It first came to me on a plane to India. I watched "WILD” and like most of the girls who did so, I felt that I too wanted to spend several weeks stimulated only by nature and its challenges, surrounded by mountains and trees. The Pacific Crest Trail became a dream.
But California sounded like another planet to me at that time. Even though I had traveled to India several times already, I felt like Asia was so familiar while the US was unimaginable. A couple of years later, I didn’t need to imagine it anymore, as by chain of coincidences I was on my way to California. And when I started to explore my new neighborhood I was amazed by its nature and omnipresent sense of freedom.
I went to REI and grabbed Cheryl’s novel and a PCT data book… I was reading, dreaming and planning. I couldn’t resist. Realistically I knew I wouldn't be able to hike the whole trail straight away. I was away from my boyfriend for at least two months every two months, I kind of felt that telling him that I would disappear for 6 months wouldn’t be a good idea. I was always a fan of John Muir’s wisdom and while escaping to nature in California, I was meeting his influence in every place that was leaving me speechless. Digging more into his work and backpacking inspirations, I learned about the John Muir Trail. And that was it, I knew it straight away. A trail that stretches out between Mt Whitney and Yosemite Valley, in where I was going to climb later on that summer. I just loved the idea.
I didn’t need to think much about company. I knew Erica from India - we have the same yoga teacher, we always spend lovely time together and when I came to Cali, she was the one who was teaching me Bay Area slang and staring at sunsets over SF with me.
She’s this kind of girl who comes unexpectedly at 6 am to my yoga class, with sparkling eyes and mat full of dust as she just came from a 2 weeks long trip around woods and national parks. She also joined me and my boyfriend for amazing three weeks of climbing in Yosemite, we shared climbing routes, lovely dinners and meadows for our yoga practice.
We reached out to Odlo, marked summer 2017 in our calendars, started gathering the essential information, books, maps and apps. And honestly, we are learning as we do it. All is so new and unfamiliar, yet so exciting.
Applying for the trail permit and waiting for it was the most stressful time. Every evening we would receive a "DENIAL” email. After 3 weeks of unsuccessful lottery tries, we applied for a northbound permit (NOBO), which means starting from Whitney and hiking North rather than from Yosemite and hiking South. It's less conventional, and requires a gnarly ascent right off the bat up California's tallest peak (11th tallest in the US, 24th tallest in ALL of North America!). Not surprisingly we're both up for the challenge.
By now we have almost managed to acquire all the gear we need. We are discussing food ideas. And beverages…It goes like:
Erica: This may be off topic but - are we going to drink coffee on the trail?!
Or toss the weight and wean ourselves off?!
Justyna: Ok, let’s make it clear. Lots of coffee. And lots of whisky.
Erica: Haha, yes! Coffee &whisky. Total wellness. I love you!
What concerns me most now is how the hell we can carry all we need and resist taking things that we think we need or we know we’ll be craving for. Thank Gods for all the blogs!
Erica and I have totally opposite schedules now, because of time difference. When I start the day, Erica is about to sleep, and when she is awake, I hardly think. She hikes by the Pacific Ocean and I try to get in shape while hiking in Swiss Alps. I often work abroad and just in time, I got offered the teaching job in Switzerland. Perfect place in spring time to get ready for this summer challenge.
I spent the first three months of the year in Mysore, India studying with Paramguru Sharath Jois. Each day I would wake at 2 am, bathe, suck down coffee, and arrive to the shala (yoga school) at 3:30. For a couple of sweaty hours I'd jump and hop and stand on my hands and stick my leg behind my head - sometimes all at once.
By the time I left India I was in fighting yoga shape, but my hiking legs were practically jelly. I arrived back to the US on April 1st, and landed with a whole suitcase of uncertainty - I had no apartment and no job tying me to any one place. I traveled for 6 weeks, practicing yoga in nooks of friends' homes, on a plot of de-rocked earth at the base of a tree, or anywhere else I could squeeze my mat. Finally, in mid-May, I landed in Los Angeles. Or rather, my belongings did.
I stacked my boxes of belongings in my new garage, and drove up the coast to Morro Bay, where I'm teaching Mysore for a friend who is away on her honeymoon.
With 3 months until Justyna and I set out on the John Muir Trail, I feel like I have my work cut out for me. When Justy messaged that she was in the Alps taking a daylong hike, I knew it was time to get my butt back on the trail. So, in this tiny seaside town, my official JMT training has begun.
That first day I hiked a few pathetic miles, scrambled up some poison-oak littered boulders to get a better view, and was so tired I nearly toppled back down the mountain. But the rush of making it to the peak, the brisk sea salty air in my lungs, the fields peppered with familiar wildflowers - it kicked me back into gear! I'm starting out slow with oceanside runs, and a few hikes to local mountaintops here on the California Central Coast. I'm breaking in my hiking boots gently and creatively, and taking advantage of summertime store sales to acquire a few essential camping components.
These days my alarm goes off at 5am. I hit the snooze until 5:08 when I put the kettle on, bathe, sip tea, and sit in meditation before teaching from 6-9. I squeeze in a jog along the coastline, or begin up a mountain peak, before sitting down to a meal, and then my computer. I spend my days writing curriculum for a non-profit organization, bringing trauma-informed yoga to incarcerated and marginalized teenage girls. I'm also building a new yoga school with my partner in Los Angeles, which requires a lot of attention and care as we nurse it to life. By 4pm the sun is out here on the foggy coast, and I lay my mat down in a pool of sunshine to do my own practice. As I finish the fog is rolling back in and I can set out for a quick run to the sea. Then I rinse, lather and repeat. My spirit is starting to soar with the rush of it all!