Hiking a long trail such as the JMT offers a simplicity that is all but extinct from the modern way of life. Reducing our needs and desires to what we can carry on our back offers the “freedom of the hills” that is hard to find anywhere but in the backcountry.

What comes to mind when you hear “John Muir Trail”?

For us, it evokes images of glacial tarns and alpine meadows, of switchbacks that literally lead us into the clouds.  The granite amphitheaters seem perfectly composed with grassy hummocks and craggy benches that have a way of lingering in our minds. Like stepping into a great cathedral, these sacred spaces demand our silence and awe as we pass quietly through them.

While on the trail, our senses heighten to take in extraordinary details, so even the smallest movement creates a stir impossible to ignore.

Suddenly one’s existence with a group of fellow travelers creates a bond that outlasts a lifetime of days back home. Even our sense of time begins to shift and becomes less relevant as we focus more on the barest of essentials: How many miles until our next water source? Where will we camp for the night? and of course… What’s for dinner?

Hiking a long trail such as the JMT offers a simplicity that is all but extinct from the modern way of life. Reducing our needs and desires to what we can carry on our back offers the “freedom of the hills” that is hard to find anywhere but in the backcountry. As a result, we come away from our time on the trail with an experience so rich, so full that we thirst for more…. Memories from the trail fill our minds through the fall, winter, and spring until our bodies grow restless. Our curiosity for what may be over that next ridge, just beyond our view nags at us. We’re desperate to be back  on the trail again!

This longing for exploration, for both sights unseen and the familiar trails we love, is what SYMG is about. This summer we are excited to announce a several expeditions specifically designed to meet a variety of travel windows. One that deserves special mention is our NEW 26-Day John Muir Trail that completes 99% of the trail. Of course we also feature outings that can be completed within a week such as the Rae Lakes Loop deep in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park. Join us in 2019 to realize your JMT dream with SYMG!

All images courtesy of SYMG Guide Chris Plewa

Graham Ottley
Born and raised in the Midwest (Iowa & Illinois), I always held a fascination for the outdoors and mountain landscapes as some “distant place” on maps. That fascination continues today but I am fortunate to have now lived and worked in the mountains for 15+ years. My first job as a guide was leading sea-kayak trips in coastal Ketchikan Alaska. After that season, I attended undergrad in the Southeast (Montreat College) studying Outdoor Education and Environmental Studies and went on to pursue my MBA. I first visited the Yosemite area during a spring break climbing trip with some buddies. I can vividly recall driving in and being completely awestruck by the beauty of The Valley, ...as well as all the great climbing : ) After college I worked as a Guide with Summit Adventure in Yosemite as well as internationally in the Ecuadorian Andes and mountains of Mexico. I enjoyed teaching outdoor education in Santa Cruz and Yosemite Valley during my off-seasons. I also worked with Outward Bound California leading youth trips and eventually worked as Program Director at their Midpines and Joshua Tree locations. In 2016, I transitioned to SYMG and appreciated the thoughtful approach to the work of guiding. I enjoy spending time with the great crew of guides that come here to work, live and play. Beyond work in the outdoors, I am a proud father of two children, Owen & Eleanor. I enjoy adventures with them and my wife Sarah not quite as far afield. While we still return regularly to visit family in the midwest, we are happy to call Southern Yosemite home.