Total Miles: 210.8
A guest post by Ace
As with most evenings on this trail, I am cozy in my hammock before 8:00pm. Sweet Pea would be proud. This is the second time I’m doing this hike (the first time was in 2015). And with each passing mile, I can’t help but think how little has changed and how much has changed, all at the same time.
In 2015, the JMT was the longest backpacking trip I had ever been on. Now I have over 4,000 long-distance trail miles to my name. However, this go around, the hike seems harder despite that experience. I blame that on age, not being in shape, and my overall familiarity with the terrain.
When we started to prepare for this hike, I was excited, just as I am for all the trails we do. But I was a bit apprehensive too. Would this trail live up to the nostalgia it holds in my heart? Would I enjoy it as much as I did the first time? Was I ready?
Not only did I not feel in good trail/hiking shape at the start of this hike, I am also seven years older. I’m not as spry as I once was (or still like to think I am), and recovery doesn’t come as quickly as it used to. These were just a few of the thoughts I had running through my mind that I was fearful would alter my overall impression of this hike and my experience this second go-round.
But actually, nothing could be further from the truth. While some of my physical fitness concerns have come true, so have my memories of the trail come to life.
Having hiked this trail before, I vividly remember certain parts of the trail, while conveniently omitting others. In several places on the trail, my memory has shortened some sections. For example, the entire hike down from Pinchot Pass. I don’t remember it being that long. I swear you crested the pass and—voila!—you magically appeared at a suspension bridge. Nope. Sorry. You have an 8-mile slog downhill to reach that bridge, that I conveniently erased from my memory. On the flip side, at least I was walking down. I feel terrible for the people who have to hike up it.
On several other occasions, I’ve remembered an obscure experience just because I’m hiking in the exact same spot where that experience occurred. This happened as we were hiking down Selden Pass. Out of nowhere, I had a memory of hiking along a trail with water on my left and nice, woodsy pines on my right. Lo and behold, we turn a corner and there is this peninsula of land, with a trail hugging its shore. It was my memory, live and in the flesh. However, up until that moment, that experience wasn’t even a speck taking up space in my mind.
There are portions of the trail I remember fondly—Donohue Pass and Muir Pass, to name only two—that have proven to still be my favorite parts of the trail. While the other parts of the trail I struggled with in 2015, either due to heat, fatigue, or general disinterest in that section of trail, still hold true today (argh, that hike out of Yosemite Valley is tough!).
But, let’s talk about today. Today, we hiked over Glen Pass. Total elevation: 11,957 feet.
I remember the last time we hiked Glen Pass. It was Mountain Man’s birthday. It was an “easy” ascent. Rocky, much like many of the other passes. The main difference was the narrow shoulder that serves as the pass, unlike the others which tend to be more broad.
My memory of that day was in full bloom today as we hiked up the pass again. Only this time it wasn’t Mountain Man’s birthday, and the ease with which I recall bounding up the pass in 2015 also wasn’t to be found. But everything else was the same.
That is a recurring theme of this hike. Though I have changed, gained more hiking experience, and aged, the trail in all its rugged beauty has not, and neither have my memories. For the most part, those all still hold true.
And, in two days time, I’ll finish this second hike of the JMT as elated as the first, and oh so grateful I can still be out here enjoying it! Here’s hoping I’ll be here in another seven years, if not sooner.