Saturday, January 21, 2012
Review of "High Sierra - A Journey on the John Muir Trail"
Trailer for the documentary by Pete Bell
If you've ever wanted to see what the John Muir Trail entails in all its scenic wonder as well as some of its hiking challenges, this documentary is for you. Filmed by skilled videographer Pete Bell, it follows in the footsteps of six teen guys who backpack the famous trail, some on their very first backpacking adventure.
The filmmaker uses stunning time-lapse photography to capture the beauty of a sunset, the spectacular scenery of Yosemite National Park, as well as a starlit night. There is a good mix of both hikers and their challenges alongside the filming of wildlife amid breathtaking scenery. The small elevation profile map and appropriate titling helps identify where the hikers are (though later on in the film the elevation profile sadly disappears). There is also an interview with a Yosemite park ranger that offers a good perspective of the man John Muir (though the ranger candidly points out he's never hiked the trail itself).
This film is by no means a “How To” on hiking the John Muir Trail but rather is a personal tale of the teens who hiked and mastered it. Unfortunately in that aspect, the film lacks any personal profiles of the hikers undertaking this epic adventure (for instance, I had no idea they were high schoolers until I read it on the Internet. Had I known, it would have made the journey more impressive to me). Also it seems this hike was undertaken at the prime time to hike the trail, usually from mid August on. Any of the challenges of snow, insects, or high river crossings (of which I saw only two very easy water crossings in the film and no snow on the trail anywhere) are nonexistent. So these challenges of the trail are not represented.
All in all it is a finely-crafted film that makes one appreciate the great beauty found in what is appropriately deemed the most spectacular trail in the US. And I for one can’t wait to hike it.