Those who have hiked the John Muir Trail know and adore its spectacular scenery, high passes and deep river canyons. Perhaps best of all, backpackers love the sense of adventure and spirit of camaraderie it imparts, which live on in memory long after hikers’ foot blisters have healed.
Ron Erskine, outdoorsman and journalist, captures all the trail’s glory as well as physical and personal hardships in his new book, “Measureless Mountain Days: A Father and Son on the John Muir Trail.”
Erskine and his 18-year-old son Drew hiked the classic 221-mile route that runs down the spine of the Sierra Nevada from Yosemite to the summit of Mt. Whitney over three weeks. Erskine had done the trail before, in addition to countless other wilderness treks both inside the United States and abroad, but their journey was neither easy nor idyllic.
Unseasonably heavy rain and hail pounded the father-and-son team for a dozen days. Bears raided their camp in search of food. Mosquitoes pursued the pair with unusual ferocity. And that was before the brand-new stove broke.
On top of such snafus which are not uncommon on the trail, Ron and Drew also grapple with personal challenges as father and son. Before starting the hike, “we have faced serious, confounding issues,” Erskine wrote. Some of those surfaced as the two hiked together, but the journey also gave the two a chance to grow closer and bond as they experienced fatigue, hunger, anxiety, exhilaration, contentment and joy together.
The adventure brought out the best in both of them.
“Drew handled a sometimes pouting father and the challenges of the trip with maturity and grace,” Erskine wrote of his son.
And the father? “For me, in a life that has been blessed, my time with Drew on the John Muir Trail is my fondest moment,” he wrote. “Someday, when I am bedridden, hooked up to countless tubes and machines, and the last grains of sand are slipping through my hourglass, I know I will have this memory, and I will be smiling.”
Outdoor Writers of California named “Measureless Mountain Days” its book of the year, and honored Erskine as writer of the year. Both the author and his Amazon Kindle ebook deserve the honors for sharing a unique story from a national treasure and inspiring others to discover it for themselves.