*This is a guest post by Andy Hawbaker of Sierra SocialHub. Andy recently completed a two-week thru-hike on the John Muir Trail and wrote a post reflecting on his journey*
Wrapping a wet bandana around my sweaty forehead, I take the first few steps away from Evolution Creek. Slowly getting a rhythm with my trekking poles, I’m back to walking a hefty pace. A deer carefully watches me from the meadow and colorful wildflowers disappear behind me as I focus on waking up my stiff legs after this longer than normal break. I’m 100 miles into my thru-hike of the John Muir Trail and my two hiking partners and I can’t afford to fall behind my average pace of 16 miles per day. We’ve got a ride to meet and a plane to catch. We need to finish on time.
My two-week journey on the John Muir Trail was inspired by my love of the outdoors. I usually enjoy time outside with my two daughters, doing short day hikes that end at a lake where we skip rocks until our arms tire. I’ve been known to hike long distances, but I spend plenty of time in a hammock, camp chair or somewhere comfortable for a considerable amount of time afterward. Committing to hiking 16 miles every day for 14 days was a big undertaking and entirely unlike any adventure I’d been on before.
Powering through those long days on the John Muir Trail, I wondered if I was actually able to enjoy being in the wilderness or if the pace was causing me to miss out on the little things along the way. Each evening at camp I’d spend time by the lake, soaking my feet in the river or watching the full moon rise over the mountains. I soaked in the sights and sounds of nature each afternoon and evening but when the sun rose in the morning, the priority was getting miles behind us.
We took breaks, of course. But we had to make the most of each of these breaks. My favorites were afternoon swims in high alpine lakes or taking in the view from the top of a mountain pass.
As the trip was coming to a close, I began to reflect on the experience. While I appreciate going slow and taking time to focus on the little things, I am happy to experience the entire John Muir Trail in one quick trip.
I’m sure I walked right past small animals, wildflowers, unique insects and probably didn’t take enough time to enjoy the views, but to pack in over 200 miles of untouched natural wilderness in just 14 days is an experience in itself. Experiencing really big things, and accomplishing big goals, like passing through three national parks, two national forests and a national monument without crossing a road, requires a vigorous pace.
Living in a world that seems to move too fast, we want to stop and enjoy the little things, but seeing all these little things as part of one giant wilderness is quite an experience. Having never been one to push speed limits when in the outdoors I’ve really come to appreciate the Sierra Nevada Mountains because of the speed at which I passed through the range.
Maybe the lesson isn’t to slow down, but change your pace in either direction to see things differently.
To learn more about my hike of the John Muir Trail visit the Muir Miles page or follow our journey here: Hiking the John Muir Trail: Days 1-3
-Andy Hawbaker is a hiker, backpacker and family car camper. When he isn’t on the trail he shares his experiences on the Sierra Social Hub
Andy also wrote Hiking for the Experience on Walk Simply.