It’s no secret that the John Muir Trail in California is one of the most scenic trails in the US. It runs 211 miles from Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states to Happy Isles in the Yosemite National Park. It’s so popular that sometimes it’s a challenge to even get a permit for it. Many try each year, but come up empty handed. So when me and my buddy Chad “Stick” Poindexter over at Stick’s Blog started talking about attempting a thru-hike of the JMT I was beyond stoked, but understood the challenge of getting the permits.
During the planning stage of our hike I was pretty busy hiking other trails. So Stick took the lead on all the planning and he did a phenomenal job. He also did an article on his blog about the process of abstaining the permits. Here’s a link to the article, JMT Summer 2018 Permits & Plans.
Getting there was almost as much fun as the hike itself. Stick and I decided to make the nearly 2000 mile drive out there. But this gave us some flexibility and allowed us to do a little sightseeing along the way. We caught a sunrise at the Hoover Dam, went to the Badwater Basin the lowest point in the northern hemisphere. It’s located in Death Valley National Park, we spent the night in Mammoth Lakes and Onion Valley Campground so we could acclimate a bit. We were able to park the car in Lone Pine for a fee and we shared a shuttle with a family from Canada up to Horseshoe Meadow where we spent our final night before we officially began our hike.
The Thru-Hike Begins
We began our thru-hike on July 4th 2018 around 7:30 AM PST at the Cottonwoods Lakes Trailhead at Horseshoe Meadows campground. After only hiking 100 yards and trying to shoot introductory video. I could tell I was already getting short of breath. My East Tennessee lungs weren’t use to the 10,000′ elevation yet.
The trail was like nothing I had ever hiked before. I was captivated by all the beauty around me…… well minus Stick of course.. The rugged granite mountains, the clear blue lakes full of golden trout and the tall redwoods were absolutely amazing. I kept thinking this must be what heaven is like… or at least I hope so.
The weather was great. It was in the mid 50s at night and 70s during the day. We had mostly sunny weather the whole time with the daily obligatory passing thunderstorm. The thunderstorms we pretty fierce though. Lots of cloud to ground lightning and lots of pea size hail. Usually I would set my Zpacks Camo Duplex up when it would start raining. I would eat a little snack then take a short nap. Once the storm passed, I’d pack up and push for a few more miles. This was my daily routine that I’d sometimes repeat several times a day. Lightning is a real danger on the JMT.
Special Locations on the JMT
There are locations along the JMT that are more special than other. Locations that make you not ever want to leave them. I came across a few of those on my thru-hike. They were so beautiful and so majestic that I was in complete amazement that those place existed. Here are the locations along the John Muir Trail that were the most beautiful places in my opinion.
And to finish my JMT thru-hike with a sunrise on Half Dome in Yosemite National Park could not have been more amazing. It’s a definitely MUST.
I shot video every single day of my thru-hike. I wanted to capture every thing I could. After all this was my “dream hike”.
I used my GoPro Hero 5 Session to shoot video and my iPhon 8 Plus to shoot stills. The GoPro stability wasn’t great and I destroyed my iPhone just after MTR. So in the end it turned out ok, but next time I go I’ll be using my new Hero 7 and iPhone XS Max.
Here is the link to the JMT NOBO Series on my YouTube channel.
Ramsey Cascades Trail is located just minutes from downtown Gatlinburg, in the Greenbrier area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) on the Tennessee side. This trail has five major things going for it.
(1.) It’s considered the “quieter” side of the Smokies. With it being off the beaten path, most tourists are unaware of its existence. Therefore making this hidden gem less crowded. You still have the day hikers and tourists, but not as bad as Cade’s Cove or Newfound Gap.
(2.) Ramsey Cascades Trail is only 4 miles in length, but plan to hike 8 miles (in and back out). And with an elevation gain of 2,200′, it’s a slight steady climb. The last 3 miles the trail becomes more rugged, but still considered as a moderately difficult hike.
(3.) Ramsey Cascades Trail is home to some of the largest Tulip Popular Trees in the Park. Measured as the largest Tulip Popular trees on the Tennessee side of the Smokies. These majestic trees tower over the surrounding hardwoods. You will find these trees around 3 miles into your hike.
(4.) Ramsey Cascades Trail has a couple unique footlog bridges that make for a beautiful and natural way to cross the stream without looking out of place. These footlog bridges are designed and hand built by park employees. The logs used to make these bridges are recovered from naturally downed trees due to storms or high winds.
(5.) Ramsey Cascades Trail has a destination like no other. Once you get to the end of the 4 mile long trail, you’ll get to one of the most beautiful waterfalls/cascades in the park, Ramsey Cascades. At around 100′ high, Ramsey Cascades is also the tallest waterfall in the park.
Things you should know
When planning your trip, give yourself plenty of time to hike in and hike back out. It takes the typical hiker 5 to 7 hours to hike in and back out to your car. Obviously weather and trail conditions can effect this timing.
Expect to see other hikers. Even though Ramsey Cascades Trail is “off the beaten path”. You will more than likely see day hikers and some tourists. During Spring and Autumn expect to see more people due to the wildflowers and fall colors.
Be sure to wear sturdy footwear and dress appropriately. Weather conditions can change on a moments notice in the Smokies. You can check for weather conditions on the GSMNP Weather website. Current weather forecasts for the park are available by phone at(865) 436-1200 extension 630.
Also check with the GSMNP Temporary Road Closures website during wintery weather since the park does close both main and secondary roads in the park if snow is forecasted. You you can also call (865) 436-1200 to receive updated road conditions and temporary closures.
•Do not attempt to climb to the top of the falls. Several people have been killed trying to do so.
•Pets and bicycles are prohibited on the trail.
•Pets are not allowed on this trail.The only two trails in the park that allow pets are theGatlinburg Trailnear the Sugarlands Visitor Center and theOconaluftee River Trailnear the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Learn more aboutpet restrictionsin the park.
This past summer (2018) I had the incredible opportunity to join my buddies over at Zpacks (an ultralight outdoor gear company) and my good friend Chris Smead of Outmersive Films on a backpacking trip out in Utah. The plan was to not only hike the Uinta Highline Trail in the Uinta Mountains, but to also film it for a documentary.
This wasn’t going to be your normal everyday type of hiking documentary. We were going to take you on a journey. A journey of five friends as they take a 10 day human journey, sharing the stories of each hiker as they explore a historic path with a history that none of them ever really realize. Some of their stories are tragic and some are triumphant. You’ll hear stories that are not only shocking, but also stories of redemption.
Not only did we learn about each other, but also the unique history of the Uinta Mountains and the Uinta Highline Trail. You’ll watch as the ancient history of this fabulously beautiful trail is woven together with the personal stories of each of us hikers as we get back in touch with the world around us and each other.
Tons of planning and preparation went in to making this hike happen. Outmersive shot film over 18 days in later July and early August 2018. Each of us hikers helped carry extra batteries, cameras, lens and other gear. This extra gear added up to about 2 to 3 extra lbs each hiker would have to carry. I guess it’s a good thing we were all carrying ultralight gear……
With great anticipation the trailer is finally completed and ready to be viewed. Here it is, the official trailer for the documentary Highline. Give it a watch and tell us what you think.
It’s now in post production and is targeted to release Summer of 2019. But we need your help. Professional coloring, audio finishing in 5.1 surround sound, and mastering including a digital cinema package for theaters is not cheap. Not to mention distribution fees for online platforms like iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play. Join us, and help bring this film to life.
YOU CAN HELP
You can help us bring this film to life by joining a Kickstarter campaign to help with funding. This funding is needed in order to bring this film to market. If you enjoyed the trailer, we ask that you consider joining. You can do so HERE.
You can stay up to date on this Films progress by following Outmersive Films. Here is a link to all of their social media platforms including their website and the website for Highline.
Five friends embark on a ten day journey on the incredible Uinta Highline Trail in northern Utah. Together they discover adventure, and explore the history of the area. Along the way you learn more about these hikers, and how they succeeded in life even when the odds were stacked against them.
STAFF & CAST
Produced & directed by outdoor film maker Chris Smead of Outmersive Films and co-directed by experienced cinematographer Gordon Gurley. Armed with cameras and backpacks, they followed 5 experienced long distance hikers to tell their stories:
Joe Valesko (aka Samurai Joe)- Inventor and founder of a well known outdoor gear company.
Matt Favero (aka Details) – Brand manager of a well known outdoor gear company.
Will Wood (aka Redbeard) – Well known Youtuber and blogger
Benny Braden (aka Plug-it-in) – Outdoor blogger that holds the record for hiking all 924 miles in the Smokies in only 43 days.
Steve Kaiser (aka Cannonball)- Larger than life experienced thru hiker.
To help tell the stories behind this amazing place we teamed up with local experts:
Tom Flanigan – Archeologist
Ryan Buerkle – Of the Ashley National Forest
Gordon Hirschi – Of the Uinta Basin Backcountry Horsemen
Experienced hikers have called the Uinta Highline Trail superior to the John Muir Trail. Yet few people know about it. The John Muir Trail started with a single vision and was well marketed. It was also located near heavily populated areas in California. Utah’s Uinta Highline Trail has a very different history. It snuck on to the map piece by piece. Even local experts could not pinpoint the exact year the trail was completed. Furthermore, the trail is distanced from heavily populated areas. The result is a beautiful and pristine 104 mile trail with no crowds.
In America, we’re great at concentrating ourselves into well known national parks. Overcrowding is a problem. We hope this film encourages responsible hikers to venture off the beaten path and to experience the Uinta Highline Trail and feel a connection to it. That connection can create a sense of stewardship that is vital to preserving our wild lands.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to preview the latest documentary by Chris Smead at Outmersive Films (formally known as Chris is Productions) called “The High Sierra Trail”. I consider Chris as a friend of mine and when he reached out to me to asked if I’d be interested in watching the documentary and tell others what I thought about it, of course I said yes.
The documentary is captured with the essence that you are on this backpacking trip on the High Sierra Trail with Chris and his friend John, but at the same time you’re receiving a history lesson about the different areas you’re entering along the way. Historian William Tweed, a 30 year national park service veteran does an outstanding job both narrating and explaining the significance of each specific area that Chris and John entered as they hiked the High Sierra Trail. He explained the history of the trail is such great detail. Honestly I could sit and listen to William all day. The tone of his voice and his unending knowledge of the High Sierras grabbed my attention and had me hanging on for more.
I was also quite impressed with the animation in this documentary. Chris made it seem that the historical photos were coming to life as if it were videos instead of photographs. It brought each of these old photographs to life right before my eyes. Matching these up with Williams Tweeds historical knowledge was a perfect match.
Now Chis is a great videographer in is own right. I loved that he was able to capture the real essence of every situation. The humorous situations (which there were many) along with the reality of life on the trail, Chris captured it all. I also love that he wasn’t afraid to be real in front of the camera. It’s so easy to be fake or not be our true selves when we’re being filmed, not with Chris. He seems very comfortable and very much himself when in front of the camera.
After watching The High Sierra Trail I honestly wanted to cancel my up coming John Muir Trail hike and do the High Sierra Trail instead. It looked absolutely amazing. Even though both trails join together for about 15 miles and summit Mt Whitney ( the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states) together. The rest of each trail are very different from one another.
The Team Behind the Film:
Outmersive Films is a newly formed arts collective founded by Chris Smead. He had previously operated solo, under the name “Chris Is Awesome Productions” when the direction of his hobby was unclear. As things turned more serious and other collaborators began joining in, it became obvious that it needed to be reinvented.
Soon after shooting the film and making the trailer, Chris was approached by Bruce Goodman, a professional colorist who had worked on countless Hollywood films as well as Mile, Mile and A Half. Shortly after, Bill Meadows and Alex Knickerbocker (of Mr Robot, Fast and Furious) reached out and offered their post sound talents. Long time friend Jacen Spector joined the show to save Chris from his notoriously terrible marketing skills, and Emma Massick recently joined to help lead marketing and social media management. Gordon Gurley, an experienced videographer and audio engineer has provided a lot of guidance during the project and will be taking a much more active role for the next project. The Outmersive family is growing and we’re excited to see what we can create together.
Here’s another teaser trailer for Outmersive Films newest film, The High Sierra Trail! Be sure to check out his page for upcoming showings of the full film… it’s worth watching!!
Want to know where and when you can get a chance to see this film? Here is all of Outmersive Films social media accounts. You can follow them to keep up with what all is going on with the High Sierra Trail documentary.