By Jessi Loerch
“Mile … mile and a half.”
1. The hiker’s answer to how much farther.
2. Always farther than 1.5 miles.
In a 200 percent snow year, a group of friends set out to hike the John Muir Trail, a 211-mile trail through the high Sierras.
They planned to document their trip, showing the beauty of the trail and the joy of completing a challenging trip.
The documentary they created, “Mile … Mile &a Half” is beautiful and entertaining. It’s also very approachable.
While hiking the JMT is certainly a huge accomplishment, it’s something many hikers can actually imagine doing. While I can’t get enough of watching crazy adventurers — Alex Honnold free-soloing El Sendero Luminoso, for example — I know I’m never going to do most of those things.
Hiking the John Muir Trail, however, that’s something I’ve always wanted to do — even more so now that I’ve seen the documentary.
The core team of Jason Fitzpatrick, Jen Serena, Ric Serena and Durand Trench are charming and funny and they’re ordinary people. People you’d like to hike with.
After a day with so much gain that they’d given up on an exact number and simply called it “Plus-Hell,” Ric finished a climb saying “The climb was a little hellish, but I feel great, Man.”
“At what point did you find time to smoke meth on the way up?” Durand asks.
The film is full of moments like that. At one point Durand says “The easiest way to make a tough day a little more bearable is with a heavy dose of smart-assery.”
I’d totally hike with someone with that attitude.
The cinematography is simply gorgeous, and it’s paired well with still photos and delightful music. One of the photographers rigged up a small system that allowed him to film while slowly moving his camera along. It creates a lovely effect, somehow simulating the feel of a still photo, but with the dynamic motion of video.
At one point on the trail, the team is joined by a couple musicians. One of the most appealing moments of the whole film is watching them play and sing, sitting on bear canisters and using sticks to create a tune on a tiny xylophone.
The soundtrack is perfectly suited to the film, perhaps because the composers actually spent time on the trail.
The illustrations for each section of film look like a trail journal and they’re beautiful. (I see that Kolby Kirk, the illustrator, is working on a book on how to journal while on the trail. I’ll buy it the moment it comes out.)
The whole thing is beautiful and carefully crafted and I can’t recommend enough that you go and watch it.
You can buy the film online, and learn much more about it, here. (You can even download it, so no waiting for a DVD to show up in the mail. But you can, of course, get a DVD, too.)
Here’s a bit of GoPro footage from the filming and my favorite song from Opus Orange.