an impossible feat. I’m sure that at that time I still had my doubts for I felt like an infant on that mountain.

The next day started out with renewed energy and excitement. We were going to cross over Donohue Pass, our first mountain pass ever. We had never reached elevations over 10,000 feet in our training and our first attempt at this elevation lay before us. We headed out slowly but steady, focusing on one step at a time, stopping to take water and snack breaks. We adjusted with the climate, shedding layers as the temperature rose after sunrise, and added layers as we climbed in elevation towards the pass.

Having had asthma all my life, I had a worry in the back of my head that as we climbed in elevation that breathing would become more difficult for me. I would often ponder this during the entire hike as I struggled to catch my breath on the ascents whether it was due to the elevation or just due to my lack of strength training. Maybe it was both. Maybe it was easier to blame part of the difficulty on my asthma, for the alternative was worse…that I was weak. I would go through these mental games on the ascents throughout the entire JMT, and Donohue introduced me to this way of thinking.

At the “peak” of Donohue Pass, there was a broken down wooden sign signifying crossing over into the Ansel Adams Wilderness. Nothing even marking that you had reached the top of the pass. No fanfare, no congratulations. This taught me a great lesson…that reaching the top was something to be proud of…internally. That living life isn’t about external validation or doing things just to get credit from others. It is about setting lofty goals for yourself and becoming the person to achieve them, not because others will approve of you, but because you will feel alive doing it.

Once reaching the other side of the pass, Jean and I rested, had lunch and looked back at the height of it. It seemed unreal that we had climbed it, and it amazed me how quickly you forgot about the physical discomfort you had just gone through. I also, as a side note, started noticing the other hikers that you would consistently see on the trail as you would pass them as they rested and vice versa. I was surprised at how populated the trail was, even though we were in the remote wilderness. This quickly became a concern whenever you had to relieve yourself often taking turns being a lookout for each other. I came to find out later that this is pretty common with popular trails such as the JMT and the AT.

Once back on the journey, we found ourselves merging with the JMT “rhythm”, hike down all day, just to hike back up again. We eventually found ourselves climbing Island Pass before knowing it was a pass. It was about 5pm, we were exhausted and now resting partway up the mountain where there was no flat ground to camp. We had to push on til we reached the top of the pass before even considering setting up camp for the night. These late afternoon pushes became relentless and got consistently worse throughout the trip as we came to find out.

As we came to the top of Island Pass, we just could not go any further. We decided to camp at a lake 300 feet off the trail. I found myself feeling dizzy and nauseous and most likely dehydrated. We knew that we needed to eat quickly before the sun set because we knew it would get cold at the top of the pass, so we scrambled to setup our tent and get our gear all situated. Our campsite was partly shielded from the lake 15676210_1330884173627858_4943106687221553178_oby boulders and as I setup the “kitchen” area, Jean went to fetch water to cook with. She came back and said, “you have to see this”. As we both walked to the lake, the sun had just started to paint the sky in pinks and reds and it was all reflected in the water like a mirror. It was the most beautiful scene I had ever seen in my life.

 

When we awoke the next morning, we felt pretty crappy. We were achy in our bodies and just felt drained, however because we had not made it to Thousand Island Lake yet, we had a lot of miles to cover if we were to make it to our first resupply point by the end of the next day. We had awoken by 7am because of the cold, but we didn’t get out of camp until 9:30am because Jean wanted to take pictures of the lake. It was pretty windy that day and after we were underway, we made pretty good time as we made a steady descent down to the lake. Then came Ruby Lake which wasn’t too bad of a hike, however it was followed by a steady 1000+ foot climb over pretty brutal terrain and then a decline down to Garnet Lake.

The walk around Garnet Lake was quite peaceful and then the trail hit us with another 1000ft climb followed by a 2 hour descent on the other side. Our push then took us to Shadow Lake where we had a snack and rested before another 1000ft climb with switchbacks then a descent to Rosalie Lake. One more mile for the day took us to Gladys Lake where we camped for the night.

I have to say that the intensity and monotony of the switchbacks was more than anything we had ever experienced. The steepness of the trail, the amount of elevation and the weight of our packs caused our travel to be slow going and often frustrating. We quickly learned on these switchbacks that we were the slowest hikers on the trail as we were consistently passed up by other hikers. I often reminded myself that these mountains don’t exist in Chicago so that I wouldn’t get too discouraged.

Some of the other things I had learned up to that point, I recorded in my journal:
1) Beautiful things are all around us and it is our job in life to seek them out and experience them;
2) Nothing worth experiencing isn’t without challenges and is definitely hard earned;
3) Expressing how hard the difficulties are doesn’t make them easier to overcome;
4) Sometimes the best way to get over obstacles is to just focus on the next step in front of you;
5) Pain is just part of living

Our first resupply at Reds Meadow Resort was a much needed respite. We rented a cabin for the night and had a burger and milkshake at the little diner they had on the grounds. We were able to shower and launder our clothes. We had a warm bed and wifi so that we were able to skype our kids. We had a couple beers and collected our resupply buckets to be sorted out for our packs.

We figured out on our journey thus far that we had brought too much stuff and started to throw out everything we didn’t need. We had brought books…way too heavy. We had way too many clothes…into the garbage they went. We went through the supplies we packed in our buckets and figured out we only needed half of the supplies. Paring down the weight was so much more important to us at that point.

Setting out back on the trail in the morning was done with a new sense of vigor and excitement. I had a couple mp3 players that both of us started listening to. Each one had music that we enjoyed listening to and the hike took on a whole new dimension. I found that entering into this world of music surrounded by beauty made all the difference in the world. It made the switchbacks more tolerable and I had more to listen to than the heaviness of my breath.

The trail out of Reds was a 9 mile hike up the mountain, however because of the music, it was the most enjoyable ascent I had ever experienced in all the hiking we had done til that point. I wrote in my journal that it helped me tune out the pain and hardship. That I also started thinking about Mark Cattrell and how he survived in a mountain-like region such as this in Afghanastan. It helped me even further to work through the pain and the desire to stop.

The climate seemed to shift from more mud and dust to sand, gravel and heat. We neglected to fill up on water at Deer Creek since the map showed several creeks ahead of us, and so we pushed on. This proved to be a mistake as since it was late in the season, the creeks we came upon had already dried up. By the time we reached Crater Meadow, we had been without water for several miles and were dehydrated. We decided to camp there for the night.

More lessons from the JMT:
1) One mile per hour will get you to the same place as three miles per hour;
2) If you are ever questioning which junction to take, follow the mule poop;
3) Jolly Ranchers are an amazing morale booster;
4) The trail demands that you pay a price to view the beauty;
5) Music can help you overcome anything

We decided to take a longer morning at Crater Meadow and hiked to top of the creek where there was a small waterfall. We had breakfast and left camp at about 11:30am. It is an amazing phenomenon that no matter how much you eat from the bear canisters, they always seem to weigh the same and your pack just doesn’t seem to get any lighter. We also didn’t want to encounter the same issue we did the day before so we loaded up on water.

By the time we reached Purple Lake, the blisters I had accumulated up until then were just too much to bear and I had to do a little minor surgery with a needle and a field dressing of duct tape and mole skin. It was just enough relief to take on the climb out of Purple Lake on our way to Lake Virginia. I had a realization at this point that although I didn’t like the journey, I knew that this was good for me. I knew that I would have never pushed myself this far if I didn’t have to and that the mountains gave you no choice. What was surreal was that no one could experience the beauty we were seeing without traveling a great distance by foot.

We swam in Lake Virginia, despite how cold it was. Even though the water was ice cold, it was an awesome experience to think how undisturbed and clean the water was. This could be said about all the water we came upon on the JMT, it was so pristine and refreshing, and although we used water filters, you could have easily drank from these water sources without them.

We left Lake Virginia early for us, about 8:30 in the morning. We had decided to get a jump on the day and skipped breakfast. This was a mistake. We ended getting into an argument later in the morning and hiked awhile on our own. It was kind of silly hiking about 50 feet apart because we couldn’t get too far away from each other in case something happened to the other. We each had half of the survival gear and depended on the other to survive. There is a sense of reassurance that this provides, that no matter how angry you may get with your partner, they will still be there.

Our climb up to Silver Pass was especially long and difficult. I felt myself start to officially break down and for the first time, I just wanted to give up, but there is no such thing out there. Where are you going to go? At that point, the situation and what we had to endure was not going to change whether you wanted it to or not. It just was and either you survived it or not.

Reaching the top of the pass was not a celebratory thing for me. It was just a relief and the realization of the other passes to come. It was at this time that the pressure to move faster on the trail became more real and that it was overshadowing the enjoyment of the scenery around us. I felt the pressure from other hikers as they passed us in a hurried state and I wondered what John Muir would say to those who try to hike this trail in the fastest time possible.

It seemed the only times that I was able to erase this growing pressure to move faster was when we would relax and replenish our water next to a rushing creek. There’s just something about a rushing creek moving over boulders that seemed to relax me. I loved drinking the water and listening to its sound. Hearing a creek coming up in the distance was always a relief for me, like a beacon of respite. Depending on the size of the creek, sometimes the sound was deafening, and it was amazing to look out at the power of the water moving endlessly.

The climbs up the switchbacks were quite the contrary for me, and it was about the third hour of climbing and after 6 miles of switchbacks that I started to breakdown again. All the mind tricks I had tried before weren’t working. It seemed like water torture each step I took with no visible end in sight. I cried and felt crazed. We passed 2 women hiking by themselves going the opposite way and they seemed nonchalant about their hike, one was even checking her cell phone. It was surreal, like the universe put them there to tell me it wasn’t so bad. Thus, I gathered what little I had and found a last wind within me.

We reached a spot to camp around 5:30pm and were so exhausted that we chose one close by a small spring for a water source. It wasn’t a great spot but it was going to suffice. However, as I was looking for a place to setup our kitchen, I stumbled upon a bluff with a huge spot to camp complete with a makeshift fire ring already setup. It took all the rest of our energy to breakdown our camp and move to this spot, but it was worth it. The spot overlooked the valley and because it was below 10,000ft, we were able to have a fire. It also seemed like the universe had provided for us because there were pieces of wood beside the fire ring and tinder in the ring already prepared for us. Because of the fire, it was the first time that we were able to stay out after the sun dropped and see the stars come out in the sky. This was an amazing night seeing the beauty around us, being miles away from another human being in the middle of nowhere.

The next morning we hit the trail with recharged batteries. The plan was to hike 7 miles to Marie Lake, just before Selden Pass, camp there and hit the pass the next morning. We were pushing ourselves too much and wanted to ease off the gas pedal a little bit. After Selden Pass, we would then make it to Muir Trail Ranch, our second resupply point.

Although it was cold, the scenery at Marie Lake was spectacular. Some of the best pictures we took were there. And it was quiet. Something I didn’t expect on the JMT was how quiet it was at night. I thought that there would be at least animal noises, however every night our camping was met with silence. Sometimes you even found yourself whispering to each other because of how quiet it was.

Our journey to MTR the next day started with crossing over Selden Pass and then a monotonous trek downward for about 9 miles to the ranch. We thought the ranch would be like Reds and that there would be a place to eat lunch so we had skipped stopping on the trail. This proved to be incorrect as they only served dinner and breakfast. The summer sausage, crackers and cheese in our resupply buckets had to then be enough. We also got into the bourbon we packed and enjoyed the hot springs…our only bath since Lake Virginia.

This was our halfway point, and Jean fell that night. Later we found out after the hike that she had broken a toe and chipped her foot close to her ankle as well. This was a huge worry, because there was no real exit point after MTR. Walking was difficult for her now and she had a 45 pound pack to haul as well. We taped up whatever we could and she took painkillers to continue the journey.

Our trek became slow going after that. We only did 7 miles out of MTR because of Jean’s foot. It had become swollen and black and blue. She did what she could and we camped early in the day by the San Joaquin River hoping that the added rest would help. We had a fire and a couple guys traveling the opposite direction came and shared our fire and a few laughs.

The next day we traveled 11.4 miles mainly because if we didn’t, there was no way we were going to finish in time before our permit expired. Most of the day was a gradual climb with stretches of flat ground. We went through McClure Meadow which was beautiful and ran into a lot of loop hikers. They were pleasant and welcoming however it did make the trail feel crowded. They all loved Jean’s story and were inspired by her desire to walk 1000 miles.

The climb to Evolution Lake was especially difficult and by the time we got up there, a lot of the private camp spots were taken. We settled for a spot out in the open. The view was beautiful, but it was the coldest it had ever been. Someone said that it got down to 16 degrees that night, and it was very difficult getting up in the morning until the sun came over the mountain top.

We traveled 10 miles the next day after Evolution Lake over Muir Pass and then over and down into the valley on the other side of the pass. The landscape was surreal, like a scene out of a SciFi movie. The rocky terrain and still lakes looked desolate and lifeless. The trek to the Muir hut was long but gradual and not as steep a pass as other had been. The hut at the top was a relief and it felt celebratory to commiserate with others as they reached the top. Jean took pictures up there with her pink dress and I felt antsy to get going. Being the slowest hikers on the trail, I knew we would be the last to get to the campsites and it would be difficult to find a spot.

The trek down the backside of the pass was even more treacherous. The rocks and unsteady path made it difficult to make time and there was really nowhere to camp for miles because of the terrain. By the time we made it to designated campsites, they were all full of hikers. We kept going on for at least another mile and a half to find a spot.

The next day I felt like I was in my head and not present. I rarely picked my head up and rarely spoke. Nothing around me mattered and everything mattered. Once the majority of loop hikers disappeared after the Bishop Pass junction, everything seemed to change. The sense of competition for resources disappeared and a whole new way of thinking took over.

I started to think that everyone on the trail is on it for many different reasons, with many different destinations and for different time periods. Everyone travels at different speeds with different people and with different equipment and with different food. They all hike at different times and camp at different times of the day. It may be the same path, but it is a unique journey for all. I couldn’t help but think about how relationships are the same, how trust in one another and reliance on your partner is essential. The trail is filled with challenges and pain, but each partner needs to carry their own weight. Each person must carry half of the responsibility of survival, and each person must work together with their partner to reach a destination that both of them decide upon. There is no follower and there is no leader, even though one person must walk in front of the other. Both people are responsible for where they are going or if they make a wrong turn, and even if both people get in a fight, they cannot wander far from each other, because their survival depends on the other.

The pain that each of them feel is their own. There is nothing their partner can do about it, but support them. However, this can only be done to an extent, because they are dealing with their own pain as well. Roles develop, but not because of gender, but because one person may be better skilled at a task or enjoy or tolerate a task more than the other. And on the trail, taking personal responsibility becomes a necessity, focusing on your body, understanding your body and what its needs are, whether you need water or food, or whether you are too hot or too cold. These are things your partner cannot control or do for you. They are things you must do for yourself and cannot blame your partner for if they do not happen. You can only blame yourself if you do not attend to your needs. Learning to communicate these needs to your partner is something the trail teaches, not so your partner will stop and take care of those needs for you, but so the two of you stop moving forward until you yourself have taken care of your own needs. Yes, communication, understanding, compassion, empathy, trust, reliance, perseverance, tolerance, endurance, personal responsibility, these are all things the trail teaches, and these are all things you share with a partner on the trail…and in life.

The trail eventually brought upon us the Golden Staircase, Mather Pass and then Pinchot Pass. These passes proved to wear us down as the difficulty increased with each step we took. The elevation of the trail increased and our speed became slower as Jean’s foot continued to be a challenge. Our resting periods were collapsing moments and the pressure to move faster continued to compound. It was before we climbed Glen Pass, camping at Dollar Lake because we just couldn’t move on that we made the decision to exit early. The speed that we were averaging would take us two days past our permit to complete the entire JMT and we had already cancelled our third resupply in order to make up time. We had run out of time and supplies. We were to exit 20 miles shy of finishing and would miss the two tallest elevation points on the trail, Forester Pass and Mt Whitney.

Our exit out of Kearsarge Pass was bitter sweet. Glen Pass kicked our butts and only served as a reassurance that we were making a good decision for ourselves to end early. The journey to Kearsarge Pass and our last campsite was filled with tears, grief and relief, and I was flooded with everything I had learned. We had completed 180 miles of hiking on the John Muir Trail. It was everything and nothing what I thought it would be. The times that were difficult were more difficult than I could have imagined. And every time I thought I had experienced the worst of it, the trail threw even more at me. This experience by far had pushed me mentally, physical, emotionally further than any other experience, and what did I truly learn?

I learned that I am stronger than I thought I am. I faced thoughts about where I am in life and where I want to go. Thoughts about relationships and how all of it applies to the work we do. Thoughts about Jean and how she is the most unique and toughest person I know, and thoughts about my limitations and how I think myself into a corner and make myself my worst enemy and how I create my own cage. I realized that every time I limited myself on the trail with self-doubt or negative thinking, that’s when I would stumble over a rock or bend my ankle in the wrong way.

It was in letting go that became a zone to get into, a delicate balance that was easily lost if I got too hot, or became thirsty or hungry or became worried about our rate of speed or the time. It really didn’t take much to disrupt the balance and feel preoccupied with worry. I guess that is why it is so difficult in our modern worked to find and hold onto the moment and a sense of gratitude because we are bombarded everywhere with distraction and the things to worry about.

If I found it difficult to do in an environment where everything is so simplistic, how are we to maintain that resolve in an ever moving fast-paced world? Many people think the solution is to return back to a more simplistic life, but I don’t think so. For me, I think the key to finding that place of letting go is to embrace gratitude. I found myself starting to thank the trees for providing shade when it became so hot in the sun, or thanking the mountain breeze for cooling me as sweat was dripping off my brow. I found myself thanking the cold mountain creek for providing me water when I desperately needed it.

It was in these experiences that I found humility and tamed the angst boiling up from within. I found that angst to be an uncomfortable feeling, filled with judgment, anxiety, anger, resentment, blame, self-righteousness, condemnation and fear. It is a wave that if allowed to build, crashes with a crescendo that is overwhelming and difficult to recover from. In the silence of the trail, it is easy to hear it start and build inside of you and it is easy to see how quickly it can be triggered. It doesn’t take much for it to become a powder keg waiting for a match.

It is also easy to see how in our modern world how that spark can be triggered all the time. In thinking about it, it is absurd to judge yourself on how quickly you should hike from one point to another or on how many miles you hike, or on where you choose your campsite, but in the simplicity of the wilderness it is apparent how easy human negativity can superimpose its will.

Yet, none of that matters to the mountains. The mountains don’t care whether you stay for a day or for a week or for a month. It doesn’t matter to the creek whether you hydrate or wash your clothes or whether its temperature is too cold for you or not. It becomes very clear out there that your presence doesn’t matter. You are a visitor in a world that runs and functions without you and will continue to do the same forever. It is a machine that works perfectly in balance without judgment. It is us who place judgment and value to things, that a lake looks beautiful or a mountain pass is too steep, or that the temperature is too hot or cold.

I learned that we can place value on things that just are, but it doesn’t change what is. It doesn’t change the fact that you still have to go through it, but the value that we place on the experience just amplifies what we have inside. If we have doubts about our ability to be successful on the trail, our value about the terrain being too rocky highlights and accentuates that self-doubt making the experience so much more painful.

It is so much more noticeable about the internal battle we all face when you are locked in your head for 180 miles, and it is also apparent how this internal battle effects our relationship with others. There were many time I found myself consumed with pain both physically, mentally and emotionally and ultimately started blaming Jean for whatever I could. It was as if I were grasping at whatever I could to gain a sense of control where there wasn’t any. Yet, this internal battle would wage on regardless of the reality of the situation.

I can see how couples who are in the midst of life stressors with work and kids and financial struggles create an internal battle within themselves, often placing judgment and negative value on their partner, blaming them for the difficult situation they are both in, while their partner is just trying to survive an endure.

This life lesson will resonate within me for the rest of my life and I still have yet to tap into the opportunities that the John Muir Trail has given me. I hope to continue to allow the beauty of that wilderness to color my life and guide me in teaching others the lessons I have learned.