Andy Hawbaker is Sierra Trading Post’s blogger, and as part of that work, he’s taking on an incredible challenge. He’ll be writing about an epic backpacking trip on the John Muir Trail. He and Sierra Trading Post videotographer, Chris Martin, join independent vlogger John Charlson and bloggers Paul Osborn and Adam Nutting on Saturday, July 13. The social media duo was asked to join this trek through the Sierra Nevada mountain range of Central California months ago. On the trip, they’ll pass through Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia national parks. They estimate spending about 13 days traversing the 200-mile trail, averaging more than 15 miles each day … and at altitude!
Have you ever done a trip like this before? If so, where? When? How long was that trek?
No. Honestly, I’ve never done anything like this before. I am really into long day hikes and full-day mountaineering trips that may include over 15 miles of hiking and a great deal of elevation gain, but rarely do I ever get up and do it again the next day. I’ve done a few trips that involve backpacking in and setting up camp in order to climb a peak the next day and I’ve done a couple two-night backpacking trips with friends where we were mostly just hanging out. Hiking 200 miles in less than two weeks is new territory for me.
How have you prepared for this journey? Have you started training with a loaded pack?
With a full-time job, two kids and my wife’s business that requires some of my attention, finding time to train is difficult. I’ve committed to squeezing in one 8- to 10-mile hike each weekend as well as one 5- to 6-mile hike one evening after work. In addition to that, I’m running 4 to 5 miles on two additional evenings each week in an effort to get into shape. I haven’t been carrying a lot of weight yet. I’ve always been all about keeping it light and easy for day hikes so it’s hard for me to carry things I won’t need. I’m slowly easing into it and will start carrying heavier loads in the coming weeks. I’ve blogged about my training progress so far, and Chris put together a video for that post.
Aside from hiking, what else have you done to prepare your mind and body for this trip?
I’ve been reading a lot about the trail, researching backpacking meals and just thinking about it all of the time. Beyond that I guess I’ll have to be flexible and see what happens.
Can you tell me a little about your work with this trail crew? How did you meet them?
Besides Chris, who I work with on a daily basis, I’ve never met these guys in person. The cool thing is that my first week working at Sierra Trading Post, I met Paul and Adam. They were both active with comments on the Sierra Social Hub and through Twitter. I eventually followed them on my personal account and got to know them by swapping stories about the outdoors. I remember Paul asking me to join him on the John Muir Trail. I said no. I figured there was no way I’d be able to do it. As time went on, he asked again so I thought about it and decided to figure out how to do it.
What’s the thing you’re most looking forward to on this trip?
I’m looking forward to the adventure. I’m ready to step away from my day-to-day life to truly live in the moment for two whole weeks. This is an opportunity that most people never will get to experience. Also, I’ve never spent any time in the Sierra Nevada Range, and I think I’m just going to love the scenery on the trail.
What’s the thing you’re most nervous about today?
I’m a little worried about food. It’s going to be hard to eat enough calories each day to stay energized, and we are limited in the space we have for food since we are required to carry bear canisters. With scheduling food drops, preparing the meals way in advance and making sure I have enough food, not to mention fuel for the stove, there’s a lot to think about.
To some people, a trip like this sounds like a huge undertaking, and I know you’ve experienced some anxiety about this trip. That’s natural, of course. How have you kept yourself motivated to train?
This is truly a dream trip for me. I’ve always wanted to do something like this. While it is a stretch beyond my comfort zone, and it requires a lot of planning and training, I know it is going to be a lot of fun and I’ll be telling stories about this for many years. It’s easy to stay motivated when the end prize is a trip of a lifetime. If I’m not prepared it won’t be as much fun. That’s all the motivation I need.
What kind of content can we look forward to during and after your trip?
We’ll be sending photos and quick stories back as often as we can while on the trail. After the trip, we’ll share a lot of helpful tips about the trail, about the gear we used and hopefully we’ll have some fun stories to share. Ultimately, we want to share our experiences – good and bad – to help our viewers, readers, customers, friends and family find their way to the outdoors and incredible adventures.
I think you’re looking forward to it as much as we are, Andy! Good luck!