First Journal. First permit. First JMT, 1996 . . . and then some


jmt journalJune 20, 1996

The first entry and I am not even out of the city––my bag is not even packed. This seems like an awesome and scary task. I seem to have lots of weight.

I’ve decided to go the extra mile and send in food. This should cut about twenty-five pounds off.

My overwhelming emotion, so far, is fear. Fear that my thirty-eight year-old body is not in the best condition. Fear that I’ll wreck my legs.

I have loved these legs for so long, but now I feel like they are falling out beneath me and I am only reluctantly heading out to do this trip.

My heart would die if I did not do this though. I need the solitude and yes, I need to challenge myself.

I need this hell, strangely enough to re-energize my soul and prepare me for the next two years of school.

I need to quash this fear. I will make it.


whitney 1966

I did my first backpack trip in 1966. I was all of nine years old and went with little complaint, all the way up Mount Whitney.

I would say it was one of the only things I did with my dad, where we both succeeded and I wasn’t told that it would be too hard, that I wouldn’t make it, so why bother.

My dad was good at this––pretty much convincing me that whatever I wanted to do, it would be hard and I would fail, so why ever bother––just find the easy route––but Whitney, we climbed together.

I have a picture to remind me of our time on the summit, but that’s not what I remember most.

I remember the other father and son we met. The son had gone AWOL from the service and there they were, climbing Whitney.

And as I stood there, shivering and about to be sick from altitude and dad’s cooking, I relished the moment, felt like part of the club, this father and son thing, high on a mountain, together.

Then there was the dehydrated split-pea soup. I can still feel the chalk-like texture of the half cooked peas.

I don’t remember anything else we might have had, except for some salt tablets, but I remember the peas––they kept me up all night––or at least until I got rid of them.

The night before our summit, we were at trail camp and our spot had a rock wall and over that wall, a good drop.

Dad cinched me into the bag, with nothing but a small hole to breathe out of and a good knot to hold it closed.

I don’t know when I began to feel the urge, but my fingers struggled with the knot. I probably should have got my dad up to help me, but instead I thought I’d just do this myself.

I finally did get the knot undone and no sooner did I birth myself out of that bag, sit up and lean over the wall . . . a torrent of split-pea soup and gags, brought me lots of relief and my dad, barely moved.

I felt great.

After our summit we came back down to trail camp to spend another night, but shortly after getting in the bags, dad decided he’d had enough and orders were given to break camp.

I didn’t even have a backpack as far as I remember, but when he was ready to go, he handed me a flashlight and said, see you at the car.

This was the next great moment in my life. My father vanished and all I could do was try to follow him.

I’m sure he told me a few other things, but I don’t remember them. I do remember feeling so very cool.

I walked down the trail, passing camps and people, out, staring at the stars and there I was, suddenly solo and feeling like this was the best thing in the world and I was just so happy to be doing it––to be this young, brave, kid, moving down the trail in the dark, unafraid and all alone.

I think I was hooked, just then, but I was also damn glad to get down to the portal to find my dad, sitting in the car and Lone Pine not too far away.

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