Two hundred and fifty miles on foot in about 19 days may seem a daunting task, but that’s not stopping 24-year-old Graham Harris and 16-year-old Liam Duncan. This Saturday, Aug. 8, Harris and Liam will begin 40 miles south of Mt. Whitney, summit it and then hike the 211-mile John Muir Trail to Yosemite Valley.
The trail is familiar territory to Harris, who completed what’s known as the JMT last summer with his girlfriend of eight years, and Liam’s sister, Maddie Duncan. Liam had joined them for the first three days of the hike and enjoyed it so much that he didn’t hesitate when Harris asked him to join for this time around.
Although this is his first hike of such an extensive nature, and physical and altitude challenges await, Liam encourages his peers to pursue similar adventures “if you can get your parents to say yes,” says Liam, laughing.
Maddie Duncan also wanted to return to the trail. Due to her work schedule, she had to choose between hiking or a trip to Italy with Harris after his return. She chose the latter.
The hiking duo expects rain and thunderstorms on the trip, weather conditions similar to last summer’s. However, the biggest challenge to come may be time restraints. The two intend to hike 75 miles in three days so that they can make good on a reservation they’ve made at a log cabin where Harris and Duncan stayed the previous summer. The cabin has access to hot springs and cooks up breakfast and dinners that Harris describes as incredible.
It may create a physically demanding trek, but Harris expresses no qualms. The promise of homemade meals after days of junk food, energy bars and dehydrated dinners will be worth every last mile.
“It is honestly one of the most transcendent moments I have ever experienced of eating really, really good food after so many days of backpacking,” Harris said.
Fortunately for Liam, years of cross-country at Laguna Beach High School will finally pay off.
As for Harris, he started backpacking in college but it quickly became a favorite activity. He has completed several hikes in California, although none at the caliber of the JMT, he says. However, the Pacific Crest Trail stands at the top of his bucket list. The 2,650-mile Mexico to Canada trail, which includes the JMT section, was introduced to Harris through the book, “Wild,” recommended by a friend.
Harris is not the first to be drawn to the John Muir and Pacific Crest trails by the book, turned into a recent movie. The long, competitive and exhaustive process now necessary to obtain a permit demonstrates its rising popularity. According to Liam, it took six months to obtain a northbound permit.
The popularity of undertaking the hike is not a surprise to those who have experienced it. Liam looks forward to an extended time in nature. “I’m hoping to get back in touch with a more primitive lifestyle and take that back home with me,” he says.
Harris looks forward to sharing a precious experience with Liam. “Liam’s pretty much like a brother to me so I look forward to always having the memories and experiences with him and I know he’ll probably savor that in the same way,” says Graham.
Their trek can be followed on Graham’s blog: www.grahampositive.blogspot.com and Instagram: @placesmypotgoes, which follows Graham’s cooking pot to every breathtakingly scenic view.