Total Miles: 3,062.7
Weinheim, Germany – November 29, 2016
It’s been over ten years since I saw that stack of maps, but there they were in my hands again like old friends. I thumbed through them, following the John Muir Trail, the JMT, as it passed familiar names like Thousand Island Lake, Evolution Valley, Red’s Meadow, Forester Pass, and Mount Whitney. My eyes glowed looking at them. I started to say something and Kerstin handed me a pen.
“Write it on the map,” she said. “So we won’t forget.”
I scribbled a few notes here and there. A campsite I remember. A beautiful spot. A rocky ledge big enough for a tent.
I never thought to find the JMT in Weinheim’s old streets. Wood-framed houses built before Columbus, the ruins of a castle overlooking the town, narrow and twisted medieval alleys, yes, but not the JMT.
“You want to take your time when you go,” I said. “It’s a beautiful trail, don’t rush it.”
She asked how long it took me and I stopped to remember.
“I think it was sixteen days,” I said. “I went with an ex-girlfriend of mine, but we could have used more days. We broke up three times along the trail before we finished.”
It was faster the second time, in the midst of the PCT, with legs 700 miles strong. I remember images of the first trip flickering back as I passed them the second time.
“Probably for the best that that didn’t work out,” I think to myself.
I flip through the maps again. So many memories. That perfect campsite. That flat bit in the scree of a pass just big enough to sleep on for sunrise. The night sky filled with stars.
I look up at Kerstin and Walter, my eyes still glowing, my mind only half in their kitchen, the rest of me lost somewhere in the Sierras. I want them to see it. I want them to go and see it all.
I scribble another note on the maps and smile as the ink dries, as I try and pull those moments from my past and place them in my friends’ future. I imagine them there someday, standing amidst all that beauty and finally understanding why I am smiling like a madman in their kitchen.