A Twisted Obsession With Type II Fun : Why the JMT 2021

So It Begins

I blame Caitlin for all of this. 5 years ago, she gently bullied me into joining her husband, Mike, on a thru-hike in the Eastern Sierras (the ancestral land of the Nüümü people, Pamidu Toiyabe “the place of flowing water”) along with Mike’s college buddy, Joe.

Mike, Joe, Kate. Monosyllabic hiker names only. We’d be too exhausted for more syllables. It made sense to me.

Here’s the deal. When there’s a new outdoor challenge presented to me that sounds insane but also epic, I cannot help myself. I have a twisted obsession with Type II fun, the kind that is recounted with glory and humor afterward, stripped down in your memory of all pain or hardship, censored to just the pure joy of the experience. Fortunately, I’ve found friends who share this condition. Drinking games in my 20s involved signing up for marathons at the end of the night. Group texts circulated about how many people we’d need to get together to get a discount on skydiving. (Just an editorial note from More Grown Kate here: It worked out ok both times, but I don’t advise “discount” anything when it comes to leaping out of an airplane.) Yes, we can go white water rafting and be our own guides, of course! My risk-seeking behavior draws the line at BASE jumping and dating Republicans (I’m not out of control), but it does get me into some fun times.

So Caitlin saw that look of enthusiasm and pushed me to reach out to a guy I’d never met (Joe) to see if he wanted company on the trail, and p.s. Mike and I have never done a trip over three days and also, what gear do we need for this and what the actual f*ck is a bear can?

Meet Mike and Joe

This is Joe (left) and Mike (right).

Joe works at Temple University Library in Philly, where his research expertise comes in handy. He’s also a practiced ultralight backpacker with tons of experience on the PCT. Joe plays drums and enjoys a fine bouillon cube in hot water or a little whiskey at the end of the day. Maybe that goes without saying.

Mike is a Jersey native, an amazingly talented illustrator, video gamer, pizza eater, cat dad, and good human. Mike enjoys crafting decadent trail desserts from Smashmallows (get into it) and PopTarts. I mean, if you’re going to trust some dudes to steer you into the woods for two weeks, wouldn’t you want to go with these bearded legends?

That first trip in 2015 was 171 miles from Kennedy Meadows to Bishop along the PCT. With California’s drought conditions in full effect, my initiation to thru-hiking was sprinkled with the fear of not being able to find water sources. I think I hid the panic pretty well, overpowered by my insistence that I was NOT about to be the girl that was holding everybody back. That trip ended up being a phenomenal experience and it kicked off a yearly adventure for the three of us. Mike and Joe became what my wife calls my “adventure boyfriends” and we were on a roll with trips back to the Sierras, the Collegiate Peaks Loop in CO, and a fantastic ascent of Half Dome.

Half Dome

And Then COVID Happened

And then corona blew everything up and wildfires in CA brought thru hiking to a screeching halt. The three of us did hikes here and there but longingly looked at the PCT forums to see what was possible. On a whim in January 2021, I threw our hat in the ring for the largely coveted John Muir Trail permits. I thought there was no way, given 97 percent of permit applications were denied pre-2020.

As anyone who has applied for that permit will know, the park service emails you every day after you submit with either a rejection or an acceptance. So, it’s like 10 days of the park service sliding into your DMs with the subject line, “DENIED”…until that magical day we got the permit and it was actually happening. We’re about to set out on June 20, 2021, SOBO.

Why I’m Hiking the John Muir Trail

– During the pandemic, I met my screen time quota for millennia to come. Enough!

– It’s my “factory reset” every year, bringing the airhorn of my thoughts down to a gentle hum.

– My dudes! (Mike “Burger” and Joe “Junk Dog”). These guys just look at the world differently and we make a good team, except for all the farting.

– The landscape that the JMT covers is my happy place, covering some of the most incredible places in America (I don’t know, I haven’t seen the entire country yet, but I still stand by that).

– I think we need to get more women and more queer and trans folks out on trail.

– There is something VERY satisfying to my OCD-adjacent brain about dialing in a gear list and it’s delightful to be amongst people who want to spend 30 minutes discussing the virtues of trail runners versus hiking boots.

– Is there anything better than waking up in the mountains, making a cup of coffee, watching the Earth come alive, and knowing that all you have to do that day is put one foot in front of the other?

More updates ahead, but first I have to buy every ramen packet they have at Safeway.

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Comments 4

  • Judith Lowe : Jun 15th

    I love this! 💘 I’m invested in your travels.. please be safe.

    Reply
  • Sam McKee Ralston : Jun 15th

    Very good article (blog), Kate. I look forward to reading more of this 2021 adventure. I don’t think I even need to say it, but have fun! XOXO

    Reply
  • Sarah : Jun 15th

    Ooooooo I get to stalk you while you hike?! Dream come true!!!

    Reply
  • Sam Ralston : Jun 16th

    So excited to read along your journey, Kate. But for real, trail runners or hiking boots?? I’m ready to engage in a 30-minute discussion lmao

    Reply

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