Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mile... mile and a half


Web page for The Muir Project, a crowd-funded (at least partially) documentary of a few artistic folks who hiked the John Muir trail, and made a documentary about it.  The "core" hiking team were a married couple one of whom is a professional photographer (although she admits that she mostly does portrait work and stuff like that, so this landscape and still life work was a major change of pace), and a videographer/film guy.  Along with another good friend who's also into film and a fourth who's a sound guy, they hit the John Muir trail, moving slowly, and documenting the experience.

It's a fun movie.  In general, I'm always a little skeptical of hiking movies, because they're made by an art-house crowd who tend to focus on the strange, bohemian aspect of the hiking lifestyle rather than something that a regular guy like me who likes backpacking could relate to.  This one--perhaps somewhat surprisingly, given the film-makers--does not do so.  It's just plain old good film-making, part reality show, part documentary, about what it's like to hike in the North American mountains.  (Specifically the Sierra Nevada.  If they'd done it in the Rockies, I think they wouldn't have made such a big deal about the very little rain that they got.)

I saw a trailer for this movie a long time ago; back when it was a recently funded kickstarter, actually, and I've been keeping my eye on it for some time.  I thought about buying the DVD, but never quite got around to it.  Now, it's available to stream on Netflix (in HD, even!) so I suppose I'm glad that I didn't, but it's too bad that I didn't see this a year or two ago when it was newer.  It's a fun movie, and the principles are fun and charismatic, and generally interesting to see.  Plus, they really know their stuff when it comes to highlighting the spectacular scenery, and they do a good job of highlighting some of the experience of a long backpacking trip--the hard days when you climb thousands of feet over a pass only to lose it all again on the other side, blisters, sometimes loneliness (the married couple does mention missing their daughter a few times, who was staying with her grandmother while they were hiking), pack weight issues (granted; exacerbated by the heavy film and sound equipment that they had to bring with them), and a challenge that they may not have anticipated and you won't see every year--hiking the trail on a July on a year when the snowfall was 200% of average.  Kick-stepping, glissading, route-finding, and just the plain extra exertion of walking through snowpack when you expect to be walking on a well-groomed trail, crossing extremely swollen "creeks", etc.  This made it interesting and scenic in a way that it isn't always, by definition.

Here's the trailer that I saw two years or so ago, which piqued my interest, and which I still like.  Love the music, love the movie, highly recommend it for anyone who likes the outdoors at all, and I still recommend it to anyone else who likes a nice, reality-show format movie without all the drama.

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