Do Steep Things

I can't believe how short my 7-year-old daughter's legs are, and they still continue to push, up and over the rocky obstacles on this steep trail. She looks up, determined, and asks when we will be at the "P."

I'm tired, dragging with each step and I look back at my wife and our other two kids, with one hand holding the dog's leash and my other clasped around my youngest daughter, trying to control both, and mention that we seem to always seek out steep trails for our family hikes.

This hike isn't especially long, and it's not as steep as the one we all did in Hawaii, where we had to cling to a chain and pass a couple of "if you value your life, you will turn around right now" signs and I questioned my judgment as a protector of the family as my wife and I took turns holding tightly to our kids as we made the final climb up the unnamed trail to the radio tower overlooking Waimea Canyon.

Every time we leave our house, we can see the giant "P" on the hill and the kids have asked to hike up there for years. It's not a long hike, but it was steeper than it looked, and when we finally made it to the white rocks that make the "P," my kids didn't realize that we were even standing on it.

I couldn't sleep last night because of this tightness in my chest. It happens a lot and I have a hard time controlling it. Meditation helps, some other things help, but it doesn't go away for good. I'm nervous for my kids. I want them to always be safe. My mind jumps from that to people that I may have hurt. I mentally catalog the shit-talking I have done lately, the sarcasm that seems funny at the time, but should be filtered. There are other things I think about that aren't quite as important, but they still occupy my thoughts in the middle of the night. This is the time of year when I plan adventures for the upcoming year, and there are a few things I want to do that really scare me. Races that I don't think I can finish, and routes that I know will test the limits of my endurance.

There have been some amazing sunsets over the last couple of weeks, and every chance I get, I try to recruit my family into driving up to the tallest hill in the area, and I drive fast in order to beat the sun before it slips into the ocean. My son is the most eager to go. He's not that into sunsets, but he loves climbing up and down this really steep trail from the children's playground to this tree at the viewing area. The trail scares me because if he fell, or slipped, it is steep enough that he wouldn't be able to stop himself until he hit the bottom which would be a painful, but not life-threatening slide of about 30 feet. I try not to watch as he makes excuses to take the trail down to the playground, then back up. I can see other parents looking at me, looks of disapproval, or maybe envy. He won't sit still until the sun actually sets, and only with the promise of the legendary green flash, will he watch the sun dip into the water.

I let him run down from the parking lot to the bottom of the hill, where I meet him with the car. It's dark, it's steep, and he loves it. He runs so fast, and with such abandon, that I usually don't have to wait longer than about a minute as he makes the 1/2 mile run. I worry that he'll slip and fall in the dark, and I mostly worry that my wife will say "I told you so" because it is something that she would never let him do, and she makes a point of telling me that as he breathlessly recounts his adventures to her and my oldest daughter when we get home. I don't tell them how I waited at the bottom of the hill, nervously squinting my eyes in the dark, hoping to see my son turn that last corner and run into my arms.

It's not like I teach him this shit. We do steep things, and I don't even encourage it. They wear me down, until I eventually say yes, let's make the climb, or yes, you can run down the hill in the dark, but I say yes and I think it's a good decision and I think it's the right decision (mainly because nobody has gotten seriously hurt, yet), and when I see that determination in my daughter's face, and her pride at the top when she realizes that the painted white rocks covered with graffiti laying in what seems to be haphazard piles actually make up the giant "P" that they see whenever they drive anywhere within five miles from our house. We will continue to do steep things against better judgement, and fighting back my own fears and reservations, because my kids need to know that we can do steep things. It doesn't matter if they are young, or their legs are short, or they are thirsty and hungry, or they are girls. They can do steep things.

Sometimes the steepest thing is getting out of bed, after a night of no sleep, and putting on a happy face as the kids show me what trouble the Elf on the Shelf got into, and not really knowing what is wrong. On days like today, climbing up a mountain with my family, is the least steep thing I can think of doing.

Thanks for reading.

Vertical Beer Mile

Mix a steep hill, some stupid/competitive/crazy/fast runners, and four beers of your choosing (at least 5% alcohol by volume), and you have what could either be a complete clusterf@#$, or an absolutely great time. I guess it depends more on the participants than anything else, and as I looked around at the group prepping their beer transition areas, I knew that this was the right group to take on the first ever vertical beer mile (after a rigorous day of research, I discovered that there have been other vertical beer miles, just not like the one we did, so I'd like to set up some strict standards in order to compare results, test for illegal non-drug use, and foster a spirit of unhealthy competition across the world, or at least between the states of California and Colorado).

Carlyn, an amazing runner who also has the unfortunate trait of being unable to say no to a running adventure, or to a particularly welcoming toilet bush, is leaving us and heading out to Virginia, or maybe Wisononsin, or some other state east of the Rockies, and she wanted to do something fun before she left. It had to be something special, because Carlyn is pretty awesome. She has led or joined a number of really cool adventures including a traverse of Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon R2R2R, as well as a couple of very memorable days in Joshua Tree and among the peaks of Baldy and Gorgonio. Carlyn also leads outdoor yoga classes at the beach (good luck doing that in Wisconginia, Carlyn). So, the idea of a beer mile send-off was suggested, and I thought we really needed to step it up because that is what we do, so I threw out the idea of a Vertical Beer Mile (VBM).

After much discussion, here are the rules we came up with:

1) Find a steep, rugged, and accessible 1/8 mile section of trail. The vertical elevation gain should be between 80-100 feet for the 1/8 mile section.

2) Find a group of stupid and/or crazy people who like to drink a lot, don't really care about their own safety, and will say "yes" to almost any challenge or dumb idea that is presented (some people just call them runners).

3) Set up a drinking transition area at the bottom of the hill.

4) Every participant is responsible for bringing their own beer, and it needs to be over 5% alcohol, or risk being ridiculed by the other competitors.

5) Place a bell at the top of the hill as the turnaround point.

6) Drink a beer before starting the first hill repeat, run to the top of the hill, then run back down. Repeat 3 more times for a total of 4 beers and hill repeats (adding up to a mile).

7) The beer must be consumed in the transition area, and if any participant throws up, they must complete an extra hill repeat (minus the extra beer).

8) The clock starts before the first beer and ends after completion of the last hill repeat.

9) A celebratory post-race beer is recommended, but not mandatory.

After proposing the initial idea, I conveniently started another 21-day detox/cleanse. Since I wasn't drinking, I offered to drive, take pictures, be the official timer, and just offer random advice (gems like "you've got to swallow all of it, no spitting allowed").

The group assembled on an unseasonably warm November day; everyone grabbed their six-packs and made the hike to the bottom of the hill. Some of the top ultra runners in San Diego, and definitely the top beer-swilling drunners in all of California were present. Four women and eight guys started, and I think there were only 2 DNFs, no PNFs (puking non-finishers), and 0 falls, which was a little disappointing, because even hiking down the rugged trail (with no beer to impair my balance), I nearly fell. I was hoping to capture some gnarly wipeouts, and in the process amass amazing footage for Tosh.0, but it was not to be; the talent level of this group was just too high.

Brian Peterson, in his last and most important key workout before this weekend's Chimera 100, led the way and in the process set the fastest known time at 9:44, which was a pretty amazing feat. Unfortunately for Brian, he held the FKT for a mere 5 minutes as what looked like the ghost of Prefontaine came running down the hot and dusty trail, but in reality was latecomer Gregory Wagner, driving directly from Joshua Tree and sporting a legitimate track uniform complete with long wool socks. Greg did a few hamstring stretches on the broken wooden fence, cracked a Ballast Point and proceeded to sprint up the hill. Everyone started laughing and there were a few doubters out there, murmuring that there was no way he could keep that pace. Someone switched in a Sculpin IPA on his second lap, but without missing a beat, Greg downed the 7% IPA, and sprinted up for a second time. He kept the fast pace for the next two repeats and finished in an amazing 8:12. Hands on knees at the finish line, spit falling from the corners of his mouth, he kept it down and no extra lap was needed. Greg was the champion of the day and now holds the internationally recognized fastest known time for the Vertical Beer Mile (Ultra Adventure Rules).

Carlyn, we'll all miss you. Safe travels, and I'm sure our trails will cross again on some new, crazy adventure that none of us will be able to say no to.

Horny Lizards and Deer Ticks

So, it rained this morning and I was supposed to go on a field trip with my son to Batiquitos Lagoon, but they cancelled it because they don't want the kids to get wet. This is my favorite kind of running weather...muddy trails, clouds, a cool wind, and the chance of being covered in rain and mud all add to the experience. I texted some friends, wondering if anyone was up to getting muddy with me, in a running-related way. They all responded that they were working, so after letting them know they were a bunch of responsible members of society, and I meant that in the worst possible way, I changed into my wet-weather gear and was out on the trail, heading in the direction of the Horned Lizard Trail.

My thoughts quickly turned to why we can no longer call things with horns, horny. It's too bad. I don't like the word horned. It's one of those words that isn't quite one syllable, but it's not two either. I mumble a lot, so I feel like I have to over-pronounce things so people understand what I'm saying, so I end up saying horn-ed, like some character on Downton Abbey. I have an English friend who is an English teacher (which is almost cheating, I don't even think he needs a teaching credential for that, he probably just showed up to the job interview and was like, yeah I can teach English, check out my accent), and I'll have to ask him how to pronounce the word horned, but until then, I'm taking it back. I'm calling the trail the Horny Lizard trail. Just because some people are immature and can't handle the fact that reptiles have horns and are thus horny, we shouldn't have to change the word. It's just another case of ruining language due to society's lowest common denominator. Besides, I have never seen a lizard that wasn't horny, the way they look at you sideways and dart their tongue in and out, licking their lizard lips. Those are some horny bastards.

Yesterday was an awesome day. It started way too early at an aid station for the Lake Hodges 50K and 15K. I was pretty sick from a Halloween party the night before (and 4 hours of sleep and 2 Alka-Seltzers didn't help much), but hanging out with friends and helping runners put me in a great mood. Our aid station was school-themed, which really was just an excuse to get my wife to buy a school girl outfit. She had this big paddle and used it to give the runners an extra boost as they left our aid station. She was a little too good at it.

After a nap and some delicious Persian food from the mother-in-law, we rallied and headed out to the Belly Up to see one of my favorite bands, Deer Tick. It was a great show, complete with a tribute to Lou Reed, a Hank Jr. cover, and every song that I wanted to hear. The lead singer, John McCaulley, sings his heart out, and with such passion, that it makes me think there is no way he can keep it up for more than 5 years or so. I know some runners like that, always running too much, too fast, too hard, and they probably know that they should slow down, take some rest days, not race so much, but just try telling them that.

Thanks for reading,

Coyote Trail

I have all of these romantic notions of why I love to run...the connection to nature, hanging out with friends, working through the stuff that's in my head, the routine, the effects on my mental and physical health. And while running is all of these things, sometimes it's just about the hurt.

It's primal, I guess, this need to put myself through pain. A more evolved me would shy from it and hide in the safe, comfortable bubble of self-preservation, but sometimes I need to feel the physical pain. And I'm not talking about the great feeling after the struggle, the overcoming of pain, but just the pain itself.

Cameron and I set off on a short run on some local trails around the neighborhood. It's a familiar route, up the steep hill behind the old dump to the La Costa Preserve, down the switchbacks of the Horned Lizard Trail, to the Copper Creek connector trail, across a couple of small streams and hand-built bridges, through a tunnel of trees, then out, and instead of continuing up to the water tower, Cameron pointed to a narrow single track, "wonder where that one leads?" It doesn't take much to convince me, so I turned onto the trail that led up a steep, rocky hill. "Let's find out," I said as we were already pushing up the hill.

What started as a single-track trail quickly turned into one of the hundreds of coyote trails that snake through the local hills. You can tell a coyote trail from a running trail because the brush quickly closes in at chest level. That, and it's really hard to follow. We worked our way up the hill as the branches tore at my shirt, my shorts, and tore at me, marking their path in blood up and down my legs. I half-expected to turn around and see a witch brandishing a big, red apple, and I quickly glanced around for the little people who would rescue me.

We slowly pushed forward as the trail disappeared and each step brought thicker, sharper bushes. We were close to the top, and had covered too much ground to turn around and put ourselves through the pain of a retreat over the same ground that we had painfully won. We stopped, surrounded by overgrown bushes and trees, and with no trail to guide us, we just pushed towards the top of the hill. With every step towards the top, and with every new cut, there was this release, this screw you to comfort, to safety, and to sitting behind a computer all day.

After what seemed like a very long time, we reached a familiar trail near the water tower. I took my shoes off and dumped out the accumulated dirt, picked the nettles out of my clothes and skin, and we compared the bloody cuts that crisscrossed our legs.

I talked to Cameron on the way back about feeling down, about lacking motivation, about not wanting to be tied to future races and adventures in order to be able to motivate myself right now, and he offered some good advice, but the best medicine of the day came deep in the bushes, on a trail that was no longer a trail.

John Muir Trail, Part 2 -- Trip Report

Part 1 (which was mostly just about the gear) can be found here.

Sometimes I feel that we have lost our connection to the land. We need to get outside more, push ourselves in nature, connect to the beauty through hardship, surviving without the technology, traveling with the things you can carry on your back. There are no excuses, and it doesn't need to be a 200+ mile journey. I saw a woman in what looked to be her late 70s carrying a 40+ pound pack, smiling a and joking with us as we passed her. We saw a family with 5 young kids, 3 sons out a few miles ahead of the mom, dad, younger brother and sister, and two horses. The boys were confident, fishing poles bouncing above their packs, probably looking for a nice place to stop and catch some of the family's dinner, and I thought of my own son, and the other boys in the neighborhood and how we won't even let them walk to school without a parent accompanying them.

The wilderness is important to us, and it is important to protect, not just for future generations, but for us.  It is that untethered place in our soul, the free, crazy, impulsive that makes you want to yell at the top of a mountain, climb a tree, swim in a river, runslide down a hill, mouth open and breathing hard, not thinking about what if, what if I fall, what if I run into a bear, what if I don't have enough gear, what if I'm spending all my energy, what if I have nothing left?

My soul is cleansed for now. I held the gaze of a fawn who wasn't frightened by the loud, clumsy animal carrying itself on two legs. There were a number of those calm moments, before the sun rose, staring at the stars, or resting on the top of a mountain, but when you hold that gaze with neither the intent to harm or the desire to possess, there is a calm that stays with you outside of the wilderness, a feeling of peace and connection that no number of tailgaters, long lines at the grocery store, or cell phone alerts can take away.

Sometimes it's just necessary, imperative, to get out from behind the desk (even the standing ones), and sleep in the open, yell at coyotes, run from a protective mother bear, hold the gaze of a baby deer, scrape away the decades of stress, and the layers of protection that cloud all of our interactions.

As you struggle in the wilderness, with blisters on your feet, dirt under your fingernails, snot in your nose, grease in your hair, grit in your teeth, and as you soak your tired, bloody feet in a cold stream, or sit in silence under the last stars as the pink and orange sky colors the cold morning mountains, or sit at the shore of a lake hungrily licking the last calories from the inside of a foil dinner, joking with a couple of good friends, and dealing with the raw emotions that come with making this journey with others, you scrape away those layers and your soul becomes clean.

That piece of the wilderness stays with you, it finds its way into your soul, and the only way to keep it there is to protect it, to revisit and refresh, to cultivate that feeling of freedom and wildness, to move beyond the drive-up tourist spots, to explore the trails that lead to the top of mountains, or just the intimacy of a sunset watched alone, a few hundred yards from a large RV “camp” filled with people who have forgotten to stop talking and just look up.

I didn't take many notes (I was usually too damn tired at the end of the night), so what follows is our itinerary based on memory, and I have tried to include a few highlights from each day.

Day 1 -- Happy Isles (Yosemite Valley) to Ireland Creek Jct. 29.5 miles.

We left the park and split off from the main trail to the JMT, watched the sun bounce against Half Dome, and finally felt the solitude after passing the groups hiking to Half Dome. The pools and rivers along Tuolomne Meadows were amazing, and we ran into Injinji runner, Marc Laveson, who did very well at the San Diego 100, and who I spent some time talking with a few weeks ago in Tahoe. He was running fast in the opposite direction, doing a High Sierra loop, and he inspired me to finish out the day running. That night, we camped down by a riverbed and it was probably the coldest night of the trip. The next morning we woke up to frost on the ground.

Day 2 -- Ireland Creek Jct. to Rosalie Lake to some small site off-trail with no bears near Trinity Lakes. 18.6 miles.

This was a tough day for me. I think the altitude hit me hard, and I struggled the entire day. Even with the shorter distance, it was tough going, and as we passed some beautiful scenery, especially Garnet Lake, I had a hard time appreciating how beautiful it actually was. I didn't feel that connection I usually feel with the trail, I felt more like I was watching one of those fly-over videos of the Grand Canyon from my couch, just watching the scenery pass without really experiencing it.

I was happy to be done and we found a beautiful campsite on Rosalie Lake. As the sun went down and we started to get into our sleeping bags, we heard a loud huffing sound. Paul said it might be a horse, then we heard it again along with what I thought was a low growl and the loud snap of a branch breaking. We all grabbed our trekking poles and stared hard into the trees, trying to see what caused the loud noises. Paul pointed out what looked to be two trees on a group of rocks about a hundred yards away. It was too dark to make out what they were, but when one of them craned its neck looking for mama, we knew exactly what they were. We had set up camp near a bear den, and mama bear was now protecting her territory. We broke camp in less than two minutes and were back on the trail for some night hiking.

We hiked a mile or two and found a nice, flat spot right off the trail. That night, the stars were absolutely amazing. I have never seen such a blanket, or counted so many shooting stars. We woke up a couple hours later to a howling coyote near our camp, which we yelled at, and didn't hear from again.

Pre-bear dinner at Rosalie Lake

I did a lot of thinking out on the trail. These are some of my deep thoughts. 
Top 5 Things I Thought About on the JMT 
  1. The immense power and beauty of nature, and my simultaneous connectedness to, and insignificance in the face of, this massive force.
  2. Sex
  3. Food
  4. Sex
  5. Foodsex

Day 3 -- Trinity Lakes to Lake Virginia. 22.2 miles.

Got some good running in on this day, especially the long stretch down to the Red's Meadow resupply area. It was great to see Ric, who was supporting us on this trip. We were so lucky to have him out there.

We also ran into Erin and Matt on the trail who were nice enough to hike in and bring us some apples, and after eating processed and freeze-dried food for the last couple of days, these apples were amazing, and now I get the whole Adam and Eve thing. Of course Eve ate the apple. Apples are the best.

Erin and Matt, trail angels

Day 4 -- Lake Virginia to Marie Lake. 25.1 miles.

I don't remember much of this day. I think we climbed a long stretch and it took a lot out of me. I realized that pushing too hard up the passes could really put me in a hole for the rest of the day. It was a good lesson to learn.

I was very happy with my gear choices and pack weight. At its heaviest (with four days of food and water) the total weight was 20 pounds, and at its lightest (with just some snacks and water), the total weight was 13 pounds. You can find my entire gear list (with weights) in Part 1. I liked some of the gear more than others, and the following are my favorites. 
5 Favorite Pieces of Gear 
  1. Patagonia Down Sweater. This puffy jacket was so nice when the temps dropped in the evening, and was the first thing I put on in the morning. I also used it as a pillow (inside a stuff sack). It packed tight and only weighed 280 grams, so no size and weight sacrifice.
  2. Expedition Foods Freeze-Dried Meals. Around noon every day I would start talking about dinner. These dinners are designed for people who do stage racing through the dessert, contained whole food with simple ingredients, packed 800 calories with 50 grams or so of fat, and tasted delicious on the trail.
  3. Patagonia Trail Chaser running shorts/ Asics runderwear combo. This was a great combo for me. No chaffing at all, which amazed me because I am prone. As a bonus I was able to wake Paul and Toby up wearing my runderwear and nothing else.
  4. Steripen. This is a no-brainer, light, fast way to treat water on the trail. I would definitely carry spare batteries, and water treatment tabs as a backup. The water on the trail was plentiful and delicious.
  5. Injinji socks. I started the trip with a brand of socks that I was comfortable with. I didn't bring Injinjis because I didn't think they were durable enough for the 221 mile trip. Unfortunately, I developed a pretty bad blister on the inside of my pinky toe on the first day, and it proceeded to get worse as the trip went on. Luckily, when we re-supplied at Muir Trail Ranch on day 5, I was able to buy a pair of Injinjis. They saved my trip, and I wish I would have started with them. On a side note, Paul used the Injinji Trail 2.0 socks for the duration of the trip and had zero blister problems.

Day 5 -- Marie Lake to Evolution Lake. 26.6 miles (including 3 bonus miles to Muir Trail Ranch).

This was a really tough morning. It started great, ran through a beautiful meadow and talked to Jack Chan, an ultrarunner from L.A. We ran right past the turnoff to our second re-supply, Muir Trail Ranch, so we had to backtrack, adding about 3 miles to the route. Muir Trail Ranch was nice, too nice, and I wanted to just stop and stay there for the night, especially when I saw the dinner menu featuring tri-tip. It was tough to leave, and when we did, I felt really low. We pushed on and hit a very beautiful section of the JMT, along the San Joaquin River and climbed up alongside an amazing series of waterfalls that led to Evolution Meadow and eventually to the absolutely gorgeous Evolution Lake. This was my favorite camp of the trip, and we arrived in time to soak in the lake, wash out our nasty clothes, and eat dinner as the sun set, bouncing its warm glow on the white granite mountains that surrounded the lake.

Day 6 -- Evolution Lake to Lower Palisade Lake. 27.4 miles.

The hike up to Muir Pass was amazing, past multiple alpine lakes, and ending in a strong push to the top of Muir Pass. Day 6 was also the day of the climb up the Golden Staircase. I did this climb with Toby, and it was great talking to him for the length of the climb. It made it go so much faster, and when I think back to my favorite moments on the trail, most of them were when we hiked or ran together, cracking jokes, or just talking. This was one of those moments.

Muir Pass

Our storm set-up at Lower Palisade Lake

Both Paul and Toby kept me laughing pretty hard on the trip, and when you're laughing, you really don't notice how hard you are working. Toby made up some great words on the trip (I was a big fan of Sniglets when I was a kid, so I thought these were great). Here are a few of the better ones that I can remember. 
Top 5 Funny Words that Toby Made Up
  1. Bearanoid -- Being paranoid about bears. "Is that bear canister too close to the campsite?" "Dude, don't be bearanoid."
  2. Altitoots -- The propensity to build up and release more gas at higher altitudes (or maybe just having the freedom to do so).
  3. Deuce miles per hour -- A slowed pace as to not get too far ahead of the person who is taking care of their business off trail (dropping a deuce). Not to be confused with two miles per hour.
  4. Runderwear -- Running underwear. For example, when I greeted Paul and Toby in the morning with nothing but an exquisitely wrapped package, and announced, "Let's hit the trail, bitches." The usual response was a disgusted groan and "nice runderwear."
  5. Blisception -- This is a Toby classic, but was very applicable to this trip. It refers to a blister within a blister within a blister (see: Inception).

Day 7 -- Lower Palisade Lake to Rae Lakes. 26.5 miles.

This was a very difficult day for me, especially the morning. I felt very homesick and thought about my wife and kids quite a bit. This was the first day I broke out the iPod, as I ran down the trail, singing Deer Tick at the top of my lungs. It made me feel better, and I hope that I didn't frighten any wildlife along the way.

We met this old cowboy on the way up to Rae Lakes. He was letting his mule train graze in a grassy meadow off the trail, and we spent some time talking to him about his trip and ours. He gave us some tips on camping at Rae Lakes, which he said was full of "jellyheads," and he told us about a nice, solitary spot. Jellyheads is my new favorite word.

Pinchot Pass

From the top of Pinchot Pass, these clouds just came pouring over the 12-13,000 foot peaks

Day 8 -- Rae Lakes to Wallace Creek. 24.6 miles.

We were hoping to see Ric again at about 8 AM, so we were in high spirits. Unfortunately, Ric wasn't at the meeting point and we started to really stress as the minutes turned into hours, and he had still not shown up. I wasn't worried about our trip (we could hike into the night), but I was worried that something had happened to him because he is about the most dependable person I know. We were all so relieved when he finally showed up, carrying a huge pack full of goodies for us (including more apples), and we all thanked him and started up again. Turns out that the wait turned out for the best as we followed a pretty bad storm for the rest of the day, walking on a soaked trail and seeing the thunder and thick rain clouds ahead and on one of the highest passes, Forester Pass. There is no way we would have attempted to do that pass in a thunderstorm and would have probably been huddled up in our ponchos in a storm if Ric had been on time.

There were so many instances like that on our trip, everything from the weather, which was beautiful for us all week, to the fire and smoke situation, led me to really think that someone was taking care of us. Of course I thought of Ben, who would most likely have been out there with us, and maybe he was.

We pushed to Wallace Creek, and found a great site near the creek. It was so nice to sleep on soft ground after many nights of sleeping on granite, and even with the 3 hour delay, we were in our bags by about 9 and we set our alarms for 2:30 AM.

Paul, running down Forester Pass

Another thing that kept us entertained on the trail were movie and TV quotes. Luckily, we all have similar tastes, and when it got really tough I resisted the urge to quote Requiem for a Dream
Top 5 Quoted Movies
  1. I Love You, Man
  2. Super Troopers
  3. Nacho Libre
  4. The Other Guys
  5. Role Models

Day 9 -- Wallace Creek to Mt. Whitney (official end of the JMT) to Whitney Portal. 24.6 miles.

It was nice getting the early miles in during the dark of the night, and watching the sunrise from the climb up Mt. Whitney.

We reached the summit, and the official end of the John Muir Trail in 8 days, 2 hours, 35 minutes. The summit was beautiful, and again, what looked like thunderclouds on the way up, cleared to a beautiful, blue sky at the top. The summit came with a major outpouring of emotion. It had been a very difficult and beautiful 8 days. I hugged Toby and Paul, and told them how happy and grateful I was to do this with them. It felt like we were finished, but we still had to run the 11 miles down to Whitney Portal, bacon cheeseburgers, and beer.

This was probably the toughest part of the trip, even though it was downhill, it was technical for about the first 7 miles, so it was really slow-going. It was also the hottest section we had experienced the entire trip. Once the trail became runnable, Paul and Toby took off. I didn't want to get too far behind, so I chased, much faster than I should have been running at that point. Sub-7 minute miles after 220 miles probably wasn't the smartest thing, but I really wanted us to run the last few miles, and to finish, together, which we were able to do, but I think I may still be paying the price, but all of that didn't matter at the time. We finished and headed to the store for the burger that I thought of at least once every hour over the previous 8 days.

Some trail love on the way up Whitney

At the summit of Whitney

Total mileage: 225.1, Total Elevation Gain: 46,000 feet. Total Time: 8 days, 2 hours, 35 minutes.

As we sat at Whitney Portal, inhaling a bacon cheeseburger, fries, and drinking water, coke, and Sierra Nevadas, I remembered the last time I was there, three years ago. I had just climbed Mt. Whitney, and had a great run down from the ascent. There were three kids at the next table over, they couldn't have been over 20 years old, two boys and a girl, celebrating, laughing with bright eyes. I could smell them from my table and kept hearing the three letters JMT repeated over and over. They asked me about my day and I proudly told them about my Whitney ascent, half-bragging about my time. I asked about their day, and they said they were also up at Whitney, but came up from the other side. I was curious about it, and I listened in awe about their journey from Yosemite. That was the start of my JMT journey.

As Paul, Toby and I finished our burgers and beers, and started packing up our stuff to head into Lone Pine for much-needed showers, a guy walked up to us, asking about our gear and saying he overheard us talking about something called the JMT, his eyes widened as we told him about the trail, and as we walked away he said he'd like to do that someday, just parts of it, but nothing as crazy as the whole thing, but there was this shine in his eyes, like maybe he was really considering it, or maybe it was just his eyes watering from our smell.

Dropping everything for ten days to play in the wilderness is a selfish act, and I want to thank the people who made it possible for me, especially my wife and kids, who are so patient with my adventures. Ric really helped make this trip run smoothly by driving us to Yosemite, and also re-supplying us at Red's Meadow and Kearsarge Pass. I also want to thank my mom, who helped so much with the kids, and my brother and business partner, Zak, who held things down while I was away.

I also want to thank Skinfit for providing some great gear for the trip, along with USANA for keeping me healthy enough to complete this adventure.

Finally, I want to thank Paul and Toby for sharing this adventure with me. May our tips gingerly touch, forever.

Thank you for reading.

In God's wildness lies the hope of the world—the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. The galling harness of civilization drops off, and wounds heal ere we are aware.
--John Muir

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