Why I’m Backpacking the John Muir Trail: 5 Antidotes to Quitting

Why do you do the things you do? What motivates you? What do you value? I—like most people—have floated randomly through life for many years without asking these simple questions.

Let’s rewind to 2019.

Exemplified in the hit books Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trials, finding your why is critical to overcoming the challenging situations you’ll encounter on the trail. It’s easy to underestimate the internal power these lists create. Based off advice from author Zach Davis in Pacific Crest Trials, I created my own list before departing on my section hikes of the PCT.

These lists proved invaluable when—on only my second night—I had acute chafing between my thighs and was unable to take a break anywhere due to being constantly harassed by swarms of mosquitoes.

What in the actual hell did I get myself into? I thought as I crawled into my tent that evening.

Backpacking the John Muir Trail

First page in author’s list of whys.

Putting It Into Action

As the mosquitoes made a near-deafening buzz outside my tent, I went to work reviewing my list of whys. The positive internal dialogue that ensued was shocking.

I awoke the next day to rain relentlessly pounding the outside my tent. Thunder and cold rain continued to soak the trail all day. At least there aren’t any mosquitoes, I thought.

We continued walking and passed up our planned campsite. Instead, we decided to pull off 21.5 miles (my longest mileage ever at that point) and warm up with warm comfort food at Elk Lake Lodge. The result was a cozy restaurant, being treated like celebrities from the locals, and meeting the newest member of our trail family.

Leaving in the morning, I reflected on my surroundings—this experience wouldn’t have been possible if I had quit. 

Why I’m Backpacking the John Muir Trail

1. Experience Beauty

I’m the most content whenever I’m surrounded by beautiful things in nature. It’s my church. Realizing that this raw beauty exists in the world of fast cars and asphalt creates a genuine humble feeling.

Walking there makes it even more special!

2. Exceed Potential

To experience fantastic things, you have to put yourself in fantastic places. In other words, you need to break outside your comfort zone.

One thing we all have in common? We’re time poor. To me, time ticking by isn’t depressing—it’s motivating.

Personally, I don’t want there to be any stones left unturned at the end of my life.

3. Live Simply

Returning from extended trips living solely with the items on your back provides fresh perspectives. It’s liberating to know you have the ability to survive without the items society says you need.  Upon returning, I’m exponentially more grateful for modern conveniences such as hot showers, microwaves, and lights.

Backpacking the

4.  Adventure

Maybe I’ll have to deal with marmots chewing on gear or scrambling off a high ridge to avoid a lightning strike, but what else would I be doing right now? Most likely staring at a computer, waiting for time to tick slowly by until Friday rolls around.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m extremely grateful for the safety of our current world. To me, however, truly feeling alive means walking a narrow, dusty path in the wilderness not knowing what’s around the next tree.

5. History

The John Muir Trail has been used by Native Americans for centuries. The Paiute tribe called it “The People’s Trail.” Being an avid history buff, walking in the shoes of those who came before me never ceases to fascinate my imagination.

6. Trail Culture

Experiencing the close-knit company of a trail family and the generosity from trail angels rank extremely high on my list of whys. Almost everyone on trail holds the same values close to their heart: the love of being outdoors, pushing themselves, unplugging, etc. Gone are the strange looks and doubting glances when one talks about hiking goals; in their place come words of encouragement and reassurance.

The first thru-hiker I met was a 68-year-old North Carolinian who thru-hiked the AT at 65 and was currently finishing the PCT. Talk about inspiration! I began to lose track of all the things I learned from him. This man’s love for life on trail was infectious and something I’ll continue to carry with me for the rest of my hiking career.

Why are you backpacking the John Muir Trail? What are some of your reasons for wanting to do a long trail? Let me know down below in the comments!


Thanks for reading! Feel free to follow me on Instagram (@chadahooche_) or on my website (hikertrashnation.com)

Check out my introduction and gear video for The Trek if you’d like to know more!

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Comments 6

  • Mary Lubinski : Mar 15th

    I think I’m extremely proud and a bit jealous of your wonderful outlook on life!! Sounds great to me, God bless you on your travels!! I wish I could’ve been so brave?

    • Chad Lubinski : Mar 17th

      You still can be brave!!!

  • Annemarie : Mar 15th

    I share your reasons and it sounds me like you will have a great journey. That photo is absolutely gorgeous!! My plan is to walk the JMT also, just have to figure out when. I can’t wait to see how your trip goes and enjoy even more fantastic photos.

    • Chad Lubinski : Mar 17th

      Thanks for the comment!! That photo is actually from a free photo website but I thought it fit very well in this post haha. I will be sure to take some akin to that when on the JMT (that’s actually why I upgraded my camera!).

      If you end up doing the JMT, let me know! I’ll be sure to pass on some tips if you’d like 🙂

  • Kathy : Mar 16th

    I think you are very inspiring and I understand your absolute Love for the beauty of nature!! Some people find God in Nature and why not ? He created it and you!! He holds your life in His hands, every breath is His gift!
    He gives each of us a restless heart that can only be satisfied until they rest in Him. He is the keeper and Author of life! I know He will be with you every step and I’m sure there will be times you will feel His Presence!
    You are courageous and deeply loved by Him and all of your family and friends. God Speed to you and God Bless your every step!! We love you chad! So proud of you!
    Glad I’m not your mama it’s nerve wracking enough being your aunt!
    I do Trust in God, to lead and keep you!! Take care, love you chatter bug!

    • Chad Lubinski : Mar 17th

      Thanks for the comment, Kathy! Love you too 🙂


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