I’d like to say that the decision to thru-hike the John Muir trail with my husband and 6-year old daughter came while atop a mountain pass, looking down across the expanse of the Sierras. It’d like to say that it was an “a-ha” moment, borne out of the beauty of the backcountry. In fact, the decision to thru-hike the John Muir Trail, known to backpackers as the JMT, came while speeding south along I-5 en route from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, discussing the boredom that can so easily become one’s life if we let it. 

Anyone who knows our family would have automatically assumed that this was Paul’s idea. In fact, it was mine. We had talked before about hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail with Sara when she turned 10 or 11, but that was far enough away to not really seem real. I heard myself saying to Paul that we should take a month this upcoming summer and hike the JMT as a family. Without hesitation, he enthusiastically agreed, after which I wondered, “What crazy plan did I just unleash?” Before I knew it, I had secured a highly coveted permit and plans were underway. Our bedroom was transformed into a topo-map display with the 13 Tom Harrison maps that make up the John Muir Trail and dehydrated foods began to appear in bulk, piled high in our living room. Suddenly, things were getting real.

It wasn’t until I started telling people what we were going to do that I started to doubt myself and my decision. “You’re going to do WHAT? Are you crazy? Can Sara really do that?” These are just a few of the common responses that I get when I tell people that we are planning to thru hike the JMT with our 6-year old daughter this summer. 220-miles from Yosemite to the top of Mt Whitney. 47,000 feet of elevation gain. 10-mountain passes all over 9000 feet. One month in the backcountry.

It’s only through other people’s eyes that the fear and doubt begins to creep in. Are we really prepared for this? Paul reminds me that we are limited only by our own expectations and our expectations of Sara, but I wonder if that is really true. Where is the line between expectation and performance? I do know that we have the power to make this happen- to transcend the limitations that society puts on us, the doubts, the fears and all the “shoulds” and “can-dos.” And yet the power of the mind- and the minds of others- can be such a strong limiting force. That is, in part, what this trip is about. A chance to prove to ourselves that we can trust our inner instincts, even when everything and everyone on the outside believes otherwise. After all, isn’t that what adventure and courage is all about? Going forward in spite of your fear. Yes, indeed, putting one step in front of the other, little by little. Mile by mile.