Hiking the 211 mile John Muir Trail is an epic adventure. It’s also one of the great hiking trails that can be experienced without quitting your job and devoting five months of your life. The JMT is an adventure that lies within reach.
I’ve thru-hiked the JMT twice. The first time was in 1980. I was young and fit, and loved every mile. It was the experience of a lifetime. Three decades later — almost to the day — I hiked the JMT once again. I was older, wiser, and while no longer the strapping lad I once was, I still completed the trail three days faster. Another experience of a lifetime.
Sharing the JMT experience is a challenge. When you return from the mountain, you want to share this experience, but words alone cannot express the grandeur. Photos can delight, but they don’t capture the majesty of the soaring crags or the ache in your bones after descending from Silver Pass. How do you share the magnificence of sunrise over Thousand Island Lake? How do you convey the real and perceived highs and lows as you climb over Forester Pass? How can you describe the physical and mental challenges, and the sheer triumphant joy of hiking the John Muir Trail? This is the challenge a team of creative artists took on.
The Muir Project
In October of 2011, I learned about The Muir Project — a group of multi-media artists who undertook their own epic journey on the John Muir Trail. They hiked the JMT that summer — one year after my most recent trip, and had just released the initial trailer. The trailer was amazing, and really brought the memories of my own JMT hikes alive.
Rick, Jen, Jason and the rest of the team took the project to Kickstarter to raise the funding they needed to complete their labor of love. Fellow hikers, already inspired by the trailer, jumped on board and helped them exceed their goal by over $7k, giving them the resources they needed to convert hundreds of hours of video, thousands of photos, music, paintings and memories into something that might actually inspire people to consider hiking the John Muir Trail themselves.
Nearly two years later, the film is finally making its premier at the Hollywood Chinese Theater as part of the Dances with Films independent film festival. And on National Trails Day, no less.
Mile…Mile and a Half
The MMAAH team began their JMT trek in July 2011–a year notable for a 200% snowpack. What does this mean? Twice as much snow as usual. Higher water crossings. A challenging trail, made even more challenging. Which at least in part, led to the film’s name. As in, “How much further ’til we reach camp today?” “Oh, about a mile…mile and a half.”
The film follows the team on their southbound hike, from Yosemite Valley, up and over 10 passes, over 80,000 feet of elevation change, resupply points, meeting friends — both old and new — on the trail, and ultimately reaching the highest point in the contiguous United States — 14,505 feet tall Mt. Whitney.
“People are amazing. That was the biggest impression this experience left on me.” – Hiroshi, a Japanese solo hiker who joined the team for the trek up Mt. Whitney
After both of my JMT hikes, I had a sense of sharing this experience with those who hiked these trails before me, and those who will hike them after. I longed to share the experience. Mile…Mile and a Half gives you a very real sense of what it’s like to hike the John Muir Trail. The film expresses the beauty, the challenge, and the joy of this beautiful trail better than anything short of hiking it yourself.
Mile…Mile and a Half is beautifully filmed, scored and edited. It features fantastic titles illustrated by trail journal extraordinaire Kolby “Condor” Kirk. MMAAH is not a dramatization. It’s the real deal–real people doing something amazing, and sharing the journey. As their story unfolds, you feel like you’re there with them. It grips you, and inspires you.
“You don’t need to go to the Himalayas. You don’t need to climb Mt. Everest or go to the deepest jungles of Africa to find adventure. You can find it in your own backyard.” – Jason Fitzpatrick
You can probably tell, I love this film. I REALLY LOVE this film. Should you see it? Hell yeah! Mile…Mile and a Half is for anyone who loves the outdoors and the beauty of the mountains. It might even inspire you to lace up your boots and hike the JMT as well.
Kudos to Ric, Jason, Jen, Durand and the entire team who made this kick-ass film. Find out how you can see this amazing film at TheMuirProject.com, and follow their latest on Facebook.
Mile…Mile and a Half
Running Time: 87 minutes
Premiere: June 1, 2013