Lessons from the John Muir Trail

Anjelica Avella


We're ecstatic to support Anjelica and her mission in the film Forward, but she has more stories to tell. Check out her words of her experiences on the John Muir Trail and read about the people and places that impacted her along the journey.  Watch the video.




I dream of it often. I follow the trail in my dreams and every step feels like I'm walking into the most authentic creation of outdoor beauty. Being greeted every morning with the best forehead kisses from the sun to warm me up. Every evening, the moon and endless stars of the night sky shine like glitter.  This is the most perfect work of art you’ll ever witness in the backcountry. I’m here to let you know that everyone deserves the chance to experience this in their lifetime.  


It's challenging but it's worth it.   


Thru-hiking will break you down and build you back up by the next mountain pass. The way a trail opens its arms and embraces me with passionate highs and lovely lows full of life lessons. Or how my soul feels on fire with every fresh breath at altitude.   


The Nüümü Poyo is also referred to as The John Muir Trail. It is commonly known as the gem section of the Pacific Crest Trail. It is a rugged 211+ mile stretch of pure heart in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. I would make my way up and over 11 mountain passes. Each one of them is unique. But the most infamous pass is the one you can steal a chuckle or two from those that have personally hiked it by referring to it by its ‘trail name.’ 


That would be “Pinche Pass”— What a mountain pass is all about. 

(Officially named Pinchot Pass, but it has become more infamous for its nickname) 


10 out of 10—will eat you up and spit you out! But if you dig deep, remember your WHY, fight through the nagging doubt, and let your feet follow your heart,  you’re gonna make it through, kid. Through anything that ever tries to break you. There are special people you cross paths with on the trail. They are part of your journey, and sometimes they prepare you for the future. More than you could ever imagine possible. 






The people I would meet on this demanding day on trail were everything I needed and more.  


Hike Your Own Hike Folks - There was a PCT hiker that sat down on this huge sofa (aka a big slab of granite rock) with me on this gorgeous path. We talked with each other, and it felt like we were finally being heard. The way she understood the need to enjoy this trail and not be consumed with getting miles in left me feeling acknowledged. I wasn’t completely losing my mind. Because, she was going through something similar with her group on this trail. I even crossed paths with a sweet loving couple that was very secure in their decision to exit off trail early so that they could come back to finish the trail the right way. (Right way meaning mentally, physically and emotionally ready.)  

Wild Will Alaska - The Southbound JMT solo hiker who took the time to stay and chat with me. I was beyond distraught from a conversation I had with my trekking partner the night before. I had never felt so broken down and mentally abused. I was at the point of giving up on finishing this trail. But Will would tell me that even if I made it a mile past the junction to exit, that he was proud of me no matter what. He lost his voice early on during his trip and still chose to stop to give his time to me while I broke down in front of him. He encouraged me to keep going. This stranger that had instant blind belief in me provided me the strength and courage to keep moving forward. His words would echo in my head as I made my climb the rest of this day.   

Mya - This was a free- spirited solo Northbound PCT hiker that was meeting her husband coming from Bishop pass. She wholeheartedly told me she was proud of me and asked if she could hug me and take my picture at the top. I made it,despite being mentally and emotionally heavy, I freakin’ made it to the top of this bitch ass pass. A pass I love and hate, or love to hate. Mya quickly reassured me the hard part was over and “now we fly.” It was time to descend into the next great stretch of the John Muir Trail.  

RoRo - Last but not least, my sweet younger brother, Roman. He loves to tell everyone that he saved me, and maybe he isn’t totally wrong.  He drove over 7 hours to come pick up his broken-down sister that was ready to come home. 150 miles completed was nothing to be ashamed of.  There’s more to this thru-hike because I made my comeback for the entire trail the following year all by myself. But that’s a story for another time!




A homecoming. Coming home was a treat because once I reconnected back to social media to start sharing my journey online, there was a message from one of my trail angels. Wild Will from Alaska found my Instagram and checked in on me. We talked the rest of the summer sharing stories of the JMT, future hiking plans, and dreams about gear we love and wish we had. We shared a love for Smartwool layers, and he remembered he had some men's larger sizes kept away in storage. I gushed over these layers I had been eying for years and he asked for my address. He was more than happy to send me what is now my most favorite base layer! The many adventures this layer has been on would blow your mind. My forest green wool base layer has kept me safe, cozy, and oh so warm, even on Mt. Kilimanjaro.   

 There's a firm belief that the trail will deliver exactly what your journey needs.  

My wish for you is to take away this: You can move mountains with love, determination, and belief in yourself. You can also still be a force of nature by putting your mental health first. And, to just keep moving Forward.