An Ambulatory Retreat: Hiking The John Muir Trail

My blog has been quiet these past couple of weeks, as I’ve been busy hiking the John Muir Trail (JMT). I’d like to spend a few posts sharing my latest adventure with you. These vignettes will, hopefully, inspire you to continue preparing for your own travel adventures.

During a recent hike with like-minded local chapter members of American Pilgrims on the Camino, I first overheard the term ambulatory retreat used to describe walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. An ambulatory retreat, in my mind, can be any trek out in nature. It is a restorative trek, a healing one. I don’t remember the woman’s name who used the term, or I’d give her credit, but perhaps she, too, had heard it elsewhere. Either way, I am quite fond of the term and its intended meaning.

Members of the local chapter of American Pilgrims on the Camino, Muir Woods National Monument. Photo credit: Brien Crothers

Members of the local chapter of American Pilgrims on the Camino, Muir Woods National Monument. Photo credit: Brien Crothers

Anytime I can get out there and explore, walk a trail in natural beauty, or meet and converse with others who have a similar agenda, I consider myself on retreat. It’s not a silent retreat in a mountain cave pondering the meaning of the Universe, but it’s being out on the trail, walking along, taking in the sights and sounds of nature, and basking in the energy of others before me. In this kind of retreat, I feel all the more connected with . . . well, everything.

During the summer of 2015, I walked the Camino de Santiago with a longtime friend. This past summer, I hiked the John Muir Trail in my own home state of California, accompanied by another friend for the first few days of my two-week adventure. After that, I was on my own—save for the five- or six-dozen people I met along the way each day.

John Muir Trail hikers coming and going, one of the many passes en route. Photo credit: Brien Crothers

John Muir Trail hikers coming and going, one of the many passes en route. Photo credit: Brien Crothers

An observation I’ve made (I’m getting on my soapbox): In our lives, we are bombarded by commercialism, which convinces us we are not worthy if we don’t look or do as prescribed. We are bombarded by negativity in our objective news. Even our daily entertainment is depressing, with the criminal investigations and blood, guts, and gore of the most popular shows on premium television. I hold that we all need a regular break from these daily realities. Whether it’s an afternoon in the park, a day hike in the hills, or a very long, arduous—what we can call—ambulatory retreat, we all could certainly benefit from spending more time outdoors. (I’m stepping down now.)

Mount Whitney (from the west), as seen from Lower Crabtree Meadow. Photo credit: Brien Crothers

Mount Whitney (from the west), as seen from Lower Crabtree Meadow. Photo credit: Brien Crothers

My most recent adventure was to thru-hike the John Muir Trail at a fairly fast pace, which is normal for me. I completed the official trail (from the summit of Mount Whitney to Yosemite Valley) in less than twelve days. Many JMT thru-hikers plan on taking eighteen to twenty-four days to hike the trail.

I met one woman along the trail who planned on taking more than three weeks to complete the hike. She had reservations at a variety of backwoods resorts where she would rest, shower, and resupply before heading out again. Her approach sounded quite appealing.

I realize that taking off for weeks to complete a long hike in the wilderness may not be your bailiwick, but there is a bit of nature out there for everyone. Find that bit that inspires you, and enjoy it as often as possible.

Be on the lookout for future posts on my JMT trek. Here is a preview of what is to come:

One comment on “An Ambulatory Retreat: Hiking The John Muir Trail”

  1. […] my adventures on the John Muir Trail (JMT), I headed to Europe for another trip of a lifetime. I’d like to spend a few posts sharing about […]

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