With her husband Jeff at her side, Beth Alt, a marathon runner but a camping and hiking novice, embarks on a 218 mile hiking trip across the toughest section of the Pacific Crest Trail in California, The John Muir Trail. Four Boots, One Journey chronicles their adventure and their encounters with bears, freezing cold showers, lightning, freeze dried dinners, spectacular scenery, amazing sunrises and sunsets, and the discovery that two of the most important things in life are tampons and toilet paper. When Beth’s brother tragically dies, Jeff convinces Beth, a woman who prefers nice hotels, hot showers and warm beds, that a nice long hike was just what she needed. “The trip will do you some good,” Jeff said to her.
So she chucked her domesticated ways and agreed to walk the entire John Muir Trail — 218-miles of rugged remote mountain terrain, traversing three national parks, including the summit of Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States. It is a journey that many hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail avoid because of the difficulty. To convince Beth to go on the hike, Jeff shows her some stunning photos of the highlights– pictures of lakes, which Beth loves, but he carefully leaves out the word glacial when describing the water temperature. Their goal is to do the hike to raise awareness of depression in memory of Beth’s brother and in the process, cleanse their souls and achieve a sense of peace with the world.
What does hiking do for you?
Hiking keeps me fit. Not only do walking and hiking strengthen your muscles and joints, but they’re also good for maintaining a healthy weight. I also lose a noticeable amount of weight when I hike for extended periods, even though I eat enormous amounts of food. Nutritionists will tell you that if you walk all day in rugged terrain while carrying a pack on your back, you could potentially burn four thousand to six thousand calories a day, the equivalent of running two marathons a day, because regular exercise increases a person’s immune responses, I also have more energy, and I don’t catch colds or fall ill easily when I’m hiking routinely.
How does your attitude towards life change when you are hiking?
Hiking brings about my most positive thoughts and conversations. This is not surprising, since doctors explain that exercise increases the chemicals in the brain and relieve stress, resulting in a euphoric state of mind. Hiking also inspires my creativity. The natural, simple, and profound outdoors is the perfect place to let your mind be free. Recreation experts and business consultants will tell you that when you remove yourself from the hustle and bustle of your routine, the pressures of your normal environment fall off your shoulders. I’ve learned that I can think outside the box when I am actually physically outside the box.
How has hiking changed you?
Hiking helps lighten the pack of life. It’s easy to get bogged down in our daily lives by taking on extra responsibilities, spending more time on work projects than with family, and running in all directions without a focus. Hiking helps me regroup and separate my priorities from the responsibilities that I’ve shouldered. It’s amazing how much more refreshed and successful I am after I realign focus and goals. Experienced hikers know this to be true: The lighter the pack, the more pleasant the journey. On my thru-hike, I discarded items from my backpack that did nothing but weigh me down. I was more efficient and agile with a lighter pack. I return to the mountains often to metaphorically lighten my pack of life.
What has hiking done for your marriage and relationship with your wife Beth?
Our Hike was a chance to bond nomadically. Beth’s brother died, and she was devastated. In order to help my wife, I turned to nature for help. My gut told me to take Beth on a long hike. Beth, a woman raised with the belief that vacations include beaches, hot showers, hotels and warm beds, agreed to walk the entire 218-mile John Muir Trail with me. She went for more than half a month without a warm bed or shower. The hike brought us together in a holistic way. Our adventure was romantic and educational. I learned that Beth could eat as much as I can, which is impressive, considering that she’s only half my weight. I learned that she doesn’t get altitude sickness, whereas I do. I learned that we both could adapt and overcome. We all face struggles in our lifetimes, and on our hike, Beth took positive steps forward. Having a healthy outlet to work through our problems is key to living a full life. Nature has a way of putting the journey of life into perspective. We are still happily married.
What does hiking mean to you? Why should other people consider hiking more.
For me hiking is an opportunity to let our minds float for days, weeks, or months, without constant disruptions of schedules, TV, radio, traffic, etc., allowing ourselves the time to deliberate. Hiking requires daily problems-solving skills that I’ve been able to take with me and apply at work, in my marriage, and in virtually all aspects of my life. After just a few steps onto a forested mountain trail, I feel my burdens and pressures fall away.
What’s your Male Standard?
For me, it’s all worth the chance to put aside life’s distractions and listen to my inner thoughts.
About Jeff Alt
Jeff Alt is an expert hiker having spent a lifetime on the trail. Alt provides hiking with kids seminars in collaboration with National Park staff and other venues. In addition to walking the 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail, he also walked the 218-mile John Muir Trail with his wife, and trekked a 50 mile path of Ireland with his wife, young daughter, and extended family. Jeff is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA). His adventures and hiking expertise have been featured in media nationwide including: Discoverychannel.com, ESPN, Hallmark Channel, the AP, CNN Radio, New Dimensions National Public Radio, Scholastic Parent and Child and more. Alt is the author of Get Your Kids Hiking and the award-winning book A Walk for Sunshine, and Four Boots One Journey.
For tour dates, please visit Jeff’s website Four Boots One Journey.