Day 10: Zero day at Vermillion Valley Resort
What we chose to do on our zero day (zero hiking miles, zero minutes with backpacks and boots on, zero effort day) was journal, read, repair shoes and water bags (2 were leaking now!), and chat with the constant stream of JMTers that randomly appeared throughout the day.
We had lunch today with a 73-year-old man, nicknamed KiwiYellowshirt, who spoke with a New Zealand accent of all the peaks he’s climbed and trips he’s taken. His skin was tan and weathered from the obvious time this man had lived outside. His hands were strong and his legs were sturdy. Stories of near death moments, stubborn peaks to summit, and long traverses spilled out of this man, full of life and ready to go. Six months out from a Titanium knee replacement was not keeping him from the trail. He inspired us!
The hikers we were meeting might be weary, sore, and craving a cold micro brew, but they all have one thing in common: they, like us, cannot resist the trail. Why?
Many questions were asked of us as we moved about the ranch, bumping into travelers and sharing conversation. “How do you motivate your kids to hike out here?” came from a couple who had donned their packs but left their kids at home. That is a question that this book seeks to answer and one I am not totally sure I know the answer to yet.
However, as each day out here passes, the answer gets less murky. Just as contagious as the energy buzz is for adults when hikers congregate in front of this rustic country store to swap stories, victories, and defeats, it seems to be for kids as well. When they can get past the plane work it takes to lug a pack down a trail, they get into the adventure of it as much as adults do. They are propelled to march on from the excitement of turning another corner and seeing more landscape unfold in front of them and the unique ways nature can assist them- whether it be a perfectly shaped sitting rock at lunch, a large shade tree for an afternoon nap, or a cold stream for a refreshing splash in the morning. Kids, like adults, love looking back and seeing how far their own legs have taken them. Nature inspires creativity in a child by requiring their full use of the senses. In nature, a child trades walls in for freedom and fantasy.
With T-shirts, stickers, mugs, and magnets for sale, all declaring the triumphant accomplishment of hiking the JMT, it was today that I realized this JMT dream was part of a historic Pilgrimmage, on a similar importance as the Spanish pilgrimage, Carmen de Santiago. Sometimes the actual reason any of us are out here doing this is because it is here for the doing. Some Pilgrims do it once, some do it every year. Some people, of course, never feel called to do it at all. But the JMT remains for over a hundred years in the past and on into the future, a pilgrammage that exists for any to do. And as it turns out, it is one of the most popular through hikes in America and is considered the most beautiful.