The John Muir Trail

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Here are my tips:

+ LOTS OF SALTY CHIPS. There is no such thing as too many fridos. But seriously, make sure you bring a mix of sweet and salty snacks.

+ Don’t take full zero days (days where you spend zero percent of the day hiking). Take half days. It’s more satisfying (food always tastes better after you’ve hiked 6-8 miles). And more importantly, it also helps keep you in the zen mindset.

+ If solo, bring audiobooks. If with another person, bring audiobooks (it’s an excuse not to talk, a new conversation topic, …).

+ Bring a camera. I brought my iPhone and I wish I had brought a nicer one (annoying to admit since my dad kept offering his high-quality low-weight one). Photos remember what happened so when you forgot, you can unforget. And moreover, photos allow you to reflect and research has shown that reflection of difficult, impressive times in your life gives you a sense of pride and happiness.

+ Do side trips. I did half dome and clouds rest. I understand not everyone has the time, but if you do, take your time. I only regret not doing more. Side trips are usually beautiful and make for great conversation with other packers.

+ Camp in isolation a couple times. When you are alone at a campsite, there are many fun things afforded to you like meditating without the fear of interruption, singing so loudly you know you must be off tune, and running around camp naked (to name a few).

+ Be friendly. Be willing to adjust your itinerary when you meet brilliant people…you don’t ever regret it. Even if it’s something that feels unnatural to you and you think you’ll come across as creepy and/or awkward, know people on nature hikes tend to be warm and unassuming. Lines like “Where are you from?” or “How are you doing?” or “Do you know where we are right now?” are easy ways to start a conversation. Be curious and don’t prematurely judge boasters or complainers or people-with-that-pet-peeve-of-yours. I guarantee you’ll find some human gems. I met teachers and 80 year olds and cameramen and similarly idealistic college grads and a man who wouldn’t let chemotherapy dictate his life.

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