Strong legs and happy hearts

It’s June eighteenth. Day 10 on the John Muir Trail. We hike down Muir Pass. Yesterday we camped at Mc Clure Meadow, watched the setting sun color the mountains in red, orange and pink. A group of deer grazing just a few meters away. Perfect!
The downclimb of Muir Pass southbound is the way I remember it… a bitch… beautiful but still… A bitch. I told you so I say to HQ. Ya but I didn’t expect thís he replies. We curse while we stumble our way down… It’s cursing with a smile on our faces. We’ve gotten fast though. I’m almost twice as fast as when I hiked the same path two years ago. Does it matter? I guess not. My ego do is kinda pleased. My hips are not. They don’t like the Sierra. They hurt. So instead of going fast I try to be disciplined in going slow. I’m not too good at it. Society has thaught me differently. Time is money, fast is good, higher, better, more more more. Maybe we should start learning and teaching ‘going slow’. Wouldn’t that be the best thing to teach our kids? To slow down, to see, to smell, to breath, to hear, to listen to the voices of their heart? It’s not easy in times like these. But it’s important. I think it’s a key to happiness (just like gratitude)!
We have seen a lot of unhappy PCT-hiker faces lately. Grumpy faces hiding behind growing beards… rushing by… running from A to B… from somewhere to nowhere… from lost till found?
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Catwoman – The story of my trailname

O nooooo… not again!!! I hear you I hear you! I won’t go through the mountain lion story again. I’ve written enough about it. It’s time to move on. Except for the part that my trailname CATWOMAN results out of it.
I love my trailname. It’s who I am. I couldn’t think of a name suiting me better and it always feels kinda strange to me when someone contacts me and calls me by my other name.
Some of my readers might not be familiar with the trailname tradition so let me explain it a bit. I actually don’t know the official rules… As far as I know there are several “rules” (or whatever you wanna call them), but I guess you can’t call them “official”.
So… There’s a tradition in the hiker scene that a hiker gets a trailname somewhere sometime along the trail. The way I see it that name should result out of a situation on trail (maybe something that happened to you, something funny or stupid you did), out of the way you behave, react, something that defines you. Now some “rules” say you can’t choose your own name and you are not allowed to refuse a name given to you. Some say you gotta stick with that name; once you get it you can’t change it. Some say the opposite… I don’t really care what the rules are here but I do think it’s awesome when a trailname results from a situation/your characteristics on trail, and when you get named by someone else.
Getting a trailname feels a bit like a “welcome to the community”-thing. You now are a real hiker. “From now on thou shall be named xxx and thou shall dwell in the temples of nature!”

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Trailmelancholy

Three days ago I suffered from an acute case of trailmelancholy and trailfamily longing. It just came over me when I started preparing my PCT journal, drawing the route of the PCT on to the cover page. I had done the same thing with my JMT journal two years ago.
So three days ago I took out my JMT journal to compare and then…. BAMN… DAMN…I made a mistake. I opened my journal and I started reading. From beginning to end. I was laughing and fighting back my tears at the same time.
I came to the last page of my journal and found an entry I couldn’t recall publishing here on my blog. First I didn’t understand why I hadn’t published it, but then I read it through and I understood. By the time I published my last traildays here on my blog it was december 2013. 3 months after finishing my JMT thruhike. I was still hurting like shit. Missing my people like shit. And trying to build a new life here in Germany.
We’re one year later now. Time o time it doesn’t heal but it makes the feelings less intense.
So this was my last entry in my JMT journal:

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The night with ‘my’ mountain lion

One year ago something happened that changed my life. Something that I think of every day. Something that I carry around in my body, my mind and my soul. I’m sure not all people would give it that much of a meaning. I didn’t really choose to do so, it chose me. It’s a part of me whereever I go and whatever I do.
One year ago I was given a second birthday. At least that is what it felt like when Gordon and Dave came down from Sunrise Mountain and found me just before they crossed Sunrise Creek on their way down to the Clouds Rest junction. They gave the word “trail angel” a meaning far beyond the normal meaning all thruhikers come to enjoy. They saved me from what I thought was gonna keep me caged forever and what I thought was gonna kill me.
One year ago I spent 13 hours with a mountain lion. I started calling him or her “my mountain lion”. But really he or she ain’t mine. “I’m his or her” would suit more but I guess that’s not how it is either. The mountain lion was absolutely beautiful. I was inside my tarptent, he or she right outside. Yet as the hours passed by -and I can tell you, they never passed by more slow than they did that night- in my mind my tent gradually became my coffin.

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Loveletter to a thruhiker

I was just talking to a hikertrash friend when we started chatting about how beautiful thruhikers are. That’s when the idea came to my mind to write a loveletter to a thruhiker. No it’s not just dedicated to one particular thruhiker, it is written to all thruhikers, the ones that hiked in the past, the lucky bastards that are rocking the trails right now and the ones in the future. Now this might be a bit cheesy, but hell, I don’t give a fuck, you know that ;cP

Here’s to all of you thruhikers, men and women: MY LOVELETTER TO YOU:

Thruhiker,

How beautiful you are. Your wild eyes, your dust-covered body and your heart thirsty for freedom. Your feet leaving your tracks on the trails around this world. They’re scarred but strong. They take you where your heart wants to go. No one knows exactly where you’ve been and no one knows exactly where you’ll go. But you go baby, o you go! Sometimes you’re fast like a wolf, concentrated, head down to the trail, still fully aware. Sometimes you’re slow like a turtle, stopping every second step to drink the wild air, still never losing a race. 

Look at your hair, it’s all tangled up and sticky and dusty, but the sun makes it shine like gold. 
Look at your face, it’s weathered like a tree shaped by the wind. The lines and the wrinkles tell the story of the places you’ve been, of the people you’ve met and the battles you’ve won. 
Look at your hands, colored with dirt, they’re both empty and full, they receive and they give, they hold a whole world. 
Look at your mind, it’s wide open, it’s searching and finding at the same time. 
O and your heart, have you looked into it? It’s thirsty, growing bigger and stronger with each mile you go, beating like crazy, wild and untamed. 

How real you are. How the trail stripped you down to the core of your being. Dirty and smelly but honest and real. Thruhiker, meeting you, one gets what one sees, that’s for sure. The smell of sweat and a dirty hug, yet also shiny eyes so alive, expressing joy and wonder and revealing all your wild dreams, all the steps you took in life.

How strong you are. Getting up every morning, deciding it’s a perfect day to live your dream and by doing that, maybe disappointing others, not following the given paths in life, doing your own thing, getting away from it all (O we both know you’re not running away from it all, you’re diving right into it). You should know that even those who would want you to do things differently, still secretly admire you. You inspire your enemies and your friends. You inspire the people that cross your path. You are brave enough to live what many people dream of.

How wild you are. Human still, but getting closer to where we all come from. How the trail blurs the dividing line between you and the earth, between you and the trees, between you and the wind, between you and the wildlife. You’ve become wildlife yourself now, you’ve become the earth and the trees and the wind that tangles up your hair. 

How crazy you are. Absolutely mad. The kind of madness to fall in love with. Laughing and joking and turning the world upside down. How I love the way you do that. Making fun of life, not giving a fuck, and still loving it more deeply and fiercely most people could ever imagine..

O Thruhiker, how beautiful you are. Your wild eyes, your dust-covered body and your heart thirsty for freedom!

Cat 

PS: You are my hero!!!

 

168 Reasons to hike the John Muir Trail

Soooooooo: Why would you wanna hike the JMT? O dear, there are tons of people who could come up with tons of reasons why not to!

But NO NO NO… that ain’t the way we roll right? Always be confident and positive (that you oughta know since you read my last post…. Haven’t read it yet? Total shame!!!)! Hell there are hundreds of reasons to hike the John Muir Trail, 168 to be exact! One reason for each day between the moment you apply for your wilderness permit and the day you’re about to set your first foot on the trail!

So here we go: 168 REASONS TO HIKE THE JOHN MUIR TRAIL:
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About to hit the JMT?

Allrighty folks… Hiking season is open! Those lucky PCT bastards are hitting the trail, taking pics at the monument in Campo, working their way thru the desert…

Na a don’t worry, we JMT wussies still have a bit of time to prepare. Allright allright… of course we are no wussies, WE’RE ABOUT TO ROCK THE SIERRA. Well actually, not “we”… “YOU” are! I’m stuck in Europe, so “you” are gonna have to do it! Climb your way out of the valley, or worse (well that actually depends on how you see it), climb Whitney on day 1! O man! How jealous I am of all of you, whether you’re about to embark on a journey of thousands of miles or may it just be a few hundred through the magnificent Sierra! You damn lucky merican hikers, YOU’RE ALL GONNA HAVE A HIKE OF A LIFETIME!!!

As I am not qualified YET to give you any advice on hiking badass trails like the PCT or CDT, I’ll have to stick with the JMT. For now my ego is fine with that ;c) After all one must say: The John Muir Trail is ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS AMAZING BREATHTAKING MOTHERFUCKING GREAT! Yet it really ain’t about the name or the trail or whatever. It’s about nature, about wilderness, about the delicate beauty of the tiniest plant, about the majesty of those granite walls, and about everything inbetween. It’s about the soft yellow light that hits your eye first thing in the morning, about the smell of cedar trees when you hike down from Sallie Keyes Lakes (or towards SKL if you’re a northbounder), it’s about the view that makes your body freeze when you see Center Peak and the mountains around, it’s about being a part of it all when you sit down in Mc’Clure Meadow, watch the sun set and you feel so grateful that you are right there on that one spot in the middle of all that beauty!!! O you know… it’s about soooo much more than just “a trail”!
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JMT 2013 – complete gear review

Aaaaah!!! Is this it? My last post about the JMT before I start preparing the Te Araroa Trail, the PCT and some smaller hikes across Europe? Jee… not sure… It’s so DAMN hard to let go… O I know there is so much to look forward to and I consider myself being one of the luckiest persons on earth… I guess I’ll always find myself inbetween trail melancholy and trail excitement… except if I’m on a trail… then I am trail happiness haha :c)

Anyway, considering the title it ain’t hard to guess what this post is about: IT’S ABOUT GEAR. Again! DAMN RIGHT! (Guess I’m a gear junkie after all… whoops) In one of my last posts I wrote about my favorites and my ..eh yeah… not-favorites. This time it’s all about the details. Now don’t expect me to be all technical and rational (na-a that’s just not me ;c)… I’m gonna do this the womad-way ;c)
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JMT Journaling

During my JMT Thru-hike I did a bit of water colors in my journal… Nothing fancy, but just for the fun of it. I am no Kolby Kirk (check his journals, he is absolutely AMAZING!), that’s for sure… But I enjoyed painting so much (even when I’m not too good at it… who cares ;c) when I had a longer lunchbreak or I got to camp early… That wasn’t all too often, but still…. When I’m hiking the PCT I’m definitely taking my mini water color set along!

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My top 3 gear items on the JMT

Am I a gear junkie? Yes… No… Maybe…
Fact is: I love nice lightweight gear. Fact is too: The lightest gear is the gear you don’t bring. The JMT was my introduction to lightweight backpacking. I think I did fairly well, though there certainly is a lot of room for improvement. My backpack weighed about 26 lb (13kg) at it’s heaviest (leaving MTR with 9 days worth of food)… That didn’t feel toooo comfortable, so for my PCT thruhike I’m definitely gonna make some changes.

Here is my top 3:

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