Monday, October 10, 2011

I Have the Coolest Friends

A while ago, I heard that my friend Katy was in National Geographic magazine. Somehow I never got my hands on a copy and I didn't have any luck in my Google search. Then, a few days ago, I got something in the mail from my friend Karen. She sent me an article with this note attached:

Yes!!! I thought, this must be the article with the photo of Katy! I immediately flipped through the pages, searching for her beautiful face when, finally, there she was:

Okay, so if there ever was a person in my life who would show up in a National Geographic magazine article, it would be Katy. An avid hiker and outdoors-woman, Katy is incredibly open, friendly and talkative, which (I can imagine) is part of the reason we find her in this article. Not only am I thrilled to see the wonderful picture of Katy, but the actual article is amazing!

Star Trek: Yosemite to the Moon is written by James Vlahos, who hiked the John Muir Trail by moonlight. The John Muir Trail spans from Yosemite National Park all the way down to Sequoia National Park. Either way you do it, you begin at either Half Dome (in Yosemite) or Mount Whitney (in Sequoia). For 215 miles, not letting the night stop him, Vlahos braved the three national parks and four wilderness areas in the dark—with only the moon, the stars and a headlamp to guide him. Articles like this always make me wonder: can I do that?

He writes of Island Pass (a route in California's High Sierra): "The trail is well loved—too well loved, if you value unbroken solitude in the wilderness. But almost nobody sees Island Pass like this, when scenery that's merely pretty during the day becomes downright magical at night."

He goes on to describe his mission: "I've made moonlit hikes before, out-and-back walks of only a few miles. Those jaunts were so memorable that I was inspired this past summer to tackle the entire JMT that way. My plan was to sync my movements to the rise and set of the moon, which would typically encompass late afternoon, dusk, and several hours of moonlit night."

Can you even imagine? He writes of the sensation of being alone on the trail at night: "Nobody else in the world will see what I will tonight." He goes on: "The moon will be my companion on a long overnight hike, just as it once was for Muir."

A modern John Muir, it appears. This is where the trail begins (if you chose to go north to south), at the base of Yosemite's beloved Half Dome. I remember last November, while camping in Yosemite, I saw signs for the JMT. It was hard not to hop on that trail and go onward. But obviously it takes more planning than a simple urge.

But maybe the urge is what we should follow. That simple push that takes us where we really want to be. Once you've decided that, YES, this is where I want to go, then the planning and organizing shouldn't be too difficult. Right?

This article is fascinating. Vlahos goes to bed at 6 p.m. only to wake at midnight, getting back on the trail. As much as I would LOVE to do that, I can't help thinking: wouldn't it be scary!? To be alone, at night, in the wild, with bears!? Then, my mind shifts (thinking of Vlahos). Maybe everything's worth this sensation that he describes: "The takeaway fom my own after-hours quest is that wilderness is not a place you go but a feeling you seek—electric, aware, beyond yourself, alive.

Beyond myself, huh? Well, in that case, I guess I don't have to worry anymore about whether or not I'll make it to the JMT. I'll find myself there someday and I'll know it when I'm there. Not because of the map, or the arrangement of the stars, the moon or the sun. It'll be the feeling that I feel. That's when I'll know I made it there.

Speaking of making it there, my friends Karen and Dom hiked the trail this past summer!

Looks like they got to see that magic moonlight that Vlahos talks about:

Karen and Dom? National Geographic? You're SO next!

Obviously I wasn't there to hike with them, but from these photos I can tell that the feeling was in the air. Electric, aware, beyond yourself, alive.

Magazine photos taken by Dmitri Alexander. Last 3 JMT photos taken by Karen and Dom.


  1. Amazing! This experience would be electric! And unforgettable. Sometimes we just have to push ourselves. So glad you shared this! Very inspiring.

  2. Yes!!! Join us for that section next summer!!!!

  3. I. Am. SO. Honored. To. Have. Made. This. Blog... and i love you oodles! xoxo

  4. The only thing more incredible than the wild, wild wilderness is the long-lived adventurousness of the Bates Outing Club. Katy, John, Karen, and Dom: you're all inspirations! Yeah, Bates!

  5. oh my dear, Megan. there is sooooo much to love here. Maybe it IS the urge we should follow. Your writing is so thoughtful and seeking. I love it.

    alsooo, in related news, I caught Matt gasping at 60 minutes last week and I curiously entered the living room to see what had caused it and was completely taken by this fascinating story on this free climber. FREE climber. as in, he climbs WITH NO ROPES! it was insane. check it out if you have some time!! xoxo

  6. I couldn't love this more! Thanks for blogging about it!

  7. There's something very magical about hiking a well-known trail. I hiked the Macchu Picchu trail with a Peruvian girlfriend about 10 years ago. We did it alone - 6 days, 5 nights. It was a life-altering experience.
    I would love to do the John Muir trail, going to look into it. Thanks for the great and inspiring post.