How Far to Fun and Inspiration? Mile…Mile and a Half

Disclosure: The DVD distributor for the Muir Project produced documentary “Mile…Mile and a Half” contacted me to watch this film at no cost to myself. My only responsibility was an agreement to complete a review. I was not pressured in any way to make a positive endorsement.

A group of artists leave their daily lives behind to hike the John Muir Trail and bring back their experiences and inspiration. From Yosemite Valley to the highest point in the contiguous US – Mt. Whitney. 219 miles in 25 days.

In an epic snow year in the High Sierras, they leave their daily lives behind in search of new adventures. They seek the thrill of the trail, the challenge of the miles, and the ability to capture the beauty and wonder of the journey itself.

Along the way, they are joined by musicians, painters, teachers and other adventure-seekers. In the midst of the grandeur and daily grind, they discover what matters most is the opportunity to seek adventure wherever and whenever you can.

What began as an adventure to see if this small band of friends could complete the trail, became the need to capture the experience in order to share the trail with others. Their hope is that you will be so inspired by this film, that you take that first step towards your own adventure. Mile…Mile & A Half is the feature-length documentary of that story. Come see how life on the trail shapes the lives of artists and individuals.

 

A Merry Band of Adventurers

 

Happiness! After watching Mile…Mile and a Half I was left with an overwhelming sense of happiness. The friends who took on this daunting task of hiking the 211-mile John Muir Trail and filming a documentary of it to boot, were simply happy people. They were happy before they started. They were happy along the way. And they managed to share that sense of happiness with me as I watched their adventure unfold.

The JMT PRoject Crew

Not always easy to pull off, the sense of togetherness and friendship exhibited by the compatriots who challenged the JMT was genuine and heartfelt. These good friends truly enjoyed being in each others’ company, and sharing the awesomeness of the California wilderness together. It wasn’t forced. It was comfortable and relaxing.

But what makes Mile…Mile and a Half more than just another hiking flick is the professional quality film and sound effort put into the journey. In addition to the stamina required to carry food and other supplies for a 25 day backpack, the filmmakers also carried dozens of pounds of top notch camera and sound equipment to show the gorgeous peaks and valleys, lakes and streams, and emotion of the John Muir Trail.

 

The JMT Isn’t for Everyone

 

You will learn in the first 20 minutes that hiking the John Muir Trail isn’t for everyone. It is hard. It’s more than 50,000 feet of elevation change while carrying 50 pounds or more on your back. And the elevation is high; nearly the entire trail is over 7,000 feet, with most of it above 10,000. It will test your legs and lungs, and test your will. In fact, the crew was reduced by one after only five days because of the exertion required.

It’s nearly a month of living in the wilderness and fending for yourself. If you want a shower at the end of the day forget it. Sure you can jump in a pure alpine lake, but it is cold; darn cold. You will cross roaring torrents that may knock even the strongest among us down, or worse. The snow on the high mountain passes is frigid and slick and endless, and your next step may be your last.

A four-week backpacking trip will test your ability to plan and prepare. There are four resupply points along the 211-mile length of the JMT where you can get more food, or first aid, or climbing accessories. You must make your miles to reach your resupply before you run out. Shoot, before you even start you have to plan what is going to be in the resupply buckets when. It is a logistical challenge.

No, the John Muir Trail isn’t for everyone, but if you are up to the challenge the rewards are immeasurable.

 

The John Muir Trail

 

Imagine waking up to this

The film follows a crew of five great friends from their start at Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley to the top of Mt. Whitney, at 14,505 feet the highest point in the lower 48 states. Along the way they pass through Yosemite National Park, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Devils Postpile National Monument, John Muir Wilderness and Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks. The cadre of hikers ebbs and flows as they lose one, gain two, then more… all artists in their own way contributing to the goal of sharing the John Muir Trail with us.

The scenery is simply stunning. The photographers had the dedication to do it right. For the most part the weather cooperated. Of the 25 days spent hiking the trail, only two were truly bad weather days when filming wasn’t possible. On the flip side, they encountered a 200% snow year, so crossing the mountain passes was even more daunting than usual because of the snow pack that remained even in July. The snow, however, contributed to the perspective of the photography.

The JMT also passes bowl after bowl of high alpine lakes, each more beautiful than the previous. Most of their overnight campsites were on the bank of a lake, a truly remarkable joy to wake up to. Whether for an after-hike swim or a crisp refreshing drink for a tired and weary hiker, there isn’t much more revitalizing than an alpine lake.

 

Morning by an Alpine Lake

Morning by an Alpine Lake

 

Did I Tell You This Was Fun?

 

Much of the film is comedy gold. This is a bunch of really funny guys, and they know how to have a good time. From the self-effacing commentary, their encounter with a hungry marmot, to the sheer child-like joy they experienced glissading down the snow pack, these friends are relaxed with each other and in their environment.

They put you at ease immediately. Mile…Mile and a Half is a feel good film. Yes, ultimately the film is documenting the John Muir Trail, but it is also about the people. Great friends, and then eventually even strangers, all bond together in a common goal of experiencing the natural wonder that is the High Sierra. I’m not sure the film works as well as it does if the core group were not already so comfortable together.

As someone who is interested in the how part of getting things done, I enjoyed the occasional brief vignettes where they would show how they setup their equipment. The sounds of frogs chirping in the evening, or a babbling mountain stream were recorded to help me feel like I was there as well. Carrying a time-lapse rail all that way certainly was a burden, but definitely added to the quality of the end result.

 

Sometimes It Is About the Journey

 

Truly Mile…Mile and a Half is. Yes, it’s a journey on the JMT, but it is also a journey of discovery, and camaraderie. It is a journey that tests your will and your limits, and of taking care of one another, and a journey that offers ample time for quiet reflection and profound awe. The John Muir Trail is surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery found anywhere in the world, and the filmmakers have done an admirable job of displaying that.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Like the hikers, I was somewhat sad when they reached their goal at Mt. Whitney, but happy in having shared their experience. I learned what it can be like to hike the John Muir Trail. If I ever decide to tackle the adventure myself, I am better prepared for what to expect. Oh, and I would love to have a copy of that illustrated journal seen in the film. It rocks!

The crew did a nice job of paying respects to John Muir the man, and I am grateful to all involved in the production of Mile…Mile and a Half for helping us to become stewards of his legacy.

Mile…Mile and a Half is available for download or purchase on BluRay or DVD from the Muir Project website, for download on Amazon, or by contacting the distributor Passion River Films. Why not treat yourself with some of that holiday loot you collected?

Here’s one of several trailers you can view on the Muir Project website:

 

 

Disclosure: The DVD distributor for the Muir Project produced documentary “Mile…Mile and a Half” contacted me to watch this film at no cost to myself. My only responsibility was an agreement to complete a review. I was not pressured in any way to make a positive endorsement.

 

This post was created by Jeff Clark. Please feel free to use the sharing icons below, or add your thoughts to the comments. Pack it in, pack it out. Preserve the past. Respect other hikers. Let nature prevail. Leave no trace.

 

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