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Accepting Adventure – Hiking the John Muir Trail

Like most people, I work 40 hours each week in an office, fill my evenings with other obligations and try to spend as much time with my kids as possible. I spend weekends hiking, climbing the occasional mountain and take as many family camping trips as possible. I definitely live for the weekends, but still it seems like the day-to-day grind is absorbing most of my time.

Backpacking the John Muir Trail (JMT)

Share Your Adventure Photo by Erica Borgwardt

A few months ago, a group of guys I only knew through social media invited me to hike over 200 miles on the John Muir Trail. I immediately said no. There was no way I could get away from work or leave my wife with two kids for over 2 weeks. Not to mention the fact that as I settle into my middle 30s, I was carrying a little more weight in my midsection. I wasn’t in shape, I didn’t have the time and I didn’t even know these guys. I had plenty of excuses.

A few weeks went by and they asked again. This time I thought about it. I love spending time in the outdoors and the possibility of spending two weeks thru-hiking the 212-mile John Muir Trail was an adventure I’d always wanted to try. How could I pass up this opportunity? So I did it. I committed to taking an adventure.

Still not knowing if I could physically do it, I figured out my work situation, got my wife on board with the idea and began researching the logistics of the trail. I started running in the evenings and squeezed as many hikes into my busy schedule as possible. I bought some new gear to replace some of my older and heavier stuff. Then, six months turned into six weeks which quickly turned into next week.

Hiking the John Muir Trail (JMT)

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve stressed about fitting enough food into a bear canister, stressed about the weight of my backpack and worried about what else I’m forgetting. I’ve worked twice as hard to make sure everything at work is going to run smooth while I’m away and I’ve honestly thought to myself, why am I doing this? I’ve caused myself so much stress and worry when I could have easily just lived life day-by-day in the same safe routine.

As I make the final preparations for this trip, I am reminded that this is truly an adventure of a lifetime. Looking back, preparing wasn’t as tough or difficult as it seemed. The thrill of taking what really is a BIG adventure for me, far outweighs any headaches it caused me along the way and the preparations have resulted in the loss of 10 pounds and I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve been in for years.

While I’m excited to hike to the summit of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the continental U.S, visit the High Sierra’s for my first time and hang out with a fun group of guys, I’m most looking forward to living in the moment for two whole weeks. I don’t have to mow the lawn, rush to get to work on time or take care of tired kids. I just have to hike and I can’t wait to get started.

Hiking the John Muir Trail (JMT)

This thru-hike of the John Muir Trail is sponsored by Sierra Trading Post. You can learn more about this trip, our preparations and even follow our progress including photos, video and notes from the trail on the Muir Miles Page. I’ll also be sharing details of this adventure on the Sierra Social Hub and through Twitter #JMT2013.

Accepting adventure into your life is scarier than you’d think. We all think we want to live an adventurous lifestyle but when the opportunity arises, we usually find excuses. Do you accept adventure into your life? Do you have any advice for someone who feels too stuck in a routine to take big adventures?

Editor’s Note: Andy Hawbaker is a hiker, weekend backpacker and family car camper. When he isn’t out on the trail he shares his experiences on the Sierra Social Hub.


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  • Kel Fitz

    Congrats to you Andy for doing it! So many people live their lives day-by-day in the same safe routine. I am looking forward to following your progress. I dream of hiking the JMT and hope to do it within the next couple of years. Cheers to your adventure!

    • Kel, I second that. Life’s too short not to take some time off and tackle a few of the bigger items on your bucket list. Brock and Kathleen have set off on the JMT already, but part 2 of their planning guide will be coming out in a day or two. Do you have any big hikes planned or on your own bucket list?

  • David Gray

    I sure loved the John Muir trail hike I took with my 26 year old son 2 years ago. I guess it took me quite a while to get around to hiking the whole trail, since I first set foot on the JMT in 1964.

    • David, did you set out to hike it in sections, or were there other factors? Just curious.

  • Andy Hawbaker

    Thanks for the comments. We successfully completed the trail and had a great time. I’ll share some information here on Brian’s site soon.