Update on Strategies for Achieving a Seemingly Impossible Goal…Almost There!


A “Goals” Update

AdobeStock_107246405_WMAs you may recall, this whole thing started with the Strategies. Many months ago, I started exploring what it takes to achieve a “seemingly impossible goal” of some magnitude. I outlined steps, and committed to using my goal of solo hiking the John Muir Trail to see how well these stategies worked. Here’s a recap of the steps:

Strategies for Achieving a Seemingly Impossible Goal

  1.  Ponder ALL apparent obstacles.
  2. Identify THE most daunting obstacle.
  3. Knock off as many lesser obstacles as possible.
  4. Strategize specific steps to overcome the most daunting obstacle.
  5. Make a step by step plan of action. 
  6. Visualize yourself achieving your goal, doing your thing.
  7. Ask for help when necessary.
  8. Be prepared.
  9. Be realistic, flexible, and willing to adjust your expectations if necessary.
  10. Check in with yourself often as you go.
  11. Enjoy the process! 
  12. Celebrate your success!
Wherever the trail leads, I will follow...
Wherever the trail leads, I will follow…

In a previous post, I gave an Obstacles Update for steps 1 – 4,   identifying my biggest roadblocks and the actions necessary to overcome them.  Now, with just a week left to go, I wanted to share how steps 5 – 8 have evolved to help bring my goal of hiking the JMT ever closer to reality.

Step 5 — Make a step by step plan of action

I am a semi-compulsive list maker and I am working my way through a lengthy “to do” list of preparations for my trip. Some of the items that were crucial to mark off involved things I am not inherently comfortable doing. These were travel arrangements to and from the trailhead, the all important food-drop locations and details surrounding those, and getting out on solo backpack trips to confront my fears of backpacking alone and to test and refine my equipment.  I am thrilled to report that ALL of these things have been checked off the list!

Travel plans

Mount Whitmey, where it all ends
Mount Whitmey, where it all ends

My daughter Shannon and her boyfriend Kevin graciously offered to take a road trip and drive me to the trailhead. We leave bright and early Saturday morning, a mere three days away! We’ve planned three days to get to Yosemite Valley, where my permit awaits and the trail starts. We will see Crater Lake along the way, as well as drop off a food bucket to one of my pick-up locations on the trail, so I don’t have to mail it. I am grateful for the ease with which this allows me to leave Bellingham. I don’t have to leave home with just what I need for the three weeks, as I can be a bit disorganized and overpacked for a few days, then leave a bundle with Shannon and Kevin to return to Bellingham. This is a huge help and eases my mind considerably.

In terms of the return journey, I have two friends from Bishop who have agreed to pick me up at the Whitney Portal, where the John Muir Trail ends. I will stay a night or two with them (depending on when I finish), to shower and clean up before catching a bus from Bishop to Reno, where I fly home on August 31. This is real benefit,  to have transportation and the promise of a shower waiting at the end of the journey. I feel blessed and grateful that both the beginning and the end of my adventure involve friends and familiar faces.

Food drops

Mt. Goddard
Mt. Goddard

This part has ended up working out fantastically! As mentioned, I will personally deliver my first food cache to the resort where I will pick it up five days in, so I know that it will be there. The second food drop is a big one, ten days worth, being personally delivered by three friends who are hiking it over a pass outside of Bishop to meet up with me and personally hand it off!  This is an unexpected bonus, and means I don’t have to mail any food. We have a fail-safe plan (at least I hope so!) of where to meet on the trail at mile 120…as well as a back up plan if something comes up. Also, I get to hang with them for an additional day and climb 13,563-foot Mt. Goddard before resuming my journey on the trail. I am extremely grateful for their willingness to take this on!

Solo backpack trips accomplished, and gear all set

Ansel Adams Wilderness
Ansel Adams Wilderness

In short, I have done all I needed and wanted to do with this one. I did three solo backpack trips, enough to get very comfortable with being alone on the trail. I have also become intimately familiar with my gear, and learned the nuances of each piece of equipment.  When all this started, I had never backpacked alone and I didn’t have the gear I needed. Now I am all set and ready to embark on the journey!

Step 6 — Visualize yourself achieving your goal, doing your thing.

Years ago, I took a class in Sports Psychology. I remember learning about the importance of visualization for athletes in helping them succeed on the playing field. I use visualization often, and firmly believe that if you can see yourself doing something,  chances are pretty good you will do it. Similarly, if you just plain can’t see yourself doing it, then it may appropriate to look at doing something else.

I have been practicing visualizing myself on the trail. There are a lot of mountain passes to go up and down on the JMT — eleven total. While hiking and backpacking this summer, I’ve practiced putting myself mentally on a JMT pass while doing hikes with elevation. I transport myself to the trail in my mind and visualize my success and the feeling of victory that comes with each pass gained. Similarly, I see myself setting up camp, cooking, and breaking down camp with similar success. I don’t visualize failure…which means I don’t plan for things to go wrong. I AM aware that things don’t always go as planned, and that flexibility is required (see strategy #9).

Tuolmne Meadows
Tuolmne Meadows

I also have been practicing visualizing things I don’t like doing. I don’t like getting up and out of a tent, especially at night to use the bathroom (there is no bathroom, in reality). So instead of imaging how much I don’t like that, I practice seeing myself doing it with ease and contentment. Enjoying the stars, perhaps. Same with hiking steps, which I don’t like because it hurts my knees. Instead of seeing myself doing it in pain, I practice in my mind doing it gradually, a step at a time, with comfort and ease. Same story with packing up camp when my hands are cold. Instead of focusing on the discomfort and displeasure of that, I am visualizing using hand warmers, or taking breaks to warm my hands, and not having it be such an unpleasant experience. Small things, but to have positive visualizations helps me to fall back on those at times when the inevitable challenges occur.

Step 7 — Ask for help

As mentioned, I am getting a lot of help on this trip. Much of it I didn’t ask for, it was offered… and I simply said yes! When my daughter offered to drive me to the trailhead, I said “Absolutely!”  When my friend from Bellingham offered to hike food over the pass (or more accurately offered his brother in Bishop to do it and he would go along), I said, “You bet!” Same friend offered same brother to pick me up at the trailhead at Whitney and it was a resounding  “Of course!” I feel lucky and grateful.  It’s nice to have people want to help.  As mentioned, some of my biggest fears were allayed by having help in the areas of transportation and food.

I have also received advice from backpacking friends about equipment,  maps, and JMT information from my friend that I did the trail with last year, as well as a huge amount of encouragement from friends and family members. I feel well supported and not alone as I go out on this adventure. I will not have cell service for the entirety of the trail and I will, in theory, be alone. But I take with me all the good will wishes for success that so many have passed on over the months of planning. Thank you all!

And finally, I would be remiss in not stating how much my foot doctor and physical therapist have contributed to this mission. I simply could not have done it without multiple visits for check ups and orthotic refinements and a multitude of fine tunings. I am grateful beyond words for this assistance and care.

Step 8 — Be prepared

There are many elements to preparedness, obviously. The ones I will mention here are physical preparedness and making sure I have enough of necessary items.

Physical preparedness

Ready as I will ever be!
Ready as I will ever be!

How does one prepare for a trip like this? It’s not climbing Everest, I fully realize that. People do far more challenging and physically daunting things every day.  But the reality of the JMT is that it IS physically challenging. And at age 52 with 13 orthopedic surgeries under my belt, I needed to put some thought into how to pull this off. So what did I do to “train” for the JMT?

After my last foot surgery, which was in early May, I started keeping track of my activity every day. I titled my activity journal “The road back…again”. I didn’t know when I resumed activity following that last foot surgery if I would sufficiently recover in time for this trip, let alone be in sufficient physical shape for it. But I figured keeping track would provide incentive, and it would be interesting to  see what I actually did in the just under three months from the time I resumed activity to beginning the trail. Last night, I added it all up.

Here is what I did to prepare:

Total walking/hiking miles — 460.
Of that, 70 miles was backpacking , 77 miles was alpine day hiking, and the remaining 313 was on trails in and around Bellingham.

Total road biking miles — 883.

Total times to yoga and pilates: 17.
I wish this number had been higher. Yoga in particular has been very beneficial to me in a multitude of ways. However, it took awhile to get back into it following the foot work, and that’s all I managed to get in.

Is it enough? I hope so. I would have ideally liked more miles with the backpack, but time got away from me. As I have said, I think my preparation is sufficient, and I feel ready. That feeling of readiness counts for a lot.

Insuring I have “enough” of necessary items

The most important things for me is to make sure I have enough of essential items. This means food, warm clothes, shelter and amenities related to, fuel, water tablets, and items related to emergency preparedness. Do I have enough of these things? I think so. Once again, the trade off is stuff for backpack weight, and I am trying to keep that balance reasonable. I know myself well enough to know that I will pack on the heavy side, for fear of not having enough. How much will all this weigh? Most likely around 50 pounds, but I won’t know for sure until it is all packed up and ready to go. Whatever it will be it will be.

A note before I go…

Off into the sunset...
Off into the sunset…

So that’s where things stand, three days before I leave and exactly one week before I start.  This will likely be my final post before I go and I won’t have the ability to write on the trail. Thank you for reading my pre-trail thoughts, and I will most assuredly be in touch with more thoughts and stories when it is all said and done. I appreciate the well wishes more than you know. Happy trails to all!



Feel free to share!



  1. Kathie,
    Thank you so much for sharing this journey with us!!! Your dedication, preparation and commitment to this adventure is truly inspiring!!!
    I am so excited to read and hear all about your epic adventure!!!!
    Be safe my friend, and have a truly incredible experience!!!!
    Big hugs!!!!! xoxo


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *