“As I Was Walking” chronicles the author’s two attempts (2014 and 2015) to backpack the 211-mile John Muir Trail in California’s rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains. An award-winning photographer, the author walks in the footsteps of John Muir through landscapes made famous by and immortalized by Ansel Adams. The journey starts in Yosemite National Park, then wends its way in succession through the Ansel Adams Wilderness, John Muir Wilderness, Kings Canyon National Park, and finally, Sequoia National Park and Mount Whitney, the highest point (14,505’) in the contiguous United States.
The book begins on a cold autumn afternoon in November (2013) at the top of Nevada Fall in Yosemite National Park as the author sits along the trail eating a sandwich and some fruit after a long hard climb up the Mist Trail from the valley. After hearing a rustling in the bushes behind him, he turns around and his eyes fall upon a John Muir Trail sign with various distances to significant landmarks, including Mount Whitney. At that moment, the idea of doing the trail enters his mind, almost to the point of obsession. Until then, he’d been an avid hiker and naturalist, but his resume was short on backpacking and overnight stays in the wilderness. Undaunted, upon his return home from that November Yosemite trip, he began a crash course in John Muir Trail “studies.”
The following August, setting out from Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park, Volta began the first of his two John Muir Trail adventures. Along the way, he battled exploding stoves, thunder and lightning storms, hail and wind, and various injuries including a lower back strain and sprained ankle. And, of course, there was the trail itself, with 50,000’ of elevation gain and loss on steep, rocky terrain. But the payoff for the struggles was more than ample compensation: grand landscapes, swift flowing creeks and rivers, alpine lakes, clouds weaving through the mountains like tattered sails, star-filled skies, and towering pines. Most importantly, there was the opportunity to meet and talk to other backpackers along the way. Some of these encounters were fleeting, but many of the people became “trail family.” A blend of travelogue and memoir, Volta’s biting, at times, irreverent sense of humor, whimsy and ability to describe the surroundings in words is matched only by his keen photographic eye for landscapes, wildflowers and other details along the way.