John Muir Trail Adventure Journal: Day One

Boing Boing reader Tom Fassbender says: "On June 10, 2012 (one year ago) I embarked on a 13-day solo hike of the 212-mile John Muir Trail. My memories of those days are still very vivid. To commemorate, I'm posting my trail journal, one day at a time, with photos, warts and all."


  1. The Long Meadow picture – man, what a place, what splendid isolation!  You lucky bastard.
    If ever I did a trek like that, inside the tent I’d rather do NYT Sunday crosswords, so I’d take my b&w Kindle w/keyboard along.

    1. I thought about taking the e-reader, but my plan was to do 18-20 miles a day. I figured I’d be tired and wouldn’t read much, which turned out to be true. I typically zonked out right after reading the next day’s route in the trail guide.

    1. 1990, cool. I would have loved to have seen the trail then. I think the Rainbow Fire was 1992, and that area is still almost all burned stumps across a vast swatch of land.

      I took a lot of Andrew Skurka’s ( advice to heart to keep pack weight low. I wouldn’t say that I’m an ultralight purist (I did want some comforts), but I did keep the pack down to 30 pounds (18 of that was food and bear canister). It creeped up to 33 or so when I resupplied on the sixth day, but it dropped back down after that day’s lunch/dinner.

      I was going to post a gear list before I did the daily remembrances, but I got sidetracked (or perhaps I procrastinated …). Now I’ll post it after all the journal entries.

  2. I’m curious, what was your fitness state when you started planning for this awesome trip, and what if anything did you do to train?  Feel free to be detailed as you like.

    As I sit here and type, I feel a pull through every cell in my body toward that part of the country.  You lucky lucky person.

    1. I like to think I’m reasonably fit, but age is catching up with me and I’m not as agile as I used to be. I do run quite a bit, three or four days a week of varying distances, walk the dog regularly (but not enough), and try to hike at least a few times in any given month. I wasn’t too worried about the distance; 10 miles a day seemed reasonable. I was more concerned about the altitude gain, which in places was pretty considerable.
      Once I made a solid commitment to the JMT hike, I walked around the neighborhood a few nights a week with a loaded pack. I regularly walked to work and walked for an hour or so at lunch to get used to being on my feet. I did a few local overnight trips with 12+ miles (one way) to get comfortable with the gear. I tried to pick hikes that had a lot of relentless climbing, but I didn’t do much training at higher altitudes, which I would have liked to do. The one thing I couldn’t fully prepare for was the intensity of the mosquitoes. Just tenacious in a few places.I was really stingy with the pack weight. I didn’t want it to go over 30 pounds, and that helped a lot when it came to cranking out the miles. I even jettisoned stuff  (that is, mailed it back home) had that I didn’t use (like a coffee cup) when I had the chance.As for being lucky, if being fortunate in having a supportive family counts, then yeah, guilty. And, yeah, I feel the pull, too. All the time. 

    2. I like to think that I’m reasonably fit, but age is starting to catch up to me and I’m not as agile as I used to be. I run regularly, three to four days a week of varying distance. And on the weekends I like to get out to hike at least once (but I try for twice) a month. I wasn’t worried about daily distance as much as I was worried about some of the climbs I saw in the elevation profiles.

      As for training, once I committed to the JMT hike, I’d walk the dog around the neighborhood with a loaded pack to get used to the weight. My goal was to keep the kept the pack weight to 30 pounds with food (which was half of my load). I would walk to work (3.75 miles), walk around for an hour at lunch, and then walk home to get used to being on my feet. I still try to do that when I can.

      I would do overnight hikes of 10-12 miles (one way)  when I could to test out the gear. I tried to include relentless climbs in those hikes to get used to that feeling. I was moderately successful here; some of the climbs on the hike were quite challenging. I didn’t spend time at altitude, and I wish I would have done so. The one thing I could’t prepare for were the intensity of the mosquitoes — very tenacious in a few places.

      As for luckiness, if I’m lucky for being fortunate in having a supportive family, then yeah, guilty.

      And yeah, I feel the pull, too. All the time.

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