Reflections on the High Sierra Leadership Expedition


A single day has yet to go by when I do not think about my experience on the High Sierra Leadership Expedition. When my mind wanders I see the golden hour illuminating the mountain faces until they glow. I see the wildflowers scattered around my feet and I hear the constant rush of water. I reminiscence on the beauty of nature and the most physically and emotionally challenging experience of my life. The John Muir Trail pushed me outside of my comfort zone numerous times every single day for 23 straight days. There was no way to predict the challenges and unexpected situations that each day brought, and from this I learned the value of truly living in the moment.


On the trail, the map accurately shows mileage, elevation change, and bodies of waters, but it cannot tell us the water level on a river crossing, how deep the snow will be or how our bodies will react to elevation. Once I accepted that every day would be long and require my full attention, I felt a release. No longer would my thoughts be occupied by worries about the future or consumed by planning; instead, my attention focused on the present moment. Quite honestly, I did not have any other option, for gingerly walking over a fallen log with a 45 lb. backpack in order to cross a fast-flowing river made my senses hyperactive.


Experiences such as this, seemed intimidating at first, but I had no other option except to push myself outside of my comfort zone. The JMT also exposed me to the power of the mind. When I felt physically and emotionally drained, I thought to myself, “I am here, and I am alive.” Repeating these words reminded me of how lucky I am to be surrounded by such natural beauty and how I am mentally tough enough to continue. I wholeheartedly believe that without this positive mindset, I would not have completed the trek. I take these lessons that I learned on the trail to heart, doing my best to live in the present and think with a positive mindset. 

Julia Mattis